South Yorkshire police officer to face no action over contact with Rotherham man and killer before murder

Murder victim Craig Preston
Murder victim Craig Preston

A South Yorkshire police officer investigated over their contact with a Rotherham man and his killer before he died is to face no further action.

The police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, carried out an investigation after it emerged that murder victim Craig Preston had been threatened by one of his killers before he was battered to death in August 2016.

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Mr Preston, also known as Craig Nelson, was found dead near to the Woodhead Tunnels, close to the Woodhead Pass, Derbyshire.

The 34-year-old from Wath was killed by his ex, Leonie Mason, 24 and her partner Shiraz Bashir, 42, both of Holme Park Court, Huddersfield.

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They were found guilty of murder, with Bashir jailed for 22 years and Mason sentenced to 19 years behind bars.

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Three teenage boys recruited to help carry out the killing were found guilty of manslaughter.

Mr Preston was killed in a lay-by off Town Lane, Rotherham.

Before leaving the lay-by Bashir took a picture of Mr Preston as he was lying bleeding to death in the boot of Mason's car as a 'souvenir'.

The killers threw Mr Preston's body down a ravine close to the Woodhead Tunnels, where it was found by dog walkers the following day.

Detectives who investigated the death established that Bashir and Mr Preston had both reported each other for making threats shortly before the killing.

The police watchdog looked into how the threats were dealt with by a police constable and today announced that the police response at that time had been 'appropriate'.

In a report of its findings, the IOPC said Bashir contacted South Yorkshire Police on August 6, 7, 13 and 15 to report threats by Craig Preston and stating that he planned to 'take matters into his own hands if no action was taken'.

He was twice advised by a police constable and once by a detective sergeant not to contact Mr Preston.

An attempt was made to arrest Mr Preston on August 8 but officers could not locate him.

He was eventually arrested on August 13 and was released without charge after an interview in which he said Bashir had assaulted him a few days earlier and made threats.

There was no further contact between South Yorkshire Police and the men before Mr Preston was murdered.

In a written statement, the PC explained that they had not perceived Bashir’s comments as a threat. The officer had felt they were born out of frustration at the speed of the police investigation into Mr Preston's behaviour

The assessment was supported by a detective sergeant who had also spoken to Bashir and decided his threats to harm Mr Preston were not sincere.

The IOPC concluded that the 'police response was appropriate' and that there is 'insufficient evidence upon which a misconduct meeting could find that the PC’s actions and decisions in responding to the apparent threats towards Mr Preston’s life amounted to misconduct'.

IOPC Regional Director Miranda Biddle said: "Our thoughts remain with Craig Preston’s family following his death.

"We have a very clear role in this case, to establish the facts - that there was evidence to suggest threats were made by both men and to assess the police response.

"In this case we found the South Yorkshire Police’s actions, in general, were appropriate and the officers involved had no case to answer."