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History > 2008 > UK > Justice (IV)




Man convicted

of fathering two children

by his daughter


December 22, 2008
The Times
Steve Bird


A man has been convicted of fathering two children by his daughter while subjecting his two other daughters to years of sexual abuse.

The 72-year-old, who had abused his three daughters between 1976 and 1993, was eventually caught after his now-adult victims contacted police.

A jury at the High Court of Edinburgh yesterday found the man, who cannot be named, guilty of repeatedly raping two of his daughters and using lewd and libidinous behaviour towards his third daughter. The attacks were carried out at various addresses in Fife and Dundee.

The man has been remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced next month.

The court was told that the systematic rape of the eldest daughter began in 1979, when the girl was 12. It was the beginning of an ordeal that only ended when she was 26.

The woman, now aged 42, gave birth to a girl when she was 17, and six years later had a second child by her father. The man had also begun raping a younger daughter when she was 8 until she was 16.

He was also convicted of using lewd and libidinous behaviour towards a third daughter at an address in Dundee on repeated occasions between 1979 and 1982.

After the jury of seven men and eight women returned its verdicts after a week long trial, the judge, Lady Clark, lifted a ban on reporting the hearing.

The man's wife had also been accused of abusing the girls but her not-guilty pleas were accepted by the Crown.

Man convicted of fathering two children by his daughter, Ts, 22.12.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article5386048.ece






Rachel Nickell killing:

Serial rapist Robert Napper pleads guilty

Man with schizophrenia
and history of violent attacks on women
pleads guilty to killing mother in front of her son
on Wimbledon Common 16 years ago


Thursday 18 December 2008
Guardian.co.uk,  16.25 GMT
Sandra Laville, Haroon Siddique, Jenny Percival and James Sturcke
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 16.25 GMT on Thursday 18 December 2008.
It was last updated at 16.26 GMT on Thursday 18 December 2008.

Robert Napper, who has schizophrenia and a history of violent attacks on young women, today pleaded guilty to killing Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common 16 years ago.

In Court One of the Old Bailey, Napper's admission of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility brought to a close the inquiry into one of the most notorious killings in modern British criminal history.

Mr Justice Griffiths Williams told Napper he would be held in Broadmoor high-security hospital indefinitely. "You are on any view a very dangerous man," the judge said.

The story of how the Metropolitan police missed several opportunities to catch Napper can be revealed today. On at least seven occasions he came on to the police radar, twice being flagged up as a potential stalker or rapist, but he was never pursued.

Connections between three major investigations – into a series of rapes in south-east London, the killing of Nickell and the murders of Samantha Bissett and her four-year-old daughter – were never made and Napper, the perpetrator of all of the attacks, remained at large.

Had officers pursued the connections, Bissett and her daughter could have been alive today.

Napper, 42, was already being held indefinitely at Broadmoor for the killings of Bissett, 27, and her daughter, which he admitted in October 1995 on the grounds of diminished responsibility. In 1995 he also admitted one rape and two attempted rapes of women he had stalked on the Green Chain Walk in south-east London.

Detectives, who investigated a series of attacks over four years in south-east London in the early to mid-1990s, say 86 victims and 106 crimes were identified by officers; Napper refuses to admit any offences for which there is no forensic evidence.


Police apology

Today, Commander Simon Foy, the head of homicide command at Scotland Yard, said the families of Samantha Bissett and Rachel Nickell had received apologies from the police.

"We have been frank with them about a number of missed opportunities to arrest Robert Napper. Where it has been appropriate we have apologised unreservedly," he said.

Nickell's parents, Monica and Andrew, who live in Bedfordshire, were in court to hear the sentencing. Nickell's partner, Andre Hanscombe, who left Britain with their son, Alex, after her killing and now lives in Spain, was also in court.

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Andrew Nickell said : " We sincerely hope that he [Napper] will spend the rest of his life in a totally secure environment. A long time ago we came to terms with Rachel's death. We now hope to draw a line and move forward into the new year."

He thanked the police and investigators and said that despite mistakes being made in the original investigation, the family never felt that officers gave "anything less than their best".


Colin Stagg: completely innocent

Detectives wrongly pursued another man, Colin Stagg, for the killing of Nickell, using an undercover policewoman in a honeytrap operation to try to entice a confession from him.

Stagg, 45, spent 13 months in prison on remand. He was saved from a potential life sentence for a crime he did not commit when a judge threw the case out before it reached a jury, condemning the police actions and the use of a forensic profiler, Paul Britton.

The Metropolitan police apologised to Stagg today and made it clear they would make it a matter of public record that he was an innocent man. In a letter to Stagg, delivered by hand to his solicitor this morning, Assistant Commissioner John Yates said on behalf of the Met: "I must offer you an unreserved apology for the proceedings instigated against you in 1994. I acknowledge the huge and most regrettable impact this case has had on you for the last 16 years."

Yates said the proceedures and processes in place today meant it would be unlikely the police would repeat the mistakes made during the Nickell investigation.

Later Yates stood outside the Old Bailey to make a similar, public apology to Stagg: "It's clear that he (Stagg) is competely innocent of any involvement in the case."

Minutes later. Rene Barclay, the Crown Prosecution Service director of serious casework, made a public statement outside the court in which he apologised to Stagg and said he had also written to him to express his regret that a prosecution was brought against him in 1993.

"We hope that justice having been done that the outcome of today's hearing will provide some measure of closure for the friends and family of Rachel Nichell," he said.

Hilary Bradfield, a CPS lawyer, said Napper's plea had been accepted by the prosecution after "very careful consideration", based on Napper's DNA being found on Nickell, a shoemark that could have come from Napper's shoe and similarities with other assaults perpetrated by Napper.


DNA breakthrough

It was not until 2004 that forensic tests finally linked Napper to the killing of Nickell. The 23-year-old was attacked as she walked on Wimbledon Common on 15 July 1992 with Alex, who was then aged two.

Napper, who carried a rape kit and knives, forced Nickell off the pathway into an overgrown part of the common, where he stabbed her 49 times. The first blows almost decapitated her.

She was found by a member of the public. Alex was clinging to her body saying: "Get up Mummy."

A tiny sample of DNA was picked up when Nickell's body was swabbed using tape soon after her death. It was too small to be analysed until recent advances made it possible and a match to Napper was confirmed four years ago.

Today the judge told Napper: "You stabbed her a total of 49 times and you even stabbed her when she was dead. All the while Alex was there. The marks of injury upon his face proved that at some time you almost certainly in my judgement dragged him away from his mother. Now, 16 years or so later, in early adulthood, Alex knows the man who killed his mother has been brought, albeit belatedly, to justice. It may be that he can now close a long drawn out chapter in his life."

The killing led to a frenzy of media interest, and the arrest of Stagg was published on the front pages of almost every newspaper. Despite being cleared in September 1994, Stagg was treated like a man who got away with murder.

In court today Napper, wearing a check shirt, was asked by the clerk to enter a plea to the charge that he murdered Nickell. The court stood silent as he responded in a clear but faltering voice, stumbling over the wording of his denial of murder but admission to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

Victor Temple QC, prosecuting, said two psychiatrists agreed that at the time of the killing Napper suffered from Asperger's syndrome and paranoid schizophrenia. He said after consultation with police, lawyers and the victim's family it had been decided it was "proper and appropriate" to accept the plea.

A psychiatrist from Broadmoor, Dr Natalie Pyszora, told the court Napper was severely mentally ill and should be returned there for treatment. She said there was a high risk of him committing further sexual offences without treatment, and a high risk of him killing himself. Upon his admission to Broadmoor in 1995, Napper had a number of delusions and thought people were out to get him. He believed he had won the Nobel peace prize, had millions of pounds in the bank and was listed in Who's Who.

David Fisher QC, defending, said Napper wished to apologise to the victim's then partner and her son, her parents and her close friends for "the dreadful thing that he did". He said the killer had asked him to make an apology to Stagg.

"At the time of these events, the arrest and the preliminary trial of that man, this defendant was not in a satisfactory mental state to really appreciate what was going on. He is now. He realises how dreadful that period of time in Mr Stagg's life must have been," Fisher said.

Fisher accepted that Napper was "highly unlikely ever to be released from detention".

    Rachel Nickell killing: Serial rapist Robert Napper pleads guilty, G, 18.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/18/rachel-nickell-robert-napper-murder-guilty






When travesty becomes tragedy

Trial by tabloid and police errors
framed Colin Stagg for the murder of Rachel Nickell, while Robert Napper went free


Thursday 18 December 2008
13.35 GMT
Duncan Campbell
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 13.35 GMT on Thursday 18 December 2008.
It was last updated at 13.44 GMT on Thursday 18 December 2008.


There are many victims in a single murder. The family and friends of the person killed have to spend the rest of their lives with that shadow forever in the background. Often, too, the family of the killer, shocked by the act carried out by someone they loved, find their lives permanently blighted by guilt and shame. And, occasionally, but still too often, there is the person wrongly accused of the crime.

The Rachel Nickell case, which finally reached its conclusion at the Old Bailey on Thursday, more than 16 years after she was killed in front of her two-year-old son on Wimbledon Common, is one with all too many victims: her partner and father of their child, Andre Hanscombe; that young son, who had to witness the murder; her family and many friends. But there was an additional victim in Colin Stagg, the 27th person arrested by police in their investigation and the first one to go to the Old Bailey and face trial for the murder back in 1994. Now, with the conviction of the real killer, Robert Napper, he has his formal vindication.

Stagg was fortunate in that the judge in the original case, Mr Justice Ognall, was robust and self-confident enough to see the case against him for what it was – a mishmash of suppositions and mild coincidences, sprinkled with some fanciful psychological speculation. Stagg was in jail for 13 months while he awaited trial. Even after he was freed, back in 1994, the innuendos continued, with some members of the press clearly still anxious to tar him with the brush of the "man who got away with murder".

To his great credit, Stagg has always said that the real victims in this whole sorry saga are Rachel and her family. What he has suffered, with all the graffiti on his walls, all the snooping on his life and love affairs by a suspicious press, is far less, he has said, than the loss of someone so loved. But that should not detract from the fact that, but for the intervention of the judge, he could well only now be coming out of jail after being convicted by a jury which found itself bamboozled by the evidence and under pressure to satisfy public demand to solve such a notorious crime.

Stagg has not blamed the detectives in the case. They were under enormous pressure, as evidenced by the fact that so many people were arrested – 13 in the first month – for the crime. When the murder took place, the criminal justice system was just coming to terms with a catalogue of miscarriages of justice. In 1991, the Birmingham Six had finally been released and two years before that, the Guildford Four. The very week that Rachel Nickell was killed, a high-profile appeal, that of the Darvell brothers, who had been wrongly convicted of a murder in Swansea, was being heard. They, too, might have been regarded as "the local weirdos", and their successful appeal should have been yet another alarm bell reminding the police, the prosecution services and the media that real-life murder investigations are not as neat and simple as a television drama.

This was not a case where evidence was planted or confessions invented, as in the old days. This was incompetence not corruption. It came at a time when "psychological profiling" – as portrayed in the television series, Cracker, which started in 1993, the year before Stagg appeared in court – was seen as a magic solution to a tricky case rather than just a useful potential aid.

There will be many questions for the senior ranks of the police, the prosecution services and the psychological profilers to answer. However, the case is another reminder that the "local weirdo", who may seem to be the ­likeliest suspect, can all too often be another victim.

    When travesty becomes tragedy, G, 18.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/dec/18/ukcrime






Rhys Jones killer Sean Mercer gets 22 years


Tuesday 16 December 2008
15.51 GMT
James Sturcke and Mark Tran
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 15.51 GMT on Tuesday 16 December 2008.
It was last updated at 16.19 GMT on Tuesday 16 December 2008.


Sean Mercer, a gun-obsessed teenager, was today sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison after being found guilty of the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones, one of Britain's youngest victims of gangland violence.

In sentencing Mercer, the judge Mr Justice Irwin said: "Rhys died at your hands, his death was a tragedy for him, a tragedy for his family and a waste of a young life."

The jury of seven women and five men unanimously convicted Mercer of murder after almost four days of deliberations. They reached their verdict yesterday but it could not be reported until this afternoon.

Mercer, 18, a member of the Crocky Young Guns gang, shot Rhys while he walked home from football practice in Croxteth, Liverpool, in August last year. He missed his intended victims – members of a rival gang who had gathered in a pub car park – and hit Rhys in the neck with a stray bullet. He died at the scene in the arms of his mother.

Fellow gang members James Yates, 20, and Nathan Quinn, 18, of Croxteth; Gary Kays, 26, and Melvin Coy, 25, of West Derby, Liverpool, and Boy M, 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were convicted unanimously of assisting an offender after they helped Mercer evade the police for months. Boy K, who can now be named as Dean Kelly, 17, of Croxteth, was also convicted today of four related charges.

Kays and Coy were both jailed for seven years for trying to help Mercer cover the crime after he went to Boy M's house. The rest of the gang will be sentenced at a later date.

At a press conference on the steps of Liverpool crown court, Rhys's father, Stephen Jones, said: "Finally justice has been done. It's not the final chapter, but now we can begin the challenge of rebuilding our lives.

Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, said: "Today Sean Mercer will be sentenced for the murder of Rhys Jones. Mercer's conduct showed total disregard for Rhys and others... he has shown no remorse whatsoever.

"I hope that this verdict will bring it home to him what he has done and the pain and suffering that he has caused."

As Mercer's guilty verdict was announced to the silent courtroom yesterday, Melanie Jones, 42, who was sitting opposite her son's killer, burst into tears and buried her head in her husband's shoulder to stifle her sobs.

Stephen Jones choked back tears as Mercer blinked, looked down and visibly paled, repeatedly puffing his cheeks out. For the first time in the trial, the teenage killer looked close to showing emotion as he stared towards the public gallery where his father sat, with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Mercer's father, Joseph McCormick was also in tears as the verdict was announced, and mouthed "I love you" to his son - and left the court.

But Quinn cracked a joke, inaudible behind the reinforced glass of the dock, and he and other defendants smiled and laughed. As they were all led away Mercer shook Quinn's hand and the pair hugged before they were led down to the cells.

After the shooting, Mercer cycled to the home of an acquaintance, Boy M, where he called on other gang members to help him avoid the law.

He was driven to a lock-up garage on an industrial estate where his clothes were burned and his body washed down with petrol, Liverpool crown court heard.

A key witness, known as Boy C, told the court Mercer gave him the suspected murder weapon, a Smith & Wesson .455 revolver, to hide.

The gun was found in the loft of the 17-year-old friend of Mercer. The boy was on holiday in Florida with his family and was arrested on his return. He later became a crucial witness in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Mercer, of Croxteth and with a previous conviction for minor drug offences, was well-known in the community. In the aftermath of the killing, his name appeared on websites and local graffiti.

He was arrested days after the shooting, but it was not until eight months later that police had gathered sufficient evidence to charge him with murder.

Mercer denied murder and claimed he was at a friend's home watching a DVD when Rhys was killed.

What the jurors did not know during the trial was that just two months before he shot Rhys, Mercer was involved in an incident that presaged the killing.

Waving a gun, he rode a motorcycle past members of the public on rival gang territory. The incident was not reported to police at the time. The jurors were also unaware that just weeks after shooting Rhys, Mercer was given a three-year Asbo for terrorising security guards at a sports centre.

During the trial, the jury heard that Mercer was a leading member of the Croxteth Young Guns gang, which terrorised the local community and was involved in a long-running and bloody feud with the Strand Gang, based on the neighbouring Norris Green estate. Mercer had an "intense hatred" of Strand Gang member Wayne Brady. When told by Coy and Kays that Brady, 19, and two rivals others had been seen cycling near the Fir Tree Pub on Croxteth Crew territory, Mercer set about the murder.

Dressed in a black hoodie and tracksuit, Mercer got hold of Yates's Smith & Wesson .455 revolver and cycled to the pub where he took up position on a grass verge alongside the car park.

Standing astride the bicycle with his arms out-stretched in front of him, he clasped the gun with both hands and fired three shots at Brady's friends, moving his arms in an arc to follow their movements on their bicycles.

Rhys, distracted by the sound of the first bullet, which struck a shipping container in the car park, turned toward the gunman and was struck in the neck by the second bullet. Mercer then adjusted his position to aim one final shot at his two rivals. The third bullet struck a disused well as the gunman and his targets fled the scene.

Rhys was the star player of the Fir Tree under-12s football team and a season-ticket holder at Everton.

More than 2,500 mourners, many dressed in blue and red – the colours of Liverpool's Premier League teams – attended his funeral. He was buried in a blue coffin adorned with the badge of his beloved Everton.

    Rhys Jones killer Sean Mercer gets 22 years, G, 16.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/16/rhys-jones-ukcrime






Doctor guilty of Glasgow and London bomb attacks

Bilal Abdulla convicted over plot targeting West End of London and Glasgow airport, but co-accused cleared


Tuesday 16 December 2008
14.03 GMT
Haroon Siddique and agencies


An NHS junior doctor was convicted today of conspiring to kill hundreds of people in a terrorist car bombing campaign.

Bilal Abdulla, 29, targeted late-night revellers in London's West End in the early hours of 29 June last year.

When two car bombs failed, Abdulla joined his friend Kafeel Ahmed the next day in an attack on Glasgow airport in a Jeep laden with petrol and gas canisters. After the Jeep became stuck, the two men threw petrol bombs and fought with police before being overpowered.

Abdulla was arrested at the scene. Ahmed, 28, an Indian engineering student, died a month after the attack from burns after dousing himself in petrol and setting himself alight at the attack scene.

Another NHS doctor, Mohammed Asha, 28, was today cleared of all charges. He was arrested near Manchester as he travelled south on the M6 with his wife a few hours after the Glasgow attack. Asha, a Jordanian born in Saudi Arabia, was not in London or Glasgow when the attacks took place but the prosecution accused him of providing financial support and spiritual guidance.

Strathclyde police assistant chief constable, Campbell Corrigan, described the conviction as a "positive result for the population of the United Kingdom".

"The greatest achievement undoubtedly is the fact that no innocent lives were lost and the terrorists failed in their attempts to cause mayhem and mass murder at the airport, he said."

Deputy assistant commissioner John McDowall, head of the Met's counter-terrorism command said it was "more luck than judgment" that had prevented the bombs detonating in the capital.

The attorney general, Baroness Scotland QC, praised the police and legal team that secured the conviction of Abdulla.

"Crimes of terror are complex, heinous and incredibly damaging to the very fabric of our society," she said.

"I would like to pay credit to the authorities in both England and Scotland, and commend how hard they have worked to pull this case together, and their efforts to help root out and combat terrorism."

Abdulla was convicted of conspiracy to murder and of two charges of conspiring to cause explosions.

Just before 1.30am on 29 June, Abdulla left his car outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket. A few minutes earlier, Ahmed left his vehicle in nearby Cockspur Street. Senior prosecutors told Woolwich crown court the vehicle was positioned to kill those fleeing the first explosion.

The two Mercedes were packed with more than 2,000 nails, petrol, gas canisters and homemade detonators. They failed because of loose connections in the phone detonators and the smothering effect of petrol and gas fumes.

Aware that detectives would soon identify them, the pair drove to Stoke, where they met Asha. It was there that the plot to attack Glasgow airport was hatched, the prosecution claimed. Asha denied any involvement and said of Abdulla: "He used me. He betrayed me and he destroyed my life."

Abdulla, who was British-born but returned to Baghdad with his family when he was five, told the court he was angry about brutality by western forces in Iraq, but never intended to injure or kill innocent people. The prosecution said he was motivated by perceived injustices perpetrated against Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were read out, while Asha smiled as the jury acquitted him.

Mr Justice Mackay indicated that he would sentence Abdulla, who faces a life sentence, tomorrow morning. The guilty man's barrister, Jim Sturman QC, said his crimes "were motivated by politics, not religion".

"This is not a case where his intention was driven by religious faith but by his frustration with what he saw as an unjust war," said Sturman.

It is understood Asha, who faces deportation to his home country Jordan. will be taken from Belmarsh prison to an immigration detention centre. Mackay told him he hoped he would be able to resume his life "as it was before".

    Doctor guilty of Glasgow and London bomb attacks, G, 16.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/16/glasgowairporttrial-uksecurity






Jean Charles de Menezes inquest records open verdict

Inquest heard from 100 witnesses including officers who shot De Menezes
on tube carriage at Stockwell on July 22 2005


Friday 12 December 2008
12.54 GMT
Lee Glendinning
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 12.54 GMT on Friday 12 December 2008.
It was last updated at 12.55 GMT on Friday 12 December 2008.


An open verdict was today recorded into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was gunned down by firearms officers on the London underground having been mistaken for a suicide bomber.

The coroner, Sir Michael Wright, had previously ruled out a verdict of unlawful killing, leaving the jury with a straight choice between lawful killing or an open verdict.

The inquest at the Oval cricket ground, south London, heard from 100 witnesses, including the two specialist firearms officers, C12 and C2, who shot De Menezes dead at point-blank range, on a tube carriage at Stockwell station on July 22 2005.

De Menezes was shot after being mistaken for the failed suicide bomber, Hussain Osman.

For the first time, during the inquest, the public was given a full account of the incident from key witnesses on board the train carriage where the shooting took place.

The shooting came two weeks after London was rocked by the July 7 bombings, which left 52 victims dead.

On July 21, a second gang of Islamist extremists attempted to murder dozens more with homemade rucksack bombs.

As counter-terrorist police officers searched the city for the escaped would-be suicide bombers, De Menezes was mistaken for Osman and shot dead.

The coroner had told the 11 jurors to cast aside any emotion over the innocent Brazilian's shooting after hearing more than seven weeks of evidence and protests from the Brazilian's family, outside the inquest.

    Jean Charles de Menezes inquest records open verdict, G, 12.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/12/de-menezes-verdict






Frenchman jailed for life for attempted murder of schoolgirl

Jessica Knight survived emergency surgery after being stabbed 20 times
in chest, neck, stomach and back by Kristofer Beddar


Monday December 8 2008
Guardian.co.uk,  16.03 GMT
Jenny Percival and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 16.03 GMT on Monday December 08 2008.
It was last updated at 16.03 GMT on Monday December 08 2008.

A Frenchman was jailed for life today after being found guilty of a frenzied knife attack on a schoolgirl as she walked through a Lancashire park earlier this year.

Jessica Knight, then 14, was listening to her iPod when Kristofer Beddar, 21, launched the unprovoked assault, stabbing her 20 times in the chest, neck, stomach and back.

She was left for dead in the deserted, dark park in Astley village, Chorley, but was discovered by passers-by and underwent five hours of emergency surgery as doctors battled to save her life.

Jessica, now 15, had been left with "long-term physical and psychological problems", the court heard.

Beddar, described as a loner with a fiery temper who habitually carried a knife, had drunk half a bottle of whisky. He tried to dispose of his blood-stained clothing.

He later confessed to his mother, Marion: "Mum, I think it must have been me", and she turned him in to police.

Beddar, of Adlington, Chorley, was living with members of his English family at the time of the attack.

He admitted wounding with intent on January 21 this year, but claimed he had no memory of attacking Jessica and had no motive to kill her.

Today, he was convicted by the jury of attempted murder after a six-day trial at Preston crown court.

Judge Anthony Russell QC, recorder of Preston, sentenced Beddar to life with a minimum period of 12 years.

The judge said that he attacked Jessica "for no reason that can be ascertained" and left her for dead.

"This was a frenzied attack with a knife that you habitually carried," the judge said.

"You have not only ruined her life you have ruined that of her loving family's and even succeeded in the process in ruining the life of your own family and your poor mother who had to give evidence at this trial."

He added: "Your intention was to kill her, no one knows why. There is no evidence of any mental illness which could explain it. Anyone who can do what you did must be regarded as a danger to the public."

The judge praised Gareth Crook, who was cycling through the park and found Jessica bleeding and injured, and whose intervention probably saved her life, the court heard.

The judge said Jessica's life had been ruined; she had suffered a stroke and had permanent disabilities as a result of Beddar's actions.

    Frenchman jailed for life for attempted murder of schoolgirl, G, 8.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/08/knifecrime-ukcrime






Karen Matthews guilty of kidnapping Shannon with Michael Donovan


December 4, 2008
The Times
Nico Hines


The mother of Shannon Matthews has been convicted, along with her boyfriend’s uncle, of kidnapping her own nine-year-old daughter in an unlikely plot to keep thousands of pounds in reward money.

Karen Matthews hatched the plan with Michael Donovan, who took the schoolgirl to his flat and imprisoned her for 24 days, while her mother made emotional appeals for her return.

The jury at Leeds Crown Court today found the pair guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. Mr Justice McCombe warned the defendants that they faced a “substantial custodial sentence” before they were led away in custody.

As the jury delivered their verdicts after six hours of deliberation, Matthews stood staring straight forward in the stone-coloured jacket she has worn throughout the proceedings and with her red hair hanging untied over her shoulders.

Donovan, also in silence, stood a few feet away from her separated by a court security officer. Neither of the defendants showed any emotion as the jury foreman returned the verdicts.

There was also silence from the rest of the court after the judge warned the public gallery that any reaction would see them arrested and taken straight down to the cells.

Petra Jamieson, a close friend and neighbour, said afterwards that she was shocked by the lack of reaction from Matthews: “I was disgusted. She showed absolutely no emotions. I’ve stood by her throughout this but that proves to me that she knew all along.”

Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan, the senior investigating officer from West Yorkshire Police, broke the silence outside the court describing Matthews as “pure evil”.

“She started misleading those closest to her from the moment Shannon was reported missing,” he said. “It is difficult to understand what type of woman would subject her own daughter to such a wicked and evil crime. Karen Matthews is a manipulative individual who has demonstrated a remarkable ability to lie."

The officer said that Donovan was also an “accomplished liar” - not the weak-willed, scared man he attempted to portray in court. “He’s a complete liar and he’s always come across as a sad pathetic individual, but behind that there’s someone who clearly knows what they are doing,” Mr Brennan said.

During the three-week trial, the court heard that Shannon, now 10, went missing on February 19 as she walked home from school.

After a multi-million pound search operation by police, she was found by officers in Donovan’s flat, at Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, less than a mile from her home.

Many local residents had joined the hunt and rallied around the Matthews family fearing that Shannon had been abducted by a stranger. Instead Donovan was keeping her drugged and tethered in a plan to claim £50,000 in reward money.

Matthews, 33, from Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, denied the abduction and blamed the crime on her former partner, Craig Meehan, and other members of his family. She said she was “disgusted” by allegations that she was involved in her daughter’s kidnap.

Donovan, 40, who is the uncle of Mr Meehan, claimed that he was scared of Matthews and had only agreed to take Shannon because he feared for his life.

Malcolm Taylor, from the West Yorkshire Crown Prosecution Service, described Shannon’s kidnap as a “cynical plot”.

He said: “Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan seemed honestly to believe that they could stage the disappearance of Matthews’ own daughter and benefit financially from the huge wave of public sympathy that would inevitably follow.

“In the words of prosecuting counsel she lied, and lied and lied again to the police and through the media to the public while Donovan was holding Shannon drugged and helpless less than two miles from her home.

“This was an abuse of public trust, public services, the public purse and worst of all Matthews’ own daughter for personal gain.”

    Karen Matthews guilty of kidnapping Shannon with Michael Donovan, Ts, 4.12.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5286344.ece






Last two men convicted of Hells Angel killing


Thursday November 27 2008
16.01 GMT
Sadie Gray
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Thursday November 27 2008.
It was last updated at 16.01 on November 27 2008.


The last two men on trial for killing the Hells Angels biker Gerry Tobin have been found guilty this afternoon.

Karl Garside, 45, and Ian Cameron, 46, both from Coventry, were convicted by a 10-2 majority verdict at Birmingham crown court. They were cleared of possessing a shotgun.

The pair will be sentenced tomorrow, along with five others. The jury returned its verdicts across eight days of deliberations.

Tobin was shot in the head from a moving car as he rode down the M40 through Warwickshire on August 12 last year.

All seven guilty men were members of the south Warwickshire chapter of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. They had singled out Tobin, a mechanic from south-east London, because he belonged to the rival Hells Angels club.

Simon Turner, 41, from Nuneaton, and Karl Garside's brother Dane Garside, 42, from Coventry, were found guilty of murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Malcolm Bull, 53, from Milton Keynes, and Dean Taylor, 47, from Coventry, were found guilty of murder and possessing a shotgun.
The seventh man, Sean Creighton, 44, of Coventry, pleaded guilty to murder and firearms charges before the trial began.

Tobin was returning from the annual Bulldog Bash bikers' festival when he was shot.

    Last two men convicted of Hells Angel killing, G, 27.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/27/gerry-tobin-hells-angels-murder






Man jailed for Hannah Foster murder

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli get minimum of 24 years in prison
for raping and killing 17-year-old in Southampton in 2003


Tuesday November 25 2008
13.51 GMT
Alexandra Topping and Lee Glendinning
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Tuesday November 25 2008.
It was last updated at 14.38 on November 25 2008.


A former sandwich delivery driver has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 24 years for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Hannah Foster.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, 41, a father of two, was found guilty at Winchester crown court today of the A-level student's murder, rape, false imprisonment and kidnap in March 2003.

Kohli shook his head slightly as the jury returned its four unanimous verdicts after five and a half hours of deliberations.

Sentencing him, Justice Keith said his crime was aggravated by "Hannah's vulnerability as a young slip of a girl, the terrible and appalling ordeal which Hannah must have gone through before you killed her, the wanton way you disposed of her body and the unimaginable grief to which you have subjected her family".

He told him: "It took a long time for you to be brought to justice but the law caught up with you in the end.

"The jury saw through your lies and you stand there exposed as a heartless and contemptible man who abducted and raped an attractive 17-year-old girl with everything to live for, and then callously and quite premeditatedly took her life so she would not be able to point the finger of guilt at you."

During the trial, the court heard that Kohli abducted Hannah as she walked down a street yards from her home in Southampton after spending a night out with friends. Terrified, she called 999 hoping an operator would hear what was happening, but the call was terminated when she did not speak.

The jury listened to a recording of the 999 call, in which Kohli was heard to tell Hannah "I want to fuck" before instructing her to keep her head down as his sandwich delivery van travelled out of Southampton.

She was raped in the van before Kohli strangled her when he feared she might identify him. He dumped her body beside a road in West End, Hampshire, and returned home to his wife and sons.

Hannah's body was found on March 16 in brambles off Allington Lane after being spotted by a 14-year-old boy from his mother's car.

Four days after the killing, Kohli fled the country, changing his name and creating a new life for himself in his native India.

Today's verdicts come nearly six years after the killing, during which time Hannah's parents travelled to India four times to put pressure on authorities for Kohli to be extradited.

Hilary and Trevor Foster today paid tribute to their daughter, describing their "overwhelming sense of relief" at the verdict.

Trevor Foster said Kohli had shown "not one iota of remorse for his actions", adding: "Today finally justice has caught up with him."

On the first trip the Fosters made to India, in July 2004, they found Kohli after a national appeal for help, but he fought his extradition for a further three years. He made a filmed confession to an Indian television station that he later retracted, saying it was made against his will.

He said in the confession: "I abducted, raped and killed Hannah Foster. I want to unburden myself and tell the truth (about) what happened that night. I was totally drunk that night. I strangled her and killed her."

Kohli said he had seen Hannah on the night of the murder but had not been stalking her. He claimed he was confessing "because I am already too tired to run here and there".

He was extradited to Britain in July 2007 and claimed he had been abducted, blindfolded and tied up on the night of Hannah's death and forced to have sex with the teenager.

During the trial he painted a picture of himself as a victim of a revenge attack orchestrated by a former colleague. Kohli said he owed the colleague £16,000 and had had an affair with his wife.

The claims were called "absurd" by the prosecution.

DNA belonging to Kohli was found on Hannah, and Hannah's DNA and blood was found in Kohli's van when it was seized. Her mobile phone was tracked moving along the M27 and M275 in Hampshire at the same time Kohli's Transit van was spotted on cameras.

CCTV footage from a garage placed his van three times in the vicinity of Allington Lane in the early hours of March 15 as he disposed of the body.

In a victim impact statement read to the court after the verdicts today, Hannah's mother, Hilary, said she would feel guilt for the rest of her life that she was not there to protect her daughter when she was murdered.

"Kohli ripped out my heart and stamped on it. When Trevor and I saw Hannah in the mortuary, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, there must be some mistake. The cold, battered and bruised body certainly looked like her, but where was the sparkle in her eyes?"

She added: "Our lives have revolved around our two girls, their wellbeing, personal interests and hopes for the future. On March 14 2003, our lives changed forever."

    Man jailed for Hannah Foster murder, G, 25.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/25/ukcrime2






Man 'fathered seven children' with his daughters during 25-year rape ordeal


Tuesday November 25 2008
14.31 GMT
Angela Balakrishnan and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Tuesday November 25 2008.
It was last updated at 16.07 on November 25 2008.


A British father who raped his two daughters repeatedly for more than 25 years had seven children by them, a court heard today.

The 56-year-old man "took pleasure" in knowing the harm he was doing to his two girls and threatened them with a "real hiding" if they refused to have sex with him, Sheffield crown court was told.

His elder daughter was pregnant seven times by the defendant, who called himself the "gaffer", and he fathered two children by her. She bore two other babies but they died the day they were born.

He made his younger daughter pregnant 12 times. She has five surviving children, the court heard.

The defendant, from Sheffield, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted 25 rapes and four indecent assaults last month.

The man also had a son who lived with them until his teenage years.

Nicholas Campbell QC said: "All the defendant's children spoke of his domination over their family life. He was tall and strongly built.

"I quote him: he was 'the main gaffer', he called himself the gaffer and he liked to think that he was a hard man.

"All the family were frightened of him. When they heard his car pulling up outside the house, the children and their mother ran to their respective rooms.

"His son described him as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality and that his dad had a one-second fuse and that he could flip and turn with the click of his fingers."

The two sisters started being abused at the age of eight, but they only realised the other was being assaulted when they became pregnant some years later, the court heard.

Campbell said: "His younger daughter told of the frightening habit her father had of putting her head next to the flames of their gas fire and that when she struggled to get away on certain occasions she burnt her eyes.

"The sisters recall that they were kept from school when they bore physical injuries. The defendant also ensured that his family were kept isolated and that there were very few visitors to the home.

"Rather than having babysitters, the children recall being locked in their rooms when their mother and father went out.

"They moved from South Yorkshire to Lincolnshire and lived in small, isolated villages.

"Even then there was speculation and talk from the neighbours about the growing family but the lack of any other men apart from the man who called himself the grandfather."

In 1988 the victims' school became suspicious about their injuries but these were blamed on bullying.

The court heard that one way the defendant prevented his children from alerting the police or social services was by telling them they would have their children taken from them. He also threatened to kill them.

His younger daughter was kicked and punched during one incident in 1998 for meeting the son of one of her neighbours.

He then attacked his eldest daughter, holding a knife to her throat, before claiming: "It's never going to end. You have to do what you are told."

The women then called Childline and asked for a guarantee that they could keep their children but when one was not offered they ended the call.

Whenever the sisters were challenged about the paternity of their children they did their best to cover it up, Campbell told the court.

He said: "They started taking the pill. He said they should not be taking it and, just as they felt unable to avoid his sexual abuse, they obeyed.

"They spoke of his pleasure at fathering their children whilst at the same time they had fears for the welfare of these children and how they would cope."

At one stage towards the end of the abuse, the defendant offered his younger daughter £500 to have another child with him.

The case is already being compared with the Austrian rapist Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a dungeon for 24 years as he fathered seven children with her.

    Man 'fathered seven children' with his daughters during 25-year rape ordeal, G, 25.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/25/father-rape






Shannon's mother like Jekyll and Hyde, court hears

• Neighbours recall 'public tears and private sniggers'
• Manner of kidnap accused strange, detective testifies


Friday November 14 2008
00.01 GMT
Martin Wainwright
This article appeared in the Guardian on Friday November 14 2008 on p14 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 00.04 on November 14 2008.


Karen Matthews switched characters like Jekyll and Hyde as her neighbours and police hunted vainly for the schoolgirl daughter whose kidnap she had organised, a court heard yesterday.

The 33-year-old surprised friends by changing within minutes from a tearful mother in public, to privately sniggering about wanting sex with one of the police officers stationed outside her house.

"When the police and press were present she came over as all upset and withdrawn," said Natalie Brown, a neighbour on the Moorside estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where Shannon - who was nine at the time - went missing in January for 24 days. "Indoors, she acted as if it was a normal day. She helped me clean the house and make cuppas, laughing and joking."

Matthews and 40-year-old Michael Donovan of Batley Carr, near Dewsbury, deny the kidnap and false imprisonment of Shannon, as well as perverting the course of justice by triggering a £3.2m police hunt.

The schoolgirl was found in Donovan's flat where she had been drugged with travel pills and anti-stress tablets and tethered to a roof beam when Donovan - the uncle of Karen Matthews' partner, Craig Meehan - went out.

The prosecution case focused yesterday on the "odd behaviour" of Shannon's mother, who was described by Philip Goose QC, in the opening speech for the Crown, as a "consummate, skilful and convincing liar".

Brown told Donovan's counsel, Alan Conrad QC, that Matthews had behaved "like a little child" in making the sex comment about the policeman, whose "cute bum" had been pointed out by another woman in a group of neighbours supporting Matthews.

The detective who informed Matthews that Sharon had been found - by officers who broke down Donovan's door and discovered the child with him in a drawer beneath a bed - said he was surprised by her lack of reaction. Det Con Alexander Grummitt told the jury of five women and seven men at Leeds crown court that Matthews had been more interested in the ringtone of his mobile phone, the song Crazy by Gnarls Barclay.

"Karen said: 'I like that ringtone - you must Bluetooth or text it to me,'" he said. She had then failed to ask any questions about how Shannon was on a 30-minute drive to Dewsbury police station.

"We've just found your daughter and you ask about the ringtone on the phone. In my opinion it just wasn't right," he said. "The strange thing was she didn't ask me any questions like where did you find her."

Det Supt Andy Brennan, who led the search for Shannon, said that detectives busy with murders, rapes and other serious crime had been diverted to join the hunt. He said that until the child was found he had never doubted police were working on a genuine missing child inquiry.

Julie Bushby, chairwoman of the Moorside Tenants and Residents Association, said that huge efforts had been made by local volunteers to help the search.

Neighbours had gone out looking at night, companies had donated T-shirts and leaflets, and Karen Matthews had joined a candlelit vigil and was helping plans to plant commemorative shrubs and trees in her garden, an event due to take place on the day Shannon was found.

On Wednesday the court heard that West Yorkshire police mobilised 200 officers during the search for Shannon. Officers searched 1,800 properties, checked every park in Dewsbury, stopped up to 1,760 cars and passersby a night, and drafted in three-quarters of the UK's police dogs.

The trial continues.

    Shannon's mother like Jekyll and Hyde, court hears, 14.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/14/shannon-matthews-kidnapping-trial






Father given suspended sentence after daughter's quad bike death

Seven-year-old girl was killed in a collision after her father allowed her to ride on a public road


Monday October 20 2008
15.43 BST
David Batty and agencies guardian.co.uk
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Monday October 20 2008.
It was last updated at 16.39 on October 20 2008.


The father of a seven-year-old girl killed in a head-on collision while riding a quad bike was today given a nine-month suspended jail term after admitting his daughter's manslaughter.

Gary Cooke, 46, was also banned from riding quad bikes on public roads for two years. The jail term would be suspended for two years, the judge, Christopher Ball QC, told Chelmsford crown court.

Cooke's daughter, Elizabeth, died after a crash with a Range Rover on Boxing Day evening last year, near her family home in Blackmore, Essex.

She and her brother Jack, 10, had been riding the quad bikes, which they had been given for Christmas, behind another Range Rover driven by their father Cooke, 46. While driving down a country lane, Elizabeth's bike collided with a vehicle driven by a 28-year-old woman, which was heading in the opposite direction.

The seven-year-old suffered multiple injuries and died in hospital. Her brother was unhurt. The woman driver was arrested but was later told she would not face charges.

Judge Ball said Cooke had been "grossly negligent" and "stupid".

"I don't suppose I am alone in remembering the shock of hearing the news on the radio when this happened," said the judge.

"I don't suppose I was alone in immediately thinking 'what sort of a fool would allow his child out in such circumstances'. It was a moment of great folly and the consequences will remain with you for ever."

The judge said he had received many letters of support from Cooke's relatives and friends. He added that Cooke had acknowledged his "stupidity" from the outset.

It is illegal for anyone under 16 to ride a quad bike on a public road.

    Father given suspended sentence after daughter's quad bike death, G, 20.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/20/ukcrime3






Teenager shot Rhys Jones while aiming at gang members, court hears

Liverpool crown court jury sees CCTV clip of 11-year-old being shot


Thursday October 09 2008 16:38 BST
Helen Carter
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Thursday October 09 2008.
It was last updated at 16:40 on October 09 2008.


A teenager shot 11-year-old Rhys Jones by mistake while aiming at rival gang members across a pub car park, Liverpool crown court head today at the start of the trial into the schoolboy's murder.

Sean Mercer, 18, allegedly a member of the Croxteth Crew gang, denies murdering Rhys, who the court heard was shot in the back with a Smith and Wesson .455 revolver.

At one stage during the trial, Rhys's mother, Melanie Jones, left the court in tears as the prosecution began to describe her son's last moments.

The jury was shown a CCTV clip of Rhys crossing the car park of the Fir Tree pub and reacting to the sound of a bullet striking a container nearby. He turned to look at the container before being hit by another bullet. The 11-year-old fell to the ground where he later died in his mother's arms.

The prosecutor, Neil Flewitt, QC, told the jury that Rhys had ended up "walking into the line of fire" on his way home from football practice on August 22.

"At almost exactly the same time as Rhys Jones walked into the car park, a hooded gunman on a bicycle approached the scene from the rear of the Fir Tree and took up a position on the grass in front of the fence running alongside the path on the far side of the car park," he said.

The gunman fired three shots across the car park, one of which hit Rhys, killing him. The gunman was Mercer, from Croxteth, Liverpool, said Flewitt.

According to Home Office pathologist, Dr Paul Johnson, Rhys was shot in the back, slightly above the left shoulder blade and the bullet exited from the front right side of his neck.

When paramedics arrived, Rhys was already in cardiac arrest and was rushed to Alder Hey children's hospital but all attempts to resuscitate Rhys failed.

Immediately after killing Rhys, Mercer "set about distancing himself from the tragic events at the pub.

"He moved quickly to dispose of his clothing, his pedal cycle and the gun that he had used to such devastating effect," he said.

Rhys was not Mercer's intended victim, the prosecutor added. "On the contrary, it is the prosecution case that he was the innocent victim of a long-running feud between rival gangs operating in and around the area of the Fir Tree public house."

Six co-defendants - Boy M, 16, James Yates, 20, Boy Q, 17, Melvin Coy, 25, Gary Kays, 25, from Liverpool, and Boy K, 17 - are charged with assisting an offender. For legal reasons, some are not named. Yates is also accused of possessing a firearm, and Boy K faces charges of possessing two firearms and ammunition.

When Mercer was arrested, he claimed he was at Boy K's house but the prosecution said they had evidence which contradicts this.

Boy K's mother said when Mercer called at the house, she was sure they left while Emmerdale was showing, and her son returned about 30 minutes later.

"So if [her] recollection is correct, Sean Mercer had left her house before Rhys Jones was killed and she does not support his alibi for the time of the murder," Flewitt said.

Police also installed a hidden listening device inside the home address of James Yates, which the prosecution alleges recorded various "significant conversations" that took place in the days that followed.

All defendants deny all the charges. Flewitt said all were members or associates of the Croxteth Crew, which has a rival gang in Norris Green known as either the Strand Gang or Nogga Dogs. Since 2004, there had been at least 70 cases of criminal damage and assault including the use of firearms associated with both gangs, he said.

Flewitt said that until Rhys's killing the best-known manifestation of this feud had been the murder of Liam Smith, a member of the Strand Gang, who was shot dead outside Altcourse prison on August 23 2006. Four members of the Croxteth Crew were convicted in connection with this – three of murder and one of manslaughter.

On the day that Rhys was killed, three young men - Wayne Brady and two others - who were Strand Gang members or associates "left the relative safety of Norris Green and entered what, for them, was the hostile environment of Croxteth".

They were in the area because Brady wanted to borrow a bicycle from a friend who lived nearby.

Flewitt said their presence brought Mercer to the Fir Tree pub and he was shooting at them when he killed Rhys.

"Sean Mercer's interest in Wayne Brady was not limited to general gang rivalry," Flewitt said. "Rather evidence suggests there was some more personal animosity between them."

A witness told police she knew Mercer and had said to her: "Brady's gonna get it."

He described the murder of Rhys Jones as "yet another, and perhaps more tragic, example of the mindless and indiscriminate violence that is a feature of the rivalry between the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Gang".

The activities of the Croxteth Crew not only provided the setting for the murder of Rhys Jones but also led to the involvement of the other defendants, Flewitt said.

"It is the prosecution's case that the strength of the loyalty that existed among gang members and their associates explains the speed and enthusiasm with which [the six defendants] did all that they could to help Sean Mercer avoid responsibility for the dreadful events," he said.

Flewitt said everyone who heard or read about the circumstances of Rhys Jones's death was both shocked and saddened at the loss of such a young life. "You will, no doubt, share the dismay of all decent people that such an appalling event could take place at a busy public house and in broad daylight."

Flewitt said Rhys Jones was born on September 27 1995 and was 11 years old when he died. He lived with his parents and older brother near the pub. Rhys had just completed his final year at Broad Square junior school in Croxteth and was looking forward to going to secondary school.

"Like many boys of his age, Rhys Jones loved football. He supported Everton and played for the under 12 team at the Fir Tree pub."

The trial continues. It is expected to take six to eight weeks.

    Teenager shot Rhys Jones while aiming at gang members, court hears, G, 9.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/09/ukcrime2






Gang guilty of £500,000 van robberies

· Two shot dead by officers in raid at village bank
· Police arrested four after 18-month spreeRachel Williams


Saturday October 4 2008
The Guardian
This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday October 04 2008 on p20 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 01:55 on October 04 2008.


Four men were convicted yesterday of being part of a robbery gang that stole £500,000 in an 18-month crime spree targeting security vans. It ended when the mastermind and an accomplice were shot dead by police.

Terence Wallace, Adrian Johnson, Leroy Wilkinson and Victor Iniodu, all from south London, are facing lengthy jail terms for their involvement in the gang, which carried out raids in Oxford, Swindon, Bristol, Bath, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Reading, Ipswich and Gloucestershire between April 2006 and September last year.

Their run of successful raids ended abruptly when flying squad officers worked out where the gang would strike next and lay in wait.

When Mark Nunes, the ringleader, held a pistol to the head of a security guard near the HSBC in the village of Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, his "luck ran out", the trial heard, and he was shot dead by a police marksman. Fellow robber Andrew Markland suffered the same fate when he tried to pick up the weapon and a second officer shot him twice.

Yesterday the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said there was no evidence the marksmen had committed any criminal offences or misconduct, but investigators had found "issues" around the implementation of the operation.

Getaway driver Wallace, 26, Johnson, 28, Wilkinson, 29, and Iniodu, 34, were found guilty of conspiracy to rob after a jury at Kingston crown court deliberated for more than 15 hours. They had denied the charges. The court heard that a series of reconnaissance trips were carried out before each raid, to choose locations next to alleyways for fast getaways and to pinpoint areas where vehicles could be switched. Often two or three stolen cars with false number plates were used and one would be dumped 100 yards down the road to throw police off the scent.

They targeted Group 4 Security vans as guards were transferring money to high street outlets, selecting only vehicles on low-security routes because they knew they were not equipped with cash boxes that belch out coloured smoke or dye.

Guns were used in some of the raids and guards were punched, kicked and knocked to the ground. In May 2006 the gang escaped with £165,000, their biggest single sum, after pistol-whipping a guard outside a Lloyds TSB in Bristol.

Detectives used cell-site analysis - where a position is traced to a mobile phone - to place conspirators at the scenes in the weeks before the robberies. By last summer they had Nunes, who had previously served eight and a half years for armed robbery, and his accomplices under surveillance and were waiting for them in Chandlers Ford, near Southampton, on the morning of September 13.

Surveillance footage seen by the jury showed the security van pulling up next to the bank and a guard getting out. As Nunes, 35, runs towards him a police officer says: "Robbery, robbery, strike, strike, strike. He has a gun to his head." A shot is heard as Nunes slumps to the floor. Markland, 36, then runs into view and attempts to pick up the weapon dropped by Nunes. He too is shot and falls to the ground.

Detective Inspector Terry Wilson, of the Metropolitan police's flying squad, said the deaths of the two men remained "deeply regrettable". Inquests into their deaths are to open shortly. Johnson was also convicted of a separate robbery last November, but was acquitted of possessing a gas canister. Sentencing on all the men will take place at a later date.

    Gang guilty of £500,000 van robberies, NYT, 4.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/04/ukcrime






Man pleads guilty to murder of Hell's Angel

Sean Creighton has admitted killing Gerry Tobin on the M40 motorway last year


Friday October 03 2008
12:29 BST
Angela Balakrishnan and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Friday October 03 2008.
It was last updated at 13:14 on October 03 2008.


A man has pleaded guilty to shooting dead a Hell's Angel on a motorway as he returned from a festival last year.

At Birmingham crown court yesterday, Sean Creighton, a 44 year old from Coventry, admitted murdering Gerry Tobin. For legal reasons, his plea could not be reported until today.

Creighton had previously denied killing the 35-year-old biker but changed his plea ahead of the trial of six other men accused of killing Tobin near junction 12 of the M40 in August last year.

Tobin, who lived in Mottingham, south-east London, worked as a mechanic at a Harley Davidson garage.

A post-mortem examination found he died from single gunshot wound to the back of his head on the Warwickshire stretch of the motorway, as a he returned from the Bulldog Bash bikers' festival.

Creighton, who also admitted two firearms charges, was remanded in custody yesterday and will be sentenced at the end of the trial, which is expected to last for up to six weeks.

A jury was sworn in today and is expected to begin hearing evidence in the case next week.

Mr Justice Treacy, who lifted a restriction prohibiting the media from reporting Creighton's pleas, warned jurors not to conduct their own investigations into the killing of Tobin.

Karl Garside, 45, pleaded not guilty to murder during a previous hearing in February, while Simon Turner, 41, Dane Garside, 42, Malcolm Bull, 53, Dean Taylor, 47, and 46-year-old Ian Cameron entered their not guilty pleas last December.

All six men also face a charge of possessing a shotgun, while Turner and Dane Garside are further charged with possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

    Man pleads guilty to murder of Hell's Angel, G, 3.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/03/ukcrime.law






Shannon Matthews' mother charged with her kidnapping


Friday September 05 2008 12:33 BST
David Batty and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Friday September 05 2008.
It was last updated at 12:35 on September 05 2008.


The mother of Shannon Matthews, the schoolgirl who went missing for 24 days earlier this year, was today charged with her kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Karen Matthews, 32, had previously been accused of perverting the course of justice and child neglect.

The new charges were added during a plea hearing at Leeds crown court today.

Matthews appeared in court with Michael Donovan, 39, who was already charged with nine-year-old Shannon's kidnapping and false imprisonment.

He will face a further charge of perverting the course of justice, the court heard.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. No plea was entered for the child neglect charge.

Shannon disappeared on February 19. She was found 24 days later less than a mile from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire.

Donovan, of Lidgate Gardens, Dewsbury, was arrested on March 14 after Shannon was found under a bed in nearby Batley Carr. Formerly known as Paul Drake, he is the uncle of Shannon's stepfather, Craig Meehan.

Shannon, a Westmoor junior school pupil, went missing after a swimming trip. The police search involved hundreds of officers and 60 detectives.

    Shannon Matthews' mother charged with her kidnapping, G, 5.9.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/sep/05/ukcrime






Barry George: loner cleared of JIll Dando killing set for £1m award


August 2, 2008
From The Times
Sean O’Neill and Steve Bird


Barry George is free to seek more than £1 million compensation as the victim of a miscarriage of justice after being cleared yesterday of the murder of the Crimewatch presenter Jill Dando.

The Times has learnt that the Government has not yet implemented laws passed four months ago that would have capped his claim for damages at £500,000.

The Ministry of Justice said that there was no limit on what Mr George, a convicted sex attacker and persistent stalker, could receive. He is also understood to be considering media bids for his story in excess of £100,000.

Ms Dando, 37, was shot in the head at point-blank range outside her home in Fulham, West London, in April 1999. Her murder is likely to remain unsolved. Police indicated that the case was effectively closed.

Mr George spent eight years in jail, having faced two Old Bailey trials and two appeals. His case was the subject of a prominent miscarriage of justice campaign. As the jury returned its unanimous verdict yesterday, his eyes welled with tears. He later told his solicitor: “I can’t believe it.”

His sister, Michelle Diskin, who led the campaign for his acquittal, punched the air and shouted “Yes” before breaking down in tears.

Scotland Yard said officially that it was disappointed with the outcome of the case, but senior sources told The Times that they were furious with the way the case ended. One said: “This was a year-long investigation which accrued a huge amount of evidence. The jury deliberated for less than eight hours — can they really say they gave due consideration to all the facts?”

The family of Ms Dando declined to comment on the verdict.

Mr George, who has a low IQ, mental health problems and epilepsy, left court with Susan Young, a psychologist who sat with him through years of legal hearings to ensure that he understood the proceedings. She said: “Mr George feels overwhelmed by the verdict as, throughout the trial, he did not dare to get his hopes up and he continually said to me in the dock he believed he would be convicted.”

She told The Times: “I have spent hours and hours with Barry George. I would seriously doubt that someone with his level of problems could carry out the murder. And I would expect someone who has his problems to let something slip, but he never has.”

Jeremy Moore, Mr George’s solicitor, confirmed that there would be a claim for compensation. It will be up to Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to decide if he is eligible. If so, the case will be passed to Lord Brennan, QC.

Reforms of the compensation scheme were included in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, which received the Royal Assent in May. They would have limited the maximum amount payable to Mr George to £500,000 because he had been in jail for less than ten years, but the capping clause has yet to take effect. The claim will cover loss of liberty, housing and living allowances and could increase if Mr George requires continuing specialist mental health care.

Commander Simon Foy, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We are disappointed by today’s verdict, but especially disappointed for Jill’s family and friends. However, we respect the decision of the court. The investigation into her murder was complex, thorough and professional, with more than 2,500 statements taken and 3,700 exhibits recovered.”

Hilary Bradfield, the Crown Prosecution Service’s reviewing lawyer, said: “Mr George now has the right to be regarded as an innocent man, but that does not mean it was wrong to bring the case. Our test is whether there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. It would be wrong to only bring cases where we were guaranteed a conviction.”




Previous claims

— The Birmingham Six, released in 1991 after 16 years in jail, were awarded £840,000 to £1.2m each

— The Guildford Four had their convictions quashed in 1989 after 15 years in prison. One, Paul Hill, received about £400,000

    Barry George: loner cleared of JIll Dando killing set for £1m award, Ts, 2.8.2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article4446369.ece






Jill Dando murder: Miscarriages of justice

Barry George is not the first person to be wrongly convicted of murder and then have their conviction quashed.

Last Updated: 6:27PM BST 01 Aug 2008
The Daily Telegraph
By Caroline Gammell


Stephen Downing spent 27 years in prison for the murder of Wendy Sewell, a typist who was killed in a churchyard in Bakewell, Derbyshire, in 1973.

His conviction in the so-called "Bakewell Tart" case was hailed as one of Britain's worst miscarriages of justice when he was freed in January 2002.

Mr Downing received an initial £250,000 payment on release from prison and further £500,000 in 2006 because he was not told he was under arrest or that he had the right to a solicitor.

He was 17 with a mental age of 11 when he was convicted of beating 32-year-old Mrs Sewell to death with a pick-axe handle at a cemetery in Bakewell.

He was arrested and interviewed for about eight hours before admitting the attack. Later he retracted his confession but was convicted the following year.

Stefan Kiszko was convicted of killing 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1976 and served 16 years before being released in 1992.

The tax clerk, from Rochdale in Greater Manchester, was found guilty of abducting the girl and then stabbing her on a moor in West Yorkshire.

Mr Kiszko, who was described as "odd and vulnerable", spent nearly two decades in prison before the Court of Appeal acknowledged that his impotence meant he could not possibly have killed her.

He died of a heart attack aged 44 just a year after being released.

His mother Charlotte died four months later and because he had no other relatives, the Government did not have to pay him compensation of more than £500,000.

Ronald Castree was finally convicted in November 2007, having committed the crime as a 21-year-old.

Timothy Evans, 25, was hanged on March 9, 1950, for the murder of his wife and daughter.

Deemed to be of low intelligence, the Welsh van driver with an IQ of 70 apparently "confessed" to killing his wife Beryl and their 14-month-old daughter Geraldine in 1949.

Three years after his execution, former neighbour John Christie confessed to strangling eight victims - including Mrs Evans and Geraldine.

Mr Evans received a post-humous official royal pardon in 1966, but his case helped bring about the abolishment of capital punishment.

His family fought for compensation right up until 2004, arguing that the royal pardon was "inadequate remedy".

Unemployed Colin Stagg was tried for the murder of 23-year-old Rachel Nickell, who was killed while walking with her two-year-old son on Wimbledon Common in 1992.

He was charged with murder and spent a year in prison, but the judge presiding over the case threw out the charges against him because they were based on a honey trap operation.

Trial judge Mr Justice Ognall described it as "wholly reprehensible'' and "deceptive conduct of the grossest kind" and threw the evidence out.

Mr Stagg is still trying to claim more than £1 million compensation from the Metropolitan Police but the case is on hold while the police investigation continues.

Robert Napper, 41, has been charged with Miss Nickell's murder and appeared in court last November.

Jill Dando murder: Miscarriages of justice, DTel, 1.8.2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2485830/Jill-Dando-murder-Miscarriages-of-justice.html




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