The phenomenal success of BBC drama Line of Duty has had the nation trying to figure out the fictional bad apples of the police service. But what about the real-life coppers who crossed the thin blue line into the dark side? Here are the stories of three who did exactly that.
It was back in 2010 when the man dubbed 'London’s most corrupt policeman' was sent down for 13 years. PC Mesut Karakas and a number of accomplices were convicted of plotting a crime that was as disturbing as it was audacious – to snatch a bank manager right in front of his family and force him to give them access to money.
On the surface, 25-year-old Karakas had been an entirely unremarkable beat copper. In the words of DS Chris Robson of the Directorate of Professional Standards – the body that investigates bent coppers – 'There was nothing about him… pretty much your average police officer'.
As it turned out, Karakas had been up to no good for a while before the kidnapping was conceived. A year before, he and members of the gang had beaten a man up with a baseball bat. Karakas had then printed out the police report on that incident and conspired to have £10,000 posted to the assault victim, asking him to drop the case.
At some point after that, they set their sights on the bank manager. Fortunately, Karakas was already on the radar of the DPS, who planted a listening device in the bent copper’s car. This revealed the sinister details of the plan. As DS Robson later said, 'I was fully aware that there was a real chance of violence being involved. The victims would have their mouths taped over and hands tied and people with balaclavas would be coming through their door'.
The police were able to bust the conspiracy before such traumatising violence could be carried out. As the judge put it during the sentencing, 'No-one listening to the probe material will forget the cold, callous way that you behaved'.
When 41-year-old Merseyside copper Stephen Cloney was handed a five-year jail sentence in 2020, it concluded the downfall of an officer who’d once won plaudits for his part in handling the 21 July 2005 terrorist attacks on the London Underground. But at some point after those glory days, things had gone wrong for the once 'exceptional' Cloney. His barrister would cite his poor mental health, recent divorce, and the thousands he’d racked up in debt.
Cloney started selling information to criminals, including leaking the addresses of properties which was thought to contain cannabis farms and stashes of drugs, so that Cloney’s contacts could steal it for themselves. One such raid ended up with a man getting stabbed. In another, one of the armed robbers told the occupant 'Your house is getting raided in two days anyway as we’ve got people on the inside, we’ve got a copper who tips us off'.
Cloney also tipped a drug-dealing cousin off about a planned raid on an associate’s home and tried to find the identity of a police informant in a drug ring. Police colleagues started to twig something was up in 2017, when a woman complained Cloney had disclosed her personal information. An investigation into Cloney was launched, leading to suspicions that he’d been accessing police intelligence systems on behalf of a suspected offender.
It was clear that Cloney had become utterly disenchanted with his life in the police – a fact noted by the judge. 'The fact is you became bitter and resentful in your job and you became corrupt,' he said during sentencing. 'Many people suffer disillusionment in their job, but they don't resort to crime.'
One of the most curious cases of police corruption was revealed in 1998, when a respected Merseyside detective and a TV star were sent down for five years and 15 months respectively. The cop was 50-year-old Elmore Davies, and the celebrity was Mike Ahearne, aka Warrior from Gladiators. Along with a third person, they were convicted of conspiring to sabotage the case against a certain Philip Glennon Jr, who had been charged with attempted murder but had a powerful friend in notorious drugs kingpin named Curtis Warren.
Police investigators had found out that DCI Davies accepted a hefty bribe to divulge information that was integral to the prosecution’s case against Glennon Jr. The money had been passed from Curtis Warren via the Gladiator star, who’d struck up an unlikely friendship with Davies several years before. The whole story was all the more startling given Davies’ prestigious police record, which included years investigating international drugs cartels and even looking into the dealings of a relative of Pablo Escobar.
The plan had come to light thanks to police surveillance of Curtis Warren – a wiretap had captured the kingpin discussing Elmore Davies as someone on the inside who could potentially be bribed to help get Glennon Jr off. This then led to detectives drilling a hole in the home of their own senior colleague to eavesdrop on his conversations with his Gladiator accomplice.
The judge summed the whole sorry situation up when he sentenced Davies, saying: 'You cynically betrayed the trust placed in you as a senior police officer by ordinary members of the public.'