Sussex Police was guilty of a catalogue of failings in investigating the suspected racist murder of Jay Abatan.

In one of the most damning reports Sussex has received, the Essex Police review listed 57 conclusions, mostly critical, and 18 recommendations.

It said opportunities to find witnesses were lost, allocation of staff was slow, paperwork was sloppy and in some cases appeared to have been altered, there was no intelligence strategy, and potential evidence was lost at the crime scene and the hospital where Mr Abatan died.

It said it was surprised that lessons listed in the MacPherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence in London were "not taken on board" by officers investigating the Brighton murder.

Mr Abatan, 42, from Eastbourne, was assaulted outside the Ocean Rooms club in Morley Street, Brighton, early on January 24, 1999, following a dispute about a taxi. He received blows to the head and died a week later after falling into a coma.

Details of the report were released last night by the victim's family following a meeting with senior officers.

Jay's sister Michelle Adebisi, who flew in from Nigeria, said afterwards: "We have been failed by Sussex Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the criminal justice system."

She declined to comment when asked whether the outcome of the original investigation might have been different if the victim had been white.

Sussex Police Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Yeo accepted there were "very real failings" but said it was not necessarily any one person's fault.

He said: "In reality, we as a force should have done much better.

"It is important to bear in mind that the previous investigation resulted in two people being charged and after the involvement of counsel, the CPS sought to commit one of them to the crown court.

"Further, a Queen's Counsel was prepared to secure a bill of indictment from a judge in respect of one of the people.

"Two people also stood trial for affray and assault arising out of this tragedy."

Amongst the criticisms the report said no "lateral thought" was given in the original investigation as to whether Mr Abatan's murder was racially motivated.

It said no senior investigating officer took command of the inquiry and too much reliance was placed on the attack being the work of "joint enterprise".

It said attending officers failed to record details of people at the scene and there was lack of action by the night duty CID officer who should have played a more significant role in directing inquiries.

There was poor management of the inquiry and there was no Holmes computer records kept.

It said: "There were no records of inquiries carried out with medical staff to ascertain if the victim spoke to them before he died. The purpose of house-to-house inquiries was unclear and the use of pieces of paper to record their results was 'unacceptable and dangerous'."

The report added the inquiry failed to pick up MacPherson Report recommendations on proper liaison with the victim's family, saying: "It is plainly clear that relations between the investigation team and the family began to deteriorate and that no positive action was taken to remedy the situation.