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He was supposed to be the key figure in solving the biggest terrorist atrocity mainland Britain has ever suffered.

Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper, became the Crown’s key witness in the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, and was the one man who linked the suspect to clothes found in the suitcase that harboured the bomb.

But new allegations published yesterday, which would have been tested in court if the appeal that began in April had gone ahead, have ­undermined both his ­credibility and reliability.

Papers on Megrahi’s website reveal that Gauci and his brother Paul were interested in financial reward from the start of the case, and that between them they received at least $3m (£1.88m) at the end of the trial.

Previously-secret police reports dating back to 1999 indicate “the frustration of Tony Gauci that he will not be compensated” and that “in respect of Paul Gauci, it is apparent from speaking to him for any length of time that he has a clear desire to gain financial benefit from the position he and his brother are in relative to the case.

“As a consequence he exaggerates his own importance as a witness and clearly inflates the fears he and his brother have.

“He is anxious to establish what advantage he can gain from the Scottish police.

“Although demanding, Paul Gauci remains an asset to the case but will continue to explore any means he can to identify where financial advantage can be gained.”

Offering witnesses financial remuneration is anathema to the Scottish system, and yet this information, uncovered by the investigation of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, was never disclosed to the defence.

Megrahi’s website states: “It is a matter of common sense, and it has long been recognised in Scots law, that the existence of a financial interest and/or the offer of rewards to a witness is of considerable importance in relation to the credibility of that witness.

“Depending upon the nature and degree of any such interest or reward, the law may exclude the evidence of the witness, or leave the effect of same on the witness to be weighed by the jury.”

The now published papers suggest the police knew this. One quotation is telling: “When the inevitable reflections and media examinations take place in future years … nor is it anticipated would they ever seek to highlight any remuneration received”.

Megrahi’s website summary also states: “The documents also indicate that Tony Gauci had been visited by the Scottish police on more than 50 occasions – many, perhaps even the majority, of which were unrecorded.

“This information shows that the witness has significantly changed his position over time regarding the items sold.

“In addition there is a clear inference from the timing and context of these inconsistent statements that the witness has been influenced in his recollection by the police inquiries – either by being shown articles such as control samples or fragments or by discussion.”

Expert reports published for the first time on the website also question the validity of Mr Gauci’s identification of Megrahi.

A report from Tim ­Valentine, professor of psychology at the University of London, claims that the first identification by Mr Gauci – in which he did not directly identify Megrahi – would have been the most accurate.

It also says that the circumstances before the line-up generated “a serious risk of mistaken identity”.

Steven Clark, professor of psychology at the University of California, and an expert in eyewitness identification, concluded that it would be “extremely unusual” for Mr Gauci to have made a correct identification, because of the passage of time since the incident (nine months before the first questioning) and all the other influences including the numerous newspaper and magazine reports he saw.


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Reply with quote  #437 

Offering witnesses financial remuneration is anathema to the Scottish system, and yet this information, uncovered by the investigation of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, was never disclosed to the defence.

Judge yourself before judging others.

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The TRUTH is out there...........

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Scapegoat found for high society murder

(L-R) Iain Hay Gordon and Martin McCann in the role of Iain Hay Gordon
The part of Iain Hay Gordon is played by actor Martin McCann

A drama about a young RAF airman wrongly convicted of murdering the daughter of a prominent judge may not seem like the most obvious choice for two of Northern Ireland's most successful comedy writers to tackle.

However, Damon Quinn and Michael McDowell from the Hole in the Wall Gang said they were spurred on to write Scapegoat by two main forces.

One was the fear that a lack of funding for comedy programming would force them to return to their previous careers as lawyers and the other was that they wanted to tell the story about a subject which has enthralled people in Northern Ireland for years.

Scapegoat is based on the story of Iain Hay Gordon who was found guilty but insane of the 1952 murder of Patricia Curran, the daughter of Sir Lancelot Curran - a High Court judge who went on to become the Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland.

Mr Gordon was a 20-year-old RAF national serviceman from Glasgow who was based in Northern Ireland at the time of the murder.

He knew the family through his association with the victim's brother, Desmond Curran, and was quickly identified as a suspect and arrested.

Mr Gordon spent seven years in Holywell psychiatric hospital in Antrim after being found guilty but insane of killing Ms Curran.

Patricia Curran
Patricia Curran was the daughter of a prominent judge

He always maintained his innocence and claimed he had been forced to sign a confession by Superintendent Capstick, who had been brought over from Scotland Yard to investigate the case.

Mr Gordon began his appeal in 1992 when he retired and was eventually cleared of the crime at the Court of Appeal in Belfast in 2000.

The person who murdered Patricia Quinn has never been found, but many people at the time believed that the Curran family had something to do with her killing.

The family has always denied having anything to do with her death.

Damon Quinn, who co-wrote and produced Scapegoat, said he and Michael McDowell had discussed a number of story ideas before settling on the case of Iain Hay Gordon.

"We discussed various options, but the Curran murder has been the one which has fascinated the place for 50 odd years everyone's dad or mum knows somebody who knew something about it," he said.

"It is such a fascinating story. It is like Jack the Ripper, you are never going to know who did it.

"A character puts forward a theory, which has been a fairly much trampled theory over the years, but no-one really knows."

Iain Haye Gordon
Iain Haye Gordon was cleared of the killing in 2000

The story of Scapegoat is told through the eyes of Rossiter Lewis, a psychiatrist hired by the defence team to examine Gordon and support the case that their is guilty but insane.

Although Lewis initially believes that Gordon was guilty of the murder, his opinion shifts and he concludes that he has been left to take the blame for a crime he did not commit.

"We decided that the real drama lay in the character of Rossiter Lewis," director Michael McDowell said.

"He is the only one who can stop this young lad hanging, but he has to do it in a way which is against his own medical ethics by saying he was insane.

"His evidence is ridiculed because the case that he was insane is a pretty poor one.

"But I think he faced that dilemma at that time. The only way to get the guy off hanging was saying he was insane."

Scapegoat will be shown on BBC 1 Northern Ireland at 2100 GMT on 25 October.


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Murder case airman
'was victim of conspiracy'


On a cold and drizzly night in November 1952 the body of Patricia Curran was discovered in the grounds of her family home near Belfast. The 19-year-old had been stabbed 37 times.

The murder of the judge's daughter led to what many believe was a major miscarriage of justice that saw an innocent man "fitted up", as the establishment closed ranks and covered up the killing. The victim of this alleged conspiracy was Iain Hay Gordon, a 20-year-old Scotsman who was carrying out his National Service with the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland.

Forty-eight years later, Mr Gordon, who now lives in Glasgow, looks set to take a major step towards winning his campaign to clear his name. It is understood the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which examines potential miscarriages of justice, is almost certain to refer his case to the Court of Appeal later this year.

This follows evidence that he was coerced into signing a false confession, was wrongly ruled insane, and that there were serious faults in the police investigation. A commission source said: "This case looks increasingly as if he was completely innocent, that this is a genuine miscarriage of justice."

This story started on the evening of 13 November 1952 when Patricia Curran's body was found by her 26-year-old brother, Desmond, in the wooded grounds of her family's home, The Glen, in Whiteabbey, five miles north of Belfast. She had last been seen at 5.20pm, walking towards her home after getting off a bus.

At 1.45am, Judge Lancelot Curran telephoned the police to inquire if there had been any accidents involving a bus, as his daughter had not arrived home. The police offered to come to the house, but the judge said that it would not be necessary. It was only when his wife, Doris, telephoned the police five minutes later in a distressed state that they came to the house.

When the first policeman arrived, shortly after 2am, he raised no objection as Judge Curran, Patricia's brother and the family solicitor put the body into a car to take it to the doctor's surgery. Police were only able to examine a contaminated crime scene. Very little blood was discovered at the site, despite the multiple stabbings, suggesting she was not killed where she was found and that her body had been moved.

Her books, papers, a beret and a handbag were found at the edge of the driveway, 10 yards from the body. They were dry, despite the rain. Patricia, a student, did not have these items with her on the bus.

Police have been criticised for the way they carried out their investigation; they did not examine the judge's home for evidence because he would not allow them in until more than a week after the murder.

A senior policeman wrote at the time: "It was decided to pursue every other line of inquiry before allowing our thoughts to concentrate on something which seemed too fantastic to believe, namely that the Currans were in fact covering up the murderer and telling a tissue of lies."

The Currans were one of the most respected families in the Unionist establishment. Judge Curran had been a Unionist MP and Northern Ireland's youngest attorney general.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary launched a massive murder hunt in which 40,000 witness statements were taken. Suspicion fell on Mr Gordon, a nervous loner and an acquaintance of Desmond Curran's. In January 1953, two months after the killing, Chief Superintendent John Capstick, who was on secondment from Scotland Yard, interrogated Mr Gordon over three days during which he was without independent legal advice. Ch Supt Capstick later wrote that "ruthless measures" were required to crack his suspect. Mr Gordon made a lengthy statement describing how he had stabbed Patricia Curran to death.

Mr Gordon's trial opened on 2 March before Lord Justice McDermott, a friend of the Curran family. The judge ruled Mr Gordon's confession was valid, even though there was no forensic or witness evidence.

To save his client from the gallows, Mr Gordon's defence counsel changed tack by calling evidence to show he was insane. The jury brought in a special verdict of guilty but insane.

Mr Gordon was committed to a mental hospital at Antrim. He was released in 1960 and his two-page medical record showed he had never received any medication for his "insanity" and, in fact, was quite sane.

Desmond Curran, the only surviving member of Patricia's immediate family, converted to Catholicism, became a priest and went to South Africa. Ever since his release Mr Gordon has been campaigning to have his conviction for murder quashed. Now aged 68, he said: "I spent more than seven years in a mental hospital for a murder I did not commit. I feel confident that at last I might be able to finally clear my name."  

Of the confession he said: "I was in a small room for three days with five or six policemen shouting at me. It was the mental pressure – I would have signed anything at the end of it."

Judge yourself before judging others.


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Reply with quote  #443 

'Beauty in the bath' strangler could be freed after 10 years as new evidence is found...

Dramatic new evidence could free the businessman convicted of the ‘beauty in the bath’ murder, it was claimed last night.

Forensic evidence which was never seen by the jury could help overturn John Taft’s conviction, his solicitor said.

The information – including fingerprints found at the scene – was in a police file that was missing for more than a decade.

Cynthia Bolshaw
John Taft

Cynthia Bolshaw was found strangled

in her home on the Wirral in 1983, but

John Taft, who is serving a life sentence

for her murder, could be freed...

It resurfaced a month ago and officials from the Forensic Science Service contacted Taft’s lawyers.

The former double glazing boss, 59, is serving a life sentence for the murder of beautician Cynthia Bolshaw, who was found strangled in the bath at her home in 1983.

For 16 years police were baffled by the killing of the vivacious divorcee, who had several lovers and whose diaries included the names of more than 200 male friends.

However, they moved to arrest Taft in 1999 after his ex-wife Barbara admitted giving him a false alibi for the night of Mrs Bolshaw’s death.

Taft’s DNA was discovered on Mrs Bolshaw’s negligee and he admitted having sex with her hours before she died. But he claimed she was alive when he left her bungalow, in Heswall, Wirral.

He told the jury he asked his wife to give him an alibi because he had been doing unofficial work for Mrs Bolshaw, 50, and feared he would be framed for the crime. Taft was convicted by a ten to two majority.

He has spent the past ten years in jail but has always protested his innocence.

A policeman guards the home of Cynthia Bolshaw who was found strangled in her bath in Heswell, Merseyside in 1983

Murder scene: A policeman guards the home of Cynthia Bolshaw who was found strangled in her bath in Heswell, Merseyside in 1983...

Last night it emerged that the police forensic file, which went missing soon after Mrs Bolshaw’s murder and was not available at Taft’s original trial at Liverpool Crown Court in November 1999, has been found.

Taft’s solicitor, David Kirwan, said the file proves his client has been the victim of a ‘serious miscarriage of justice’. Mr Kirwan said he would be asking the Court of Appeal early next year to either quash Taft’s conviction or order a re-trial. ‘I am extremely concerned that this is one of the most serious miscarriages of justice I have come across in more than 40 years as a criminal solicitor,’ Mr Kirwan said.

‘Fundamental mistakes were made both before and during the trial which meant that a lot of vital evidence was simply not presented to the jury.

‘We believe we will be able to not only show that John Taft could not have been the murderer but also point the finger of suspicion at another visitor to Cynthia Bolshaw’s house on the night of her murder.’

Mr Kirwan claimed that a fingerprint discovered on a windowsill at Mrs Bolshaw’s home was never properly investigated.

He also said fibres discovered in Mrs Bolshaw’s car and on one of her stockings matched fibres off trousers of two other suspects, but were never acted upon.

Discrepancies in the exact time of Mrs Bolshaw’s death – the doctor who examined her body died before he could give evidence at Taft’s trial – would also prove it was impossible for Taft to be her killer, Mr Kirwan added.

Taft’s second wife Susan, who married him just 19 days before he was arrested for Mrs Bolshaw’s murder, in April 1999, has stuck by her husband over the past decade.

Last night Mrs Taft, 60, was unavailable for comment. However, a source close to her said: ‘Sue is very excited and encouraged by the discovery of the forensic file.

‘She has never wavered in her belief in his innocence.’


The TRUTH is out there...........

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Ellis Sherwood speaks out for the first time about the legacy of his wrongful conviction...

A decade after he was released from jail for a crime of which he was later acquitted, Ellis Sherwood, one of the Cardiff Newsagent Three, gave Media Wales reporter DAVID JAMES his first in-depth interview

THE impact of his wrongful conviction and 11 years in prison did not end for Ellis Sherwood the day he was freed in 1999.

Although his conviction for the murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders was overturned when the flaws in the case against him were made public, incarceration had another sting in its tail.

In 2001, two years after he was released and a few days before his first daughter Catrin was due to be born, he suffered a stroke.

The stroke was a result of the drug habit he picked up behind bars but has since shed. It has left him with epilepsy, impaired speech, limited use of his right arm and, according to social workers, unable to be trusted to look after his own children in case he suffers a fit.

Neither does he have full control of his compensation money. When South Wales Police paid him £200,000 three years ago, the cash was held by the Court of Protection because it was argued the stroke had left him unable to look after his own financial affairs. He now has to apply in writing through solicitors in Cardiff to access any of it.

Before today, Ellis had never sought publicity. Michael O’Brien, who was jailed in 1988 alongside him and Darren Hall for the killing, has kept the miscarriage of justice in the public eye with his book and demands for an apology from South Wales Police.

Ellis, who met his partner Yvonne soon after being released from prison, wanted to be free to get on with the life taken away from him when he was jailed at 19 years old. Medical reports from the time also suggest he was depressed.

Yet today, now 40, with three children, Catrin, seven, Kier, five, and Vinny, three, as well as two stepchildren Hayden, 16, and Jordan, 13, he and his partner have sought publicity.

It is a cry for help.

As Yvonne says, they feel trapped in a rundown house, unable to help themselves and with an uneasy relationship with the solicitors they have to work with to access the compensation money.

“There is no professional person who will help us,” she said.

“We have had to fight all the time to get anything.”

The Echo meets Ellis at the privately-rented home in a residential area of Cardiff where the couple, their five children and niece all live. They have asked us not to say where.

It is falling apart. The children share bedrooms, most of which are missing doors. There are holes in the walls and few carpets. One of the windows is held together by tape.

The family moved there five years ago after a problem with a neighbour in Barry, where Yvonne had lived before meeting Ellis. It was only meant to be short-term.

Yet because of Cardiff council’s massive housing shortage, a shortage only becoming worse as the recession bites, a council house suitable for a family of seven has never become available.

Although he seems relaxed talking to the Echo, his inability to control his own money frustrates Ellis. The stroke has impaired his speech but he clearly understands everything going on around him.

He says he just wants his own house, somewhere the couple will not have to fear that social workers could decide is an unsuitable home for young children.

Of the original compensation cash, about £50,000 went on legal fees. A similar amount has been spent in the past three years and £102,000 remains with the Court of Protection. The lawyers say it is not enough to buy the kind of house with the facilities that a man with Ellis’ disabilities and a large family needs.

There is more money coming, in compensation from the Home Office and fought for by the same firm of London lawyers who represented him at appeal and he respects.

Yet it has not been negotiated or agreed yet. And when it does, it too is likely to be held by the Court of Protection and handled through the Cardiff solicitors with whom he has a more difficult relationship.

The couple’s distrust of the authorities is powerful. When Ellis had his stroke, Yvonne says he made it clear he did not want her to call the emergency services. It was only with reluctance that she did.

Afterwards, when they were living in Barry, Yvonne was told to leave him at a day centre during the week. For a man who had just been released from prison after 11 years, a day centre was too close to another institution. He didn’t want to go. She didn’t want him to have to. Yet they were dubbed “uncooperative” when they said no.

Since then, they tell of repeated strained encounters with social workers or lawyers.

Talking to the Echo in the small kitchen of their house smoking cigarettes and drinking tea, with their brood of children constantly vying for their attention, they say their wish is just to be able to live a life free of people in authority.

“It would be good to have a life without any of them, no social workers, no solicitors, none of them,” says Yvonne.

For Ellis, brought up in care at Nazareth House in Cardiff, jailed for 11 years and now left dependent on the authorities because of a stroke, it is understandable why, yet hard to see his wish ever being realised.

The TRUTH is out there...........

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Reply with quote  #445 

Killers sit side by side in dock for appeals
Luke Mitchell and Nat Fraser, below, have always protested their innocence over the killings
Luke Mitchell and Nat Fraser, below, have always protested their innocence over the killings

TWO of Scotland's most notorious killers appeared together to try to persuade appeal judges to look again at their murder convictions.

Luke Mitchell, 21, and Nat Fraser, 50, yesterday sat side by side in the Edinburgh dock where they were sentenced after their trials in 2003 and 2005.

Since then they have been serving life sentences and continuing to protest their innocence.

Although both have tried to win freedom - and lost - lawyers now think they have found a new way to question previous court decisions.


Mitchell is serving a minimum of 20 years for a savage knife attack on girlfriend Jodi Jones, 14, whose mutilated body was found in woods in June 2003 in Dalkeith.

After months of suspicion Mitchell - also 14 at the time of the murder - was charged and eventually brought to trial at the High Court in Edinburgh the following November.

He claims that he did not get a fair chance to present new DNA evidence.

Fraser was ordered to serve at least 25 years by judge Lord Mackay of Drumadoon who branded him "evil" and "cold-blooded" for arranging for a hit-man to execute estranged wife Arlene, 33, in Elgin. Her body has never been found.

Nat Fraser's legal team claim that the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh did not consider properly issues thrown up by human rights legislation.

A legal debate about the cases before Scotland's top judge, Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lords Kingarth, Eassie, Reed and Dorrian is expected to finish today.

Publication date 13/11/09


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Reply with quote  #446 

The boyfriend of Rachel Nickell has written to the man wrongfully accused of her murder to apologise for his ordeal.

Miss Nickell, 23, was stabbed to death in front of her two- year-old son Alex in 1992 - and Colin Stagg was charged with her murder the following year. He was acquitted in 2004 when the case was thrown out at the Old Bailey, but his name was linked to the Wimbledon Common killing for years afterwards.

Now Miss Nickell's boyfriend, Andre Hanscombe, says he is sorry he continued to believe that Mr Stagg had murdered his girlfriend even after the former suspect was cleared.

In a letter which begins 'Dear Colin' and is signed 'Andre' he said police led him to believe for 10 years that Mr Stagg had 'got away with murder' when the case against him collapsed.

In his letter, Mr Hanscombe, 46, says: 'I am sorry for the ordeal that you have endured during virtually the whole length of this very sad affair, and any part that I might have had personally to make it worse.'

The tennis coach, who now lives in Spain with his son, wrote: 'I had been led to believe by officers of the Metropolitan Police that they considered you responsible for my partner's death.'

Only in November 2004, when a police phone call informed him Broadmoor patient Robert Napper was to be charged with the murder, did he begin to change his mind.

He wrote: 'I know now that you were, and are, an innocent man who was mistakenly charged. I wish you a long, happy and productive life.'

Last year Mr Stagg won £706,000 compensation for wrongful arrest.

The 46-year-old from Roehampton told the London Evening Standard how much Mr Hanscombe's apology meant to him.

'It was a really kind gesture,' said Mr Stagg. 'I know how difficult it must have been for him to make.

'Understandably he spent years hating me. To him I was the man who destroyed the love of his life. After all those years it must have been very hard to come to terms with the proof that I was innocent. I accept his apology with gratitude. It means a lot to me.'

But Mr Stagg said he could never accept the lengths he believes the Met went to in trying to blacken his name.

He said: 'Officers quietly told him and Rachel's family they weren't seriously looking for anyone else. They made it clear that I'd done it.

'Even when scientific advances identified a sample taken from her body the Met refused to take a DNA sample from me. That would at least have helped clear me in the public's mind. But they consistently refused.' 

Mr Stagg said Mr Hanscombe was 'deeply unhappy' at the way the original murder inquiry was conducted.

It emerged this year that Mr Hanscombe had instructed lawyers to sue Scotland Yard over blunders in the original inquiry which could have prevented Miss Nickell's murder and the killing of another young mother and her daughter.

In December last year a judge ordered Napper to be detained indefinitely at Broadmoor. Details emerged of a series of missed chances for police to arrest him before he embarked on a five year spree of up to 86 rapes.

Mr Stagg said Mr Hanscombe now wanted to a see a public inquiry.




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Reply with quote  #447 

Stagg welcomes apology from Rachel Nickell’s boyfriend

  • 7131046
  • Colin Stagg

Published on 16 Nov 2009

Former murder suspect Colin Stagg - who was wrongly accused of killing Rachel Nickell - was “very touched” by an apology from her boyfriend, his solicitor has said.

Andre Hanscombe said he was sorry he continued to believe that Mr Stagg had murdered the 23-year-old mother of his child on Wimbledon Common in 1992.

Mr Stagg spent 13 months in prison suspected of the crime before being freed by a judge.

Last year, 16 years after her death, Robert Napper, 42, finally admitted killing the former model in front of her two-year-old son in a frenzied knife attack.

Napper pleaded guilty to Miss Nickell’s manslaughter on the grounds of his diminished responsibility and was ordered to be detained in Broadmoor indefinitely.

I accept his apology with gratitude. It means a lot to me.
Colin Stagg

In a letter, Mr Hanscombe, 46, who lives in France with the couple’s now 20-year-old son Alex, apologised to Mr Stagg.

It read: “I am sorry for the ordeal that you have endured during virtually the whole length of this very sad affair, and any part that I might have had personally to make it worse.

“I had been led to believe by officers of the Metropolitan Police that they considered you responsible for my partner’s death.

“I know now that you were, and are, an innocent man who was mistakenly charged. I wish you a long, happy and productive life.”

Mr Stagg was charged with murder in 1993 but acquitted in October 1994 when the case was thrown out at the Old Bailey.

Last year he won £706,000 compensation for wrongful arrest.

His solicitor Alex Tribick said he had seen Mr Hanscombe’s letter and his client was “very pleased”.

He said: “The apology was extremely welcome indeed, he was very pleased and very touched.”

Mr Stagg said: “It was a really kind gesture. I know how difficult it must have been for him to make.

“Understandably he spent years hating me. To him I was the man who destroyed the love of his life.

“After all those years it must have been very hard to come to terms with the proof that I was innocent. I accept his apology with gratitude. It means a lot to me.”

Last year, police apologised for their mistakes in not catching Napper sooner.

They apologised to relatives of Miss Nickell and Samantha and Jazmine Bissett, also killed by Napper, for missed opportunities to arrest Napper which could have saved their lives.

Officers also gave a public apology for the first time to Mr Stagg.

In November 1993, Napper savagely killed Miss Bissett, 27, and her daughter Jazmine, four, after climbing into their basement flat near his home in Plumstead, south-east London.

He was arrested in May 1994 and sent to Broadmoor for their manslaughter a year later.

Meanwhile, Mr Stagg faced a murder trial but the case was thrown out when police were criticised.

It was not until 2004 that new DNA techniques were able to match a speck of DNA found on Miss Nickell’s body to Napper.


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Reply with quote  #448 

Luke Mitchell, 21, and Nat Fraser, 50, yesterday sat side by side in the Edinburgh dock where they were sentenced after their trials in 2003 and 2005.

Since then they have been serving life sentences and continuing to protest their innocence.

Although both have tried to win freedom - and lost - lawyers now think they have found a new way to question previous court decisions.


Rather swallow My Blood Than my Pride

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Reply with quote  #449 

Following my own experiences, I discovered that there really are no sites on the internet focussing on the assistance that wrongly accused people and their families require. This need begins at the moment of arrest, through any possible period of remand and continues after the eventual court ordeal. Although in its infancy, the site has attracted considerable attention already and I would like to thank everyone for their very supportive comments. Messages from those who agreed to have them displayed on the site, either anonymously or by name, can be found in the forum's 'What people who have contacted the site say.'

My aim here is to provide as much information as possible and advice drawn from my whole support network in the hope that it can ease the burden of at least a few of the huge number of people affected by this type of injustice.

While most people will consider the wrongly accused person to be the victim in miscarriage of justice cases, there are in fact four groups of victims.

  1. The accused person goes without saying and regardless of what the charge will need considerable time to recover from the trauma if ever. She/he will undoubtedly struggle to overcome the stigma of simply being charged of an offence, the more serious the offence, harder to clear a name in the public eye. Certainly charges being dropped or even an acquittal in court won’t be the end of the nightmare for this particular victim.

  2. the person or persons originally thought to be the victim(s) of the accused are now victims of misjustice. They have had to come to terms with being sure of his/her guilt, learned to direct their anger at them and will have thought of a conviction as a starting point of the rest of their lives. Not only has the justice system failed the accused, it has failed them too and prolonged their own anguish which now must be revisited again when coming to terms of the truth if they ever find out what it is.

  3. Thirdly the friends and family of the original victim (who is now a victim of 2 circumstances) have endured their own ordeals. They have had to battle to accept what they have been led to believe and will again have to learn to accept the truth before the accused person stands any chance of reconciliation with all or any of them should he desire to do so. Often their assumption of his guilt will have destroyed any relations they had before the legal process began beyond repair.

  4. Lastly and by no means least are the family and friends of the accused person. They are fraught with concern, sure of innocence but feel powerless to help and simply can’t know how best to do so since there is no one who is there to tell them. In many cases social workers will offer but they have a foot on both sides of the fence and often relations will turn sour and their assistance will therefore be short-lived. I know in my case they felt as hurt, frustrated and helpless as I did despite the overwhelming amount of public support we all received. At the end of the day, the accused’s future depends on his choice of legal representatives which in the majority of cases will be people he/she doesn’t know. Can you imagine putting your life literally in someone’s hands not knowing who they are or how skilled they are in their positions?

I hope in discovering this site you will find information and advice which is useful to you. In the long term as I continually update and develop it I am confident that while false allegations and charges will continue to occur, a wrongly accused person and their family will now have somewhere to turn to reduce the heartache and torment caused. My satisfaction will come from the knowledge that I will have aided others who find themselves in a position outlined above.

Billy Middleton

The TRUTH is out there...........

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Reply with quote  #450 

I don't know if Paul or the F-Team have read this one. It gives you an eyeopener as to how the police use these so-called jail informants>

Focus: When the law believes a liar

Last week, Barry Thompson, the prison grass, lied - exposing again the danger of convicting one prisoner on the word of another


Sunday, 1 November 1998

EVERYONE in the courtroom was told that Barry Thompson was a liar but no one could deny he cut a most convincing figure in the witness box. It was the fifth day of the most sensational criminal trial of the year and the packed public gallery watched in anticipation as the petty villain was cross-examined by one of the country's most successful defence barristers.

William Clegg - the man who had helped clear Colin Stagg of the murder of Rachel Nickell and who was now defending Michael Stone against accusations that he brutally killed Lin Russell and her daughter Megan - was expected to make short work of a man with convictions for dishonesty and intimidating a witness. But Thompson faced Clegg down, confidently correcting the barrister on matters of prison procedure and adroitly deflecting all attempts to undermine his credibility.

Above all, he would not budge from his contention that Stone, a fellow inmate at Elmley prison in Kent, had spoken to him of the Russell killings. Thompson told the court: "He looked menacing with his eyeballs in the back of his head. He said: 'I made a mistake with her, I won't make the same f---ing mistake with you.'" The evidence helped secure the conviction of Stone, who received three life sentences for the murders of Lin and Megan, six, and the attempted murder of elder daughter Josie, nine.

But last Monday - within 48 hours of Stone's conviction - Thompson admitted: "Stone never said the words I attributed to him. I told the jury a pack of lies." He agreed to make a statement to Stone's solicitor.

The retraction - which seems certain to be a major part of Stone's appeal - prompted the Crown Prosecution Service to order an investigation. There is no forensic evidence against Stone and the conviction largely rests on the words of Thompson and two other prisoners who claim to have heard confessions.

THOMPSON's admission of dishonesty has raised the question over whether prosecutors should rely so heavily on so-called "cell confessions" - the same form of evidence that was discredited in the wrongful convictions of the men who were supposed to have admitted the killing of paperboy Carl Bridgewater in the showers at Winson Green prison, Birmingham. Mark Leech, the chairman of Unlock, the national association for ex-offenders, said uncorroborated evidence from prisoners could not be trusted. "This has got to stop. There has been a catalogue of cases where convictions have been obtained using perjured evidence from prisoners who have ulterior motives and obtain benefits from fabricated confessions."

No prisoner has been more successful in extracting cell confessions than Dennis "The Menace" Wilkinson, a vicious kidnapper and sex offender who has served time in jails all over Britain. Wilkinson has appeared as a key prosecution witness in at least eight major criminal trials, where he has alleged that fellow prisoners confided in him about serious crimes. He has been used by police to give evidence against more than 20 men who have been jailed for a total of 90 years.

Wilkinson was first exposed in 1984 after he made his own confession in taped conversations with David Capstick, a private detective and former police officer. Mr Capstick said: "He was nothing less than a professional witness."

Among those Wilkinson helped to jail were Daniel Vaughan and John Haase, who were accused of being part of the notorious "Transit Mob" armed robbery gang. Both men had long been targets for Merseyside police. Despite the fact that Wilkinson was being held in a different part of the jail from the alleged armed robbers, he claimed that Vaughan had admitted the robbery of a post office van "during conversations in the last few weeks". His evidence helped jail the pair for 13 and 14 years respectively, in 1982.

When Wilkinson himself appeared in court later that year accused of kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting a man, police attended to praise his evidence in the robbery trial. The judge sentenced Wilkinson to just six years. Wilkinson was later interviewed in Wakefield prison by Paul Baker, the solicitor for Vaughan and Haase.

WILKINSON told Mr Baker that he was bitter at his treatment by the police, who he claimed had promised him a new identity in Canada.

Mr Baker took a statement from him and contacted solicitors from other trials in which he had been involved. None of the convictions was overturned.

Extraordinarily, Wilkinson's work with the police did not stop there. Seven years later, the most notorious gangster in Scotland, Paul Ferris, was arrested and charged with the gangland execution of his bitter rival, Arthur "Fatboy" Thompson. Wilkinson, who had by now been given a new identity of Dennis Woodman but had been jailed again for the attempted abduction of a Scottish farmer, was moved alongside Ferris in the segregation unit of Barlinnie prison in Glasgow.

During what became the longest murder trial in Scottish criminal history, Woodman/ Wilkinson appeared as a key prosecution witness, claiming Ferris had admitted the murder. But his credibility was torn apart by Donald Findlay QC, the leading Scottish criminal advocate who was aware of Woodman's past. In desperation, Woodman swore he was telling the truth "on the ashes" of his dead children. But his wife was summoned to the witness box to say the youngsters were alive, well and waiting in the court foyer.

Ferris was cleared, only to be jailed last July for gun-running. Woodman was moved to the protection unit at Peterhead prison and was released last year, reportedly with a pounds 20,000 price on his head from Britain's underworld.

Woodman is not a one-off case. It is a sad fact that prisoners in all jails habitually make false accusations about fellow inmates in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the authorities. Tom Robson, of the Prison Officers' Association, said Thompson's retraction had not been unforeseen by staff at Elmley prison. He said: "It's no surprise to anybody that inmates come up with stories and then retract them. It happens all the time."

Dr David Wilson, who served as a governor at five prisons, dealt with tens of thousands of adjudication cases against inmates who were alleged to have broken prison rules. "I knew that I could never rely on the word of a prisoner to convict another prisoner," he said. "They would make allegations to try to gain an 'in' with the prison staff which might lead to them being given a cell change, a better job, parole or a transfer."

Dr Wilson, now a leading criminologist based at the University of Central England, said that because prisoners felt powerless they tended to give the answers they thought the questioner wanted to hear. "They alter their stories according to whether they are talking to police, the prison authorities, other prisoners or their own families."

The idea that the word of prisoners should be accepted as the key evidence in a criminal prosecution like the Russell case was, said Dr Wilson, "extraordinary". He said: "We have got to separate ourselves from the emotional side of this particular case because there are some fundamental principles at stake here."

One of these days.....
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