Police officer on trial for mortgage fraud says colleagues ‘stitched him up’

Greater Manchester colleagues persecuted me and smashed my house after my clash with ‘bullying’ superior, says chief inspector

A senior officer from Greater Manchester police on trial for mortgage fraud has claimed that he was “stitched up” by the force after clashing with his “bullying” superior.

Thirty officers were deployed to search six properties linked to chief inspector John Buttress after anonymous complaints about him were passed to the force’s professional standards division, Liverpool crown court heard on Monday.

In occasionally tearful testimony, the 48-year-old accused his fellow officers of “smashing up” his farmhouse near Wrexham, north Wales, as part of an orchestrated campaign against him. “I have been utterly persecuted by all this,” he told the jury, crying. The alleged campaign culminated in him facing a trial for mortgage fraud, specifically failing to tell his mortgage company that he occasionally let out his property as a holiday home.

Giving evidence on Monday, Buttress said his problems began after he took on a high-profile project to revolutionise the force’s “stop and search” procedures. The new regime, unpopular in some corners of the force, involved officers using special radios to give instant reasons for stopping and searching members of the public, rather than recording them on paper later.

Buttress told the jury that his superior in the Bolton division, Supt Steve Nibloe, “took an instant dislike to me on day one” and that he quickly became concerned about Nibloe’s “bullying” of other officers. Their relationship “effectively broke down”, said Buttress.

The court heard that he was summoned to an interview at the professional standards branch of Greater Manchester police. There, he was told he was suspected of insider dealing in shares in Sepura, the contractor that ran the new stop and search programme, despite never having held shares in any firm in his life.

“Naively, I didn’t think, excuse the expression, that my employer would try to stitch me up,” he said, telling the jury that he immediately suspected that Nibloe had made the complaint. He claimed that senior officers, including Asst Ch Supt Dawn Copley, assured him this was not the case. “Either they had been mislead or they weren’t telling the truth,” said Buttress.

However, more than a year later, he received confirmation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission that Nibloe had indeed tipped off professional standards, he told the jury. Nibloe is not a witness in the current trial.

The court heard that after proving he had not been insider trading, Buttress made clear that he planned to “raise merry hell” and brought various internal grievances. He then faced various other investigations into his financial affairs, including allegations that he had made dishonest council tax claims. But after a lengthy investigation, Wrexham council ended up admitting it owed him money, and refunded him £1,779.

He was then accused of dishonestly misleading his mortgage provider by not living at the property he claimed was his home address. This reached court but the charge was dropped just before the jury was sworn in last Tuesday after the prosecution accepted there was no case to answer.

Buttress denies a single charge of fraud, having allegedly obtained a mortgage for his home in north Wales without informing his lender that he was letting out the property to holiday-makers.

The case continues.


Helen Pidd, northern editor

The GuardianTramp

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