A Lunchbox Was Left Next To Rape Case Samples in a Police Evidence Fridge

The incident, alongside stories of rape cases being dropped because evidence freezers were broken and frosted over, is one of many detailed in a truly damning report into London’s Metropolitan Police that called for radical and urgent reform.
metropolitan police evidence freezers rape cases
Stock photo. Illustrative purposes only.

Rape cases in the UK were dropped because DNA samples were stored in broken freezers by police, according to a damning new report into London’s Metropolitan Police which found it was not giving women and children “the protection and support they deserve.”

Louise Casey’s review into the standards and culture of the UK’s largest force concluded that it was institutionally misogynist, racist and homophobic, with a rampant "boys' club" culture, and in need of “radical” change. 


The report was commissioned by the then-head of the Metropolitan Police in 2021, after a London woman, Sarah Everard, was raped and murdered by off-duty Met constable Wayne Couzens in March that year. The case caused outrage in the UK and scrutiny over toxic attitudes within the force, which has only grown with subsequent scandals such as when another serving Metropolitan police officer, David Carrick, was revealed to have been a serial rapist, committing 48 rapes.

Among the revelations in the 363-page Casey review was that an officer was "repeatedly raped" by a colleague, that an officer had groomed a survivor of domestic abuse – and that the mishandling of critical DNA samples in rape cases had led to cases being dropped.

The report’s authors said they heard accounts of samples from sexual assault cases being held in dilapidated, overcrowded freezers “crammed full of evidence samples, which were overflowing, frosted over and taped shut.”

“All the fridges used for rape kits were in bad shape, packed and ruining evidence," the report said, citing this as a reflection of the insufficient resources given to investigating sexual offending, and symbolic of “institutional misogyny” in the force.

One officer, referred to as “G,” said her unit's freezers were so full it took three officers to close them – and that during a heatwave last year, a freezer containing samples broke down, resulting in all the evidence being destroyed. Officer G said she had "lost count" of the number of times she had been told by colleagues that evidence had been lost.


She also told the review about disbelieving attitudes towards rape complaints she had encountered among her colleagues, such as one male officer who had said he did not believe a violent attack was rape at all.

Casey told reporters that the issue of faulty fridges and freezers for storing samples “kept on coming up” during interviews with officers, and were “symbolic of how the force has lost its way.” 

“We found that officers were using bungee cords to keep a freezer closed – that meant that some of the samples got spoiled,” she said. “People found a lunchbox in one of the fridges,” she added, indicating that the evidence would have been contaminated as a result.

These shortcomings in taking sexual assault seriously even impacted women on the force. 

One officer told the review how she had been repeatedly raped and physically abused by another officer, including one attack where she was hit in the face, lost consciousness, then was raped. When she laid a complaint with the force, the case was passed between six different investigators over a year without ever progressing. 

The woman attempted to take her own life, citing the police investigation “draining the life out of” her, while no action was ever taken against her alleged attacker.

A similar account was given by another female officer who said she had complained about being touched inappropriately multiple times in the workplace by a more senior male colleague, including while she was getting changed. After she complained about his behaviour, she said she was ostracised and branded a troublemaker by her colleagues, while the male officer faced no consequences.


And in another case cited in the report, a Met officer groomed a domestic violence victim, discouraging her from talking to anyone else. The woman subsequently found out the officer hadn’t recorded any evidence she had given him about her case, meaning no charges were pursued against her domestic abuser; he then cut off contact with her once he was placed under investigation with another vulnerable woman, and resigned before his disciplinary hearing.

Jayne Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis, said the report showed “a police service in crisis,” and underlined the need for “urgent change.”

“There has been a culture of defensiveness and denial when faced with accusations of wrong-doing in the past, and we will watch closely to see what actions are taken in response to the report over the next few weeks,” she said. “We cannot accept that prejudice, stereotypes and rape myths are expressed openly by officers without being challenged and that there are no consequences for it.”

“Women and girls deserve to see change, deserve to feel safe, and deserve to feel that the police will do their jobs.”

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition told VICE World News in a statement that the report’s revelations around the handling of rape evidence were “appalling.”

“But they confirm what women’s organisations have long known about institutional failings that are a barrier to rape victims accessing justice,” she said. “When rape survivors who report to the police already face a little over 1% chance that charges will be brought against a perpetrator, it is unthinkable that vital evidence is being mistreated and discarded in this way.

“This is yet another shocking example of the de-prioritisation and de-specialisation of the police response to rape, which Baroness Casey finds has put women and children at greater risk than necessary.”

In response to the report, the Met's Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the force had “let Londoners down,” and that the report had to be "a new beginning.”

He told the BBC that hundreds of "problematic" officers had been identified since he took over the force in September.