POLICE under fire over the collapse of a race attack trial have admitted an embarrassing blunder.
Last week seven youths were cleared over an attack on 14yearold Joseph Haigh who was viciously beaten and left for dead by an Asian gang.
The trial at Leeds Crown Court collapsed when one of the witnesses, believed to be a 15yearold Asian boy, refused to give evidence.
Police at first treated the attack as a ‘robbery’ because Joseph’s BMX bike was taken, though it was found nearby some time later.
This week it emerged that police had accidentally sold the bike at auction, weeks before the trial.
The Press understands the bike, a Christmas present which cost £260, was stored in the wrong part of Dewsbury Police Station and mistakenly sent to be sold with other unwanted items and lost property.
With the collapse of the trial Joseph’s parents Jonathan and Stacey, of Thornhill, asked for the return of the bike.
An embarrassed detective was forced to apologise to the family, and handed over a cheque for £300.
Mrs Haigh, 41, said the police investigation had been handled badly from the start and added: “This just caps it all. If, like the police claimed, this was a robbery then the bike was a vital piece of evidence. How could they sell it months before the trial? It just beggars belief.”
Joseph was attacked by a gang of up to 15 Asian youths in Rectory Park, Thornhill, in October last year.
He was knocked unconscious with half a brick, stabbed in the head with a screwdriver and kicked repeatedly in the head as he lay stricken on the ground.
They taunted him with racist abuse calling him “white trash”, a “white b*****d” and a “white f****r”.
The gang fled and Joseph was left for dead. He came round drenched in blood and staggered to a bus stop for help.
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Seven youths, one aged 18, four 17 and two 15, were charged with wounding and raciallyaggravated GBH.
They all walked free when the witness, not one of Joseph’s friends, told the judge he hadn’t slept for five days and was too afraid to give evidence.
Mrs Haigh said that last week’s reporting of the case had given the impression that it was one of Joseph’s friends who had decided not to testify.
She wanted to make it clear that all Joseph’s friends had supported him.
It was a week or two after the beating that police announced they were treating the attack as raciallymotivated and the family believe important evidence could have been missed.
“We don’t know what the police did at the start,” said Mrs Haigh. “The scene wasn’t cordoned off.
“Did they ever carry out forensic tests on this bike before it was sold? We just don’t know.
“I think the police know they should have handled this a whole lot better. They’ve given us £300 but it isn’t about the money.”
Mrs Haigh said the police had been at the family’s home several times over the last week and she thanked them for their support.
There was a high profile police presence on the streets of Thornhill last weekend.
In a statement, a police spokesman said: “We can confirm that the victim’s BMX bike was mistakenly sold at an auction but this error was quickly realised and we acted quickly to inform the family and apologise to them for the mistake.
“We reimbursed them for the bike and the family were thankful for the measures we took.
“We can also confirm that the bike was subject to forensic examination by specialist officers.”
Blundering police sell off vital evidence weeks before race attack trial collapsesFriday 29th October 2010