Greater Manchester Police probed over Shipman victims' tissue samples

The police watchdog is to investigate whether officers misled relatives of people murdered by Harold Shipman when they disposed of human tissue.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is said to have kept samples from victims of the serial killer and disposed of them without relatives' knowledge.

It is one of three Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiries into the force's conduct.

The inquiries follow allegations made by a serving officer.

The IPCC will also look into claims of covering up failings in a sexual abuse case and the bugging of a police office.

An assistant chief constable has stood down from his role in the ongoing Hillsborough investigation during the IPCC inquiries.

'Respectfully dispose'

The IPCC said the whistleblower had made a number of allegations including cronyism among senior officers, failure to follow correct procedures, failure to investigate complaints properly and corruption.

"These are serious allegations and the gravity and nature of the allegations, and the fact that they are made against senior officers within the force, means they must be investigated independently," said IPCC commissioner Jan Williams.

The first IPCC investigation will examine the disposal of the tissue samples.

It was previously reported human tissue was taken from 12 of the 15 women killed by Shipman to establish cause of death.

The samples were kept in storage for a number of years to ensure police had the appropriate evidence should there be appeals against conviction.

However, in 2011 police decided to "respectfully dispose" of the tissue samples without telling the families.

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Image caption Terry Sweeney was working in Operation Resolve - part of the Hillsborough investigation

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said: "I have stated before that the decisions dealing with the aftermath of the Shipman investigation were complex and sensitive.

"Our priority was to avoid causing further distress to the families."

The second probe is into the actions of a detective chief inspector, who is alleged to have bugged a GMP office.

The IPCC said GMP had denied bugging took place.

The third inquiry is into claims an investigation into alleged sexual abuse was poorly handled and the alleged failings were covered up.

The IPCC said officers whose actions would be investigated during its inquiries ranged from the rank of constable up to Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney.

Sir Peter said Mr Sweeney had "voluntarily" stood down from his work with the Hillsborough investigation as part of Operation Resolve, while the IPCC inquiries take place.

Assistant Commissioner Jon Stoddart who is running Operation Resolve said: "ACC Sweeney has returned to his post at Greater Manchester Police and will cooperate fully with the IPCC investigation until these matters are concluded."

He said he was informing the Hillsborough families and other interested parties of recent developments.

Sir Peter said GMP would fully cooperate with the IPCC.

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