A detective who helped families after the 1999 Brixton nail bomb, the murder of Damolila Taylor in 2000 and the London Bridge Terror attack of 2017 has been named in the Queen’s New Year honours list
Deborah Akinlawon, a detective constable in Scotland Yard’s Central Specialist Crime-Major Inquiries, has been a family liaison officer (FLO) specialist. since she started using her cultural knowledge to support those affected following bombings in 1999 over three successive weekends targeted London’s Black, South Asian and gay communities.
She is awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM).
Detective Constable Deborah Akinlawon, said: “I am incredibly honoured and humbled by this recognition, however I would not be in a position to accept it if it was not for all the other officers I have worked with along the way that have supported me and developed me, professionally.
“I have had the privilege of working with some of the best officers and been part of some of the best teams, however the real fulfilment comes from supporting victims’ families at some of their most difficult times and from working alongside officers and staff who do an amazing job, sometimes at great cost, every day.”
The Brixton bomb contained up to 1,500 four-inch nails and was left in a holdall in Brixton Market, injuring 48 people. She was hospital liaison at St Thomas’s Hospital for a number of days, working with victims and their families alongside Counter Terrorism investigators.
Her next deployment to a high profile critical incident was to the Damilola Taylor Murder from 2000-2001 where as a young, female BME officer, she had an immensely positive impact on the community.
In 2003 Deborah was one of the pioneering officers involved in launching the Cultural and Communities Resource Unit whereby investigations could access the specific knowledge and expertise of employees from particular religious or ethnic backgrounds. She demonstrated the need for such a unit when she was deployed as community liaison to the high profile murder enquiry known as the ‘Torso in the Thames’. The body of an unidentified young boy, dubbed ‘Adam’ by the enquiry team, was discovered in the River Thames in September 2001. Police believed the boy originated from south-western Nigeria and that several days before his murder he had been trafficked to the UK for a multi ritual sacrifice. Given her Nigerian heritage and faith links, she acted as liaison officer to Nigeria for the investigation team over a period of six years.
In 2005 Deborah completed formal training as a Family Liaison Officer where her professionalism and empathy have been repeatedly displayed over a number of critical incidents and high profile enquiries, most notably Operation Minstead, the largest and most complex rape investigation ever undertaken by the MPS. From 2005-2010 she was part of this major inquiry to identify the offender responsible for a series of burglaries, rapes and sexual assaults that occurred across South East London in the early 1990s, all committed against elderly women living alone. As part of the enquiry team, she was the FLO for many of the 80+ elderly victims. She continued to support them after Delroy Easton Grant was identified and later convicted in March 2011.
Deborah then moved to a murder investigation team where she deployed to the families involved in several high profile homicide investigations. These include the murder of 15-year-old schoolboy Sofyen Belamoudden in March 2010. Sofyen was set upon by a gang of teenagers who stabbed, kicked and punched him to death in front of horrified rush hour commuters at Victoria Tube Station. She supported the family through the series of trials involving 20 defendants, the largest joint prosecution of a gang over a killing.
She was again selected as FLO for a high profile investigation following the murder of pensioner Richard Mannington-Bowes during the 2011 London Riots. As disorder swept the city, perpetrator Darrell Desuze punched Mr Mannington-Bowes who hit his head on the pavement and suffered brain damage. She was deployed to his family, supporting his sister throughout the investigation and subsequent trial.
Having been a Family Liaison Officer (FLO) for almost a decade, Deborah was selected for the central Family Liaison Disaster Management Team where her responsibilities include acting as a Family Liaison Advisor to all commands within the MPS.
In this role, she helps set the family liaison strategy, which is essential to any police investigation, and ensures the ongoing well-being and professional development of her FLO colleagues.
She contributes significantly to improving the ability of the MPS & UK policing to respond to mass fatality incidents, both in London and overseas. This includes the Tunisia terrorist attack of 2015; London Bridge/Borough Market terrorist attack of 2017 and Grenfell Tower fire.
She displayed tenacity, professionalism and operational knowledge alongside her communication skills and empathy for all those involved.
At London Bridge, she worked through the night and into the next day in order to oversee the disaster victim identification response, liaising with colleagues from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and NHS to obtain relevant records from abroad and from hospitals to identify the deceased as quickly as possible.
Just as the long hours were about to draw to an end, she was then deployed to the Grenfell Tower fire. This was one of the biggest such operations outside of counter-terrorism that the MPS has ever undertaken and one of the largest and most complex deployments of FLOs. She championed the deployment of Occupational Health support, oversaw pastoral care and arranged debriefs for the FLOs to allow them to return to their home force/teams effectively supported.
Deborah is also currently Chair of the Metropolitan Police Christian Police Association (MetCPA). She has assisted with several MetCPA events, sings for them and meets recruits at Hendon where she introduces herself as both an FLO and a Christian. This conveys the help and support the MetCPA can offer at times of need whilst also letting new recruits know about the family liaison role. Through the MetCPA she has attended meetings with the Mayor of London and attended the Houses of Parliament to speak before a number of MPs. As part of the MetCPA she has also established strong links within the Christian community.
Lisa Harman (Detective Superintendent, Counter Terrorism Command)
Lisa is a Detective Superintendent in the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command and is also the national lead for forensic support to counter terror (CT) investigations; a vast, highly specialised and vital component of all CT investigations.
Lisa began her police career with the Met in 1992 and has been a detective for the majority of her career. She has served in frontline and specialist crime policing roles, investigated high-harm gang and gun crimes in the Trident Command, has led the Met’s Surveillance wing and since 2005 has served at every rank from Detective Sergeant to Detective Superintendent within the Counter Terrorism Command.
This has been an extraordinary period in counter terrorism policing marked by attack plots ranging from the suicide bombings of 7/7, the Operation Overt ‘Airlines’ bomb plot, the Alexander Litvinenko poisoning, the Haymarket bomb plot, the brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, the attack in Sousse, Tunisia and the unprecedented wave of terror attacks in 2017 including both the Westminster and London Bridge marauding terror attacks. She has worked on every one of these major terror plot investigations, and innumerable other operations in between, and as a consequence is unsurpassed in CT policing in terms of her skills, knowledge and expertise in this arena.
She led the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command’s forensic response in supporting the demanding and uniquely challenging Salisbury and Amesbury Novichok poisoning investigations. This posed unique and unprecedented forensic challenges in terms of the extensive search regime and the recovery of the evidence of these attacks; along with the management of the contaminated victims themselves.
Lisa plays a leading role on the National Network Capabilities Boards for both Surveillance and Operations Rooms.
As the longest-serving and most senior female detective within the Met’s Counter Terrorism command, she has also been instrumental in promoting women’s career paths into CT policing in particular.
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