A police force is being investigated after evidence that it spied on the sister of a former paratrooper who died in its custody was uncovered during a trawl of its archives triggered by allegations that the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence was placed under surveillance.
An internal review by Humberside Police found “information to suggest” that Christopher Alder’s sister Janet - who settled in Calderdale - and another person, were subject to “improper surveillance” during the inquest into his death 13 years ago.
The force has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is now investigating.
The inquiry comes just weeks after claims that the Metropolitan Police tried to smear the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
Former undercover officer Peter Francis claimed officers were told to spy on the Lawrence family and other campaigners for justice over his death, in the hope of finding information to smear them.
He also claimed he was told to withhold information about his activities from the later Macpherson Inquiry into the Met’s handling of the murder investigation.
The IPCC said that although the Francis allegations were “serious and indicate grave misconduct”, it had yet to find evidence to support them.
The Home Secretary has asked all police forces to check their records for evidence of surveillance relating to the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Macpherson Inquiry.
The IPCC said Humberside Police found nothing connected to the Lawrence case, but the trawl “revealed evidence of surveillance into Ms Alder and another person”.
Announcing the inquiry, a spokesman said: “The IPCC received a referral from Humberside Police concerning Janet Alder, the sister of Christopher Alder who died in police custody in Hull in 1998, and another person.
“According to Humberside Police, there is information to suggest that Ms Alder and the other party were the subjects of improper surveillance.
“The IPCC has determined that an independent investigation should be carried out to establish what surveillance took place and the reasons for it.”
Miss Alder, 51, who has long claimed she was targeted by the force, said she felt vindicated but angered by the revelations.
“I had to send my son away to his dad because I thought I was being followed – they don’t understand the impact it has,” she said.
“All you are doing is asking for the truth and they treat you like enemies of the state.”
She added: “It’s disgusting. I want to know who’s done it, who’s given them the authority, and for what reason.”
A Humberside Police spokeswoman said: “Following an internal review, conducted in the light of interest in covert policing tactics, Humberside Police has chosen to refer to the IPCC an operation conducted a number of years ago.”
Mr Alder, 37, died on the floor of the custody suite in Queens Gardens police station in Hull on April 1, 1998, with his trousers around his ankles and his arms handcuffed behind his back.
The jury at his inquest in August 2000 found he had been unlawfully killed. His body was discovered in the mortuary at Hull Royal Infirmary in November 2011 – 11 years after his family thought they had buried him. Grace Kamara, a 77-year-old Nigerian woman, had been buried in his grave.