FOUR cars carrying armed police were used to stop and arrest Press publisher Danny Lockwood as he drove to work on Monday.
Mr Lockwood was handcuffed and taken to York police station before being transferred to Dewsbury, to be questioned about three hate crimes at Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff’s office.
The arrest came despite Ms Sherriff’s staff insisting to Kirklees Police commander Chief Supt Julie Sykes that a clear, daytime CCTV image of the suspect was specifically NOT the Press owner.
But Chief Supt Sykes told the MP there were still “sufficient grounds” to regard Mr Lockwood as a suspect in three hate crimes, thought to involve swastikas being deposited at the doorstep of the MP’s office in Wellington Road.
Two instances were in daylight on Tuesday July 3 and Thursday August 9, and the other one the night of Friday August 17.
Mr Lockwood had just appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live programme in London last week when he was asked to provide a DNA sample by PC James Atherton.
On advice from his solicitor, the Press publisher volunteered to attend Dewsbury Police Station by appointment to assist with inquiries if needed.
Despite that, Chief Supt Sykes authorised a nationwide ‘wanted’ alert on the national police crime computer.
He was driving alone when three marked police BMW X5s and an unmarked one, all carrying armed officers, forced him off the A64 near its A1M junction.
He was handcuffed and put in a police van, refused permission to make a statutory phone call for seven hours and held for more than nine hours before being questioned, released on bail and made to find his own way 25 miles to retrieve his car. He was also threatened by PC Atherton regarding writing or publishing anything about the case.
“I told him where to shove that,” the journalist said. “My solicitor was astonished that such a trivial matter – in the greater scheme of things – should be treated in such an outrageous manner, especially as I had offered to meet police.
“I’ll be lodging a formal complaint regarding what appears a deliberate and malicious intervention by this officer.
“My conscience is completely clear but what bothers me is that Julie Sykes thinks she can get away with doing this to innocent people.
“Not to put too fine a point on things, but I’m reasonably well known around Dewsbury. And Sykes thinks I’d jeopardise my career and reputation by doing something as stupid as that?
“To an MP who writes a column for my newspaper? Using racist paraphernalia of a sort that I have always, totally and unconditionally condemned? What planet is this idiot officer on?”
Mr Lockwood added: “I howled laughing when the rather sheepish PC Atherton showed me the CCTV picture of the suspect. He looked nine months pregnant and had a thick white growth of hair.
“But then to discover Sykes insisted there were other grounds to suspect me? What are those grounds and why wasn’t I told about those when arrested?
“Here’s the thing – if the police had given us that CCTV image to publish in The Press, they’d have had their man in minutes, because it is that clear and recognisable.
“But this wasn’t about solving the crime, it was about Julie Sykes sending me a message while hoping desperately to stitch me up.
“And that just shows how desperately amateurish and agenda-driven, law enforcement in Kirklees has sunk.
“Or maybe it’s just that Julie Sykes had a sense-of-humour failure at my calling them the Keystone Kops in my column last week. And she wonders why?”
Police are believed to have seized on Lockwood as a suspect when one of Ms Sherriff’s staff joked that the suspect bore a rough resemblance to him – but then insisted that it definitely wasn’t.
Ms Sherriff issued the following statement: “The police are currently investigating a series of incidents at my Dewsbury office but we have no reason to believe Danny Lockwood has been involved.
“When West Yorkshire Police suggested Mr Lockwood’s DNA was being sought as part of the investigation, that was our unequivocal advice.
“I’m frankly shocked at reports that an arrest was made by armed police. It’s an alarming step to have taken based on no legitimate line of investigation that I or my staff are aware of and I have raised my serious concerns about this with the police.”
West Yorkshire Police said they were unable comment.
Mr Lockwood remains on police bail until October.