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Police detention officers face jail for leaking identity of witness

Convicted murderer's girlfriend landed a job as a civilian worker at Hammersmith Police Station following boyfriend's conviction

Two police detention officers are facing jail for leaking the identity of an anonymous witness to a "notorious" murder at the hands of a public schoolboy turned drug dealer.

The case surrounded Dulwich College ex-pupil Rupert Ross, 35, and Leon De St Aubin, 39, who were jailed for life for the killing of Darcy Austin-Bruce outside Wandsworth jail on May 1 2009.

Through persistent and determined efforts, Aubin's girlfriend Lydia Lauro, 33, discovered the identity of a protected witness in the case by hacking into the intelligence database.

Lauro got a job as a civilian worker at Hammersmith Police Station two months after the pair were convicted in 2011.

She accessed the intelligence system at Hammersmith Police Station by persuading fellow Metropolitan Police detention officer Hayden Cheremeh into doing her a "big favour".

Cheremeh, 36, a former police community support officer (PCSO), and Lauro were found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between November 1 2011 and May 22 2013.

Ross's mother Diana Lank, 61, who ran a boutique on the King's Road in Chelsea, was accused of being the "chief organiser" in the plot.

However, a jury in her retrial could not decide on a verdict and was discharged after deliberating for nearly 40 hours at the Old Bailey.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC had told jurors: "This case concerns a persistent, determined and ultimately successful attempt by these three defendants to gain access to and penetrate the digital criminal intelligence system of the Metropolitan Police service for their own purposes.

"The purpose was to get details in order to identify a witness, someone who gave evidence in the prosecution for murder which took place in this building in 2011 during the trial and afterwards."

Mr Heywood said: "The offence of murder for which they were sentenced involved the killing of Darcy Austin-Bruce, a vicious execution on May 1 2009. At the time it occurred it was notorious."

Lauro used Cheremeh's log-in to get into the Met's intelligence system and surreptitiously passed information to Lank, the prosecution had said.

They obtained restricted information about a young woman who had given evidence from behind a screen, using a voice-altering device and under a pseudonym.

This information was then "passed on to others ... who should not have had access to it", the court was told.

The police detention officers had "abused the very great trust placed in them", Mr Heywood said.

"A trust which all of us have in those people employed in that kind of role to deal properly with full regard to confidentiality."

The court heard that Lauro even considered using the detention of a judge's son for being drunk and disorderly to contact his father but was advised by Cheremeh to "take care".

Despite the efforts to find the protected witness, the Court of Appeal dismissed applications by Ross and Aubin to appeal against their convictions and sentences.

After the jury in the Lank retrial was discharged, Mr Heywood asked for time for the Crown to consider whether to seek a second retrial.

Judge Anthony Morris, QC, adjourned the case until 11.30am on Tuesday for a decision.