A detective who forged signatures on a witness statement during an investigation into the murder of an Andover mother-of-five “made the most awful situation worse”, a misconduct panel has been told.

Detective Constable Robert Ferrow “grossly let down” homicide investigators everywhere when he potentially put the prosecution of Lucy-Anne Rushton’s killer at risk, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said.

Ferrow, who resigned from Hampshire Constabulary in September after he was convicted of forgery, would have been sacked without notice had he still been a serving officer, the panel found on Monday.

Ms Pinkney said: “Clearly a criminal conviction of any matter is extremely serious, but forgery for an experienced officer in the most serious investigation, potentially putting at risk justice for the family of a victim of murder – it doesn’t get more serious than that.

“That is gross misconduct – how could it be otherwise?”

She said Ferrow “made the most awful situation worse” for the family and friends of Ms Rushton.

Ms Pinkney added: “Homicide investigators are the very best of the bunch and have been grossly let down by his actions.

“Had he been serving I would have had no hesitation in dismissing him today.”

She said Ferrow acted with “wilful dishonesty and absolute lack of integrity”.

Talking more broadly about police conduct, she added: “We hold the mirror up confidently and we deal with what we find.”

In a statement after the hearing, Ms Pinkney added: “We know that the vast majority of our workforce do uphold the standards of professional behaviour placed in them, do stand up to their colleagues and call it out and do report it, and it is equally as important that we support them when they do so.”

Ferrow, 50, was convicted at Winchester Crown Court, where a judge branded his actions “laziness to a criminal degree”.

The court heard that the case concerned a statement given by witness Ashley Grace-O’Neill to Ferrow on June 23 2019.

Mr Grace-O’Neill said that when he asked to leave the police station and return the next day, Ferrow suggested he sign some blank witness statement pages so the officer could finish copying out text message screenshots Mr Grace-O’Neill had provided.

The witness agreed, but said he told Ferrow he still wanted to return and read the statement to check it was accurate. Mr Grace-O’Neill said the detective agreed.

However, when Mr Grace-O’Neill returned the following day to read his statement, no-one was able to help, the court heard.

He said that when he eventually saw the statement, some pages that had been completed had not been signed by him.

Ferrow, who had 18 years’ experience as an officer, denied forgery but was found guilty and jailed for eight months.