Haringey councillor trial: Witnesses and police ‘were lying’ claims Nilgun Canver
21:14 23 January 2014
The defence case for senior Haringey councillor Nilgun Canver saw extraordinary scenes today as the former cabinet member for crime broke down in tears in the witness box, a former Haringey Mayor gave evidence and Tottenham MP David Lammy sang her praises.
"[Another officer] said, ‘You must give this evidence here, now’. He was very stroppy and rude. And he threatened me. He said, ‘I will do you for obstruction of justice if you don’t give me this statement.’"
Cllr Canver is on trial for perverting the course of justice by telling police she was driving her BMW when it crashed late one night last year, when in fact it was her son Burak, who had no insurance.
During an emotional 90 minutes of questioning and cross-examination, Cllr Canver disputed key evidence from prosecution witnesses.
She accused both Stavros Oikonomou, who was hit by her BMW and came “within a hair’s breadth” of serious injury, and his brother of lying.
Cllr Canver said she was “feeling all sorts of emotions” after speaking to her son, who sounded “shaken up” after the crash, and caught a cab to meet him near the scene.
“My intention was to go back to the car with him,” she said. “But when I saw him it changed because he looked quite pale and shaken and not well, so we agreed that he would go home.”
Feeling “alone and a bit frightened” she called her colleague Cllr David Browne, the Mayor of Haringey at the time, who lived nearby and agreed to meet her at the crash site.
She got to the crash site first, opposite Wickes hardware store in Seven Sisters Road, and was “jumped on” by a number of people asking for money and compensation. “It was an unreal, absurd situation,” she said.
Mr Oikonomou and his brother had previously told the court that Cllr Canver had claimed to be the driver, offered them money and asked them not to involve police.
Marguerite Russell, defending, asked her: “Did you claim you were the driver?”
“Absolutely not,” she replied.
“And that you offered [the crash victim] money?”
“No, not at all.”
“Was it your belief that the police had to come?”
“Yes,” she said, adding that the only mention of money she made to the crash victim and his brother was a remark like ‘There is insurance for those purposes’.
When cross-examining her later, Brendon Morris, prosecuting, said: “You were panicking. You offered to pay them off. Those two brothers - one of them who has now finished his PhD - were lying?”
“They are lying,” she said. “I don’t know what their motive is.”
When police arrived, Cllr Canver spoke to PC Steve Tutton with Cllr Browne in earshot. “He said, ‘Are you the owner of this car?’ and I said yes. Then he asked me if I was the driver. I said yes.”
“What was going through your mind?” asked Miss Russell.
“I didn’t think at all. At that point I was already overwhelmed with emotions and I think I was quick to respond to him, nothing else.”
While the PC was distracted, she said she turned to Cllr Browne, who told her: “That’s OK, calm down, he’s coming back and you can put it right.”
Miss Russell asked: “How long before you told him [your son was driving]?”
“Possibly 30 seconds, a minute,” she replied. “He was very annoyed and he raised his voice. It made me even more upset.”
She still gave the PC all the details he asked for, she said, and was allowed to leave the scene. Yet despite this, she claimed she was “threatened” into making a formal statement by another officer after they recalled her later that night.
“It was 3 o’clock in the morning, it was very cold, I had already told them everything,” she said.
“[Another officer] said, ‘You must give this evidence here, now’. He was very stroppy and rude. And he threatened me. He said, ‘I will do you’ - and these were his words because it stuck in my mind - ‘I will do you for obstruction of justice if you don’t give me this statement.’”
Cllr Canver, a former cabinet member for crime and community safety, was brought to tears as she said: “All these years I have worked with officers; I did not deserve such behaviour.”
Mr Morris suggested she was “less than helpful” to police, having told PC Tutton she was driving with her son next to her, “and in doing so you were continuing the charade” she had started with the crash victim.
She insisted PC Tutton’s testimony didn’t paint an accurate picture of her experience.
Mr Morris asked why she had signed a statement in the back of the police van that contained elements she was disputing from the stand.
Once more on the verge of tears, she said: “It was a dim light in the back of the van. By that point I was tired, fed up, confused, humiliated by the police who I work with all the time, and I just signed it, I just let it go.”
He asked: “You hatched a plan to cover this up, didn’t you?”
“No. Absolutely not,” she replied.
Miss Russell then asked her: “Was there anything stopping you from claiming that your car had been stolen that night?”
“Probably not,” she replied, “I could have done.” Cllr Canver then left the stand.
+ More coverage of today’s hearing will follow tomorrow. The case at Wood Green Crown Court was this afternoon adjourned until Tuesday.