A police officer who supported the family of a murder victim ‘deliberately downplayed’ an affair with a solicitor representing one of the accused, a misconduct panel has heard.
Detective Constable Peter Surgay was a family liaison officer in the investigation into the murder of Clifford Collinge, who died after suffering 46 injuries in an attack at his home in Warsop, Nottinghamshire, in October 2011.
The panel had previously heard the officer was in a sexual and ‘volatile’ on-off relationship with solicitor Deborah Bell since 2009 – with the affair kept secret as Mr Surgay’s wife also served with Nottinghamshire Police.
Ms Bell went on to act as a solicitor for Stephen Shreeves – one of three accused of the murder of 61-year-old Mr Collinge. He is now serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2012.
Mr Surgay, 42, is facing a misconduct panel accused of failing to report the nature of the relationship, which it has been argued could have potentially compromised a major investigation.
The panel had previously heard Mr Surgay’s account the relationship was largely platonic, save for a ‘drunken fumble’ early on.
Force solicitor David Ring said this was inconsistent with Ms Bell, who said the pair were intimate over a period spanning years.
Mr Ring said Mr Surgay made no mention of foreign trips he took with Ms Bell to California, Dublin and Germany when questioned by Nottinghamshire Police’s professional standards department.
Mr Ring said: ‘You deliberately downplay the nature of your relationship in interview.’
Mr Surgay replied: ‘I dispute that.’
When asked by Mr Ring why he wanted to keep the nature of his relationship with Ms Bell secret, he said: ‘It was not something I wanted to shout from the rooftops. There’s enough rumour and rapture in the police force as it is.
‘I just wanted to keep everything as private as possible.’
The officer added that he was not aware his relationship with Ms Bell should have been brought to the attention of senior officers and the couple only spoke of the case in the ‘broadest of terms’.
Mr Ring added the officer would have been removed from his role as family liaison officer in the Collinge case had the nature of the relationship come to light, adding it was ‘common sense’ he should have disclosed it.
Mr Surgay is also facing a further allegation of misusing police systems over ‘an extended period of time’ in searching for crimes in and around his home area of Kimberley, Nottinghamshire.
The incidents included one where a car registered in his name was reported for making off from a petrol station without paying - known as bilking - with the incident resolved after Mr Surgay viewed the entry, the panel heard.