A police officer who used to catch criminals now finds himself living among them after he was jailed for perverting the course of justice. Disgraced PC Abubakar Masum rang Crimestoppers and made a false report that a woman had shot a drug dealer – which resulted in armed police turning up to her place of work.
His trial heard that he made up the bogus claim after becoming “obsessed” with the 21-year-old Mia Pitman. Masum, who has since been booted out from South Wales Police, denied he’d done anything wrong but was convicted following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.
The 24-year-old was found guilty of two counts of perverting the course of justice and one count of gaining unauthorised access to the police computer system. He was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment and made subject to an indefinite restraining order.
Sentencing, Judge Michael Fitton QC said Masum’s offences were “substantially aggravated” because it was committed while serving as a police officer. He added: “It’s quite clear you are a deeply complex and troubled man. One side of you presents a genuine wish to help others and other side of was suggested by the Crown at trial to be motivated or influenced in what was termed as an obsession with Mia Pitman.
“I don’t think that’s at the heart of the trial, I think at the heart of this is not an obsession with Mia Pitman but yourself. You are so wrapped up in your own feelings about yourself, your personality, you background and your own desires that you do not comprehend the harm you have done to Mia Pitman and others….
“As a course of conduct committed by a police officer, you have done harm not just to your victim and her associates but to your family and for that you should hang your head in shame. You have also done huge harm to the police whose reputation suffers every time an officer breaks the law and ends up in prison.”
The trial previously heard Masum, of Page Street, Swansea, invented claims about Tesco worker and university student Ms Pitman, and lied to a Crimestoppers operator that she had shot an Albanian. He made a number of anonymous calls one of which resulted in armed police attending Ms Pitman’s workplace.
Criminology graduate Ms Pitman told the jury she had trusted Masum and thought he was her friend. She said she felt “scared and upset” when she repeatedly faced questions from police because the defendant had accused her of criminality. Masum told the jury he was “absolutely” attracted to the then-21-year-old Ms Pitman but denied being obsessed with her, as the prosecution claimed. Though the officer admitted lying to Ms Pitman that he was single, he claimed he did not tell lies about her.
Ms Pitman met the defendant in a nightclub and began exchanging on social media, but around Christmas 2019 the messages became more frequent and flirty. The court heard she was concerned Masum had a girlfriend at the time and he would not answer her when asked directly about it.
There was a confrontation at Fiction nightclub in Swansea when the defendant happened to be there at the same time as Ms Pitman and her ex-boyfriend Thomas Evans. Masum had remarked the pair were “obviously back together”, the court heard. In a clash between the two men Mr Evans “clipped” the chin of Masum and left the club before he could be ejected, said prosecutor William Hughes QC. Masum went to Ms Pitman’s home with her and stayed the night. The next morning he was speaking about the Fiction incident and repeatedly said: “I’ll have him done”, according to Ms Pitman.
Mr Hughes said Masum’s first malicious call came on February 16, 2020, when the defendant told Crimestoppers he had been assaulted at Fiction by Thomas Evans. Masum said Mr Evans was planning to come back to Swansea soon to “throw acid” in his face. Mr Evans had already admitted to police that he had assaulted Masum. The incident was being dealt with by a community resolution rather than a prosecution. But when Crimestoppers passed their notes to police, Mr Evans was arrested. He spent nine hours in police custody before being released and accepting a caution. He denied making any threats to Masum and found the experience upsetting.
“[Masum and Ms Pitman] remained in contact and at some point Mr Masum asked her go out to coffee with him but she refused as she thought he was still involved with his girlfriend,” said Mr Hughes. One of Ms Pitman’s Tesco colleagues was Leon Croucher. The court heard Ms Pitman had a “blossoming friendship” with him. Masum used a South Wales Police computer to search for details about him on March 18, 2020, typing the words “Croucher” and “Swansea”.
In a call to Crimestoppers on March 20 Masum said Ms Pitman was “storing a handgun on behalf of Leon Croucher”. He told the operator: “Croucher is a known Class A drug dealer who is also a student. Tomorrow night they are planning to shoot Ellis Lewis in a nightclub in Swansea. It is not known which club but they frequent Peppermint and Fiction… it is understood Lewis owes Croucher money for drugs.”
Ms Pitman was working in Tesco on March 20 when armed officers attended. She was told police had searched her home looking for a firearm. Ms Pitman was asked questions about Mr Croucher before she was allowed to return home. In the search of Ms Pitman’s home armed officers handcuffed her housemate and placed him in a South Wales Police van. Nothing was found to suggest Ms Pitman or Mr Croucher were involved in criminality, said the prosecutor.
Ms Pitman went to her parents’ home for a few days. She continued to post on Snapchat and exchanged messages with Masum. When she asked if he knew what had happened Masum said he did not and when she told him about the police incident he offered her another premises to stay at. She had no inkling he was involved.
Masum made another anonymous call to Crimestoppers on May 17. The notes read: “Mia is holding a firearm for her partner Leon Croucher. The weapon is buried in the garden and will be dug up tonight for a planned murder tomorrow.”
He alleged there would be a “drug drop” and the recipient of the drugs would be shot. Ms Pitman would be driving to the location in a car with false plates, he claimed. Two officers attended Ms Pitman’s home as a result of the call and asked if there was a firearm in the garden. She became “very upset”, the court heard. The officers found nothing suspicious in the home.
Ms Pitman decided to block Mr Croucher on social media and stop speaking to him at work because she thought he was involved. She messaged Masum on Snapchat to say police had questioned her again. This time she felt his attitude was different, “quite cold and shrugging off what he was told”, the court heard.
Masum then called Crimestoppers on May 27 to say: “Leon Croucher is living with Mia Pitman and keeping a 9mm Glock handgun at the property and posting images of the gun on Instagram.” Ms Pitman later decided to block Masum on Snapchat after learning from a coworker that the defendant was still in a relationship with someone else. The day after Masum was blocked he called Crimestoppers again and said: “Mia Pitman is selling large amounts of cocaine and in possession of a black Glock gun… buried in the garden.”
Masum told the tip-off line that Ms Pitman had “relinquished ties” to an Albanian drug gang and was now affiliated with “their enemies, the Harris brothers”. He claimed Ms Pitman had a gun linked to a raid on an Albanian-linked property in Birchgrove. This information could only have been known by a police officer or one of the criminals involved, the court heard.
The defendant called the line twice on June 22 saying Ms Pitman had posted a video on Snapchat “threatening an unknown male on a hillside with a firearm”. The caller described Ms Pitman as “an attractive girl who will play innocent”.
There were two more calls on July 11, claiming there had been a murder in Swansea and the body had not yet been found but it was linked to “an ongoing feud between the Harris twins and Albanian drug dealers”. Masum alleged Ms Pitman had posted on Snapchat about shooting an Albanian drug dealer in the leg and putting him in a van before his body was “dumped” in Rhossili Bay.
Police were by now investigating malicious calls to Crimestoppers. They interviewed Ms Pitman, who mentioned her connection to Masum. He was arrested on July 21. Mr Hughes said the reports to Crimestoppers led to 200 hours of police time being used up while “innocent members of the public have been subject to upsetting, humiliating and ultimately frightening intrusions into their lives by South Wales Police – all as a result, we say, of malicious calls from this defendant”.
In a victim personal statement read out to the court, Ms Pitman said she found visits made by the police at workplace as “frightening and embarrassing”. She added: “I hadn’t done anything in my life to warrant the police coming to see me and I found it hard to deal with.” She said she was left feeling “paranoid” and lost her self-confidence as she did not know who had fabricated the false reports.
She did not return to university but remained at her home with her parents, feeling “suspicious and wary”. She also said her family had been affected and were constantly worried about her, with Ms Pitman required to share her location with them. She said she also suffered nightmares about the defendant and found it hard to concentrate on her university work.
Ms Pitman said: “To find out it was someone I knew and had only been nice to me was very sad. Once I discovered it was Mas I became a different kind of paranoid. I was afraid and worried about bumping into him, if he would say anything to me or do anything. I thought he was a lovely person but thankfully I have not seen him and I hope it stays that way.
In mitigation, defence barrister Graham Trembath said his client had lost his job and a long-term relationship of six-years as a result of his offending. He said what made the case “so bizarre” was the fact Masum and Ms Pitman had only met in person three times and he described the defendant as a “Walter Mitty” character who made “wild and florid” accusations against his victims.
The barrister also described Masum as a “complex young male” who had experienced a number of adverse experiences including abuse, poverty, parental death, racial bullying, and mental health issues. He also said there were traits of personality disorder which needed to be considered.
Following the hearing, John Griffiths of the CPS said: “Abubakar Masum deliberately abused his position of power as a police officer. The potential consequences of his actions were extremely serious. Having heard the strength of evidence presented by the CPS the jury convicted Masum and he has been brought to justice for his grave breach of trust.”