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History > 2009 > UK > Justice (I)

 

 

 

Tulay Goren's father

given life sentence

for 'honour killing'

Mehmet Goren must serve minimum of 22 years
for killing daughter after kidnapping,
drugging and tying her up

 

Thursday 17 December 2009
20.54 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Karen McVeigh
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 20.54 GMT
on Thursday 17 December 2009.
A version appeared on p1 of the Top stories section of the Guardian
on Friday 18 December 2009.

 

A woman whose husband was jailed today for murdering their 15-year-old daughter 10 years ago in an "honour killing" is living in fear of reprisals after she gave devastating evidence against him.

Tulay Goren was killed in January 1999 for running away from home to live with her boyfriend, a fellow Turkish Kurd twice her age whom her family disapproved of because he was from a different branch of Islam.

Today, at the end of a dramatic and emotional 11-week trial, Mehmet Goren was given a life sentence, with a minimum of 22 years, for killing his daughter after kidnapping, drugging and tying her up. Her remains, which police believe were buried in the family garden temporarily, have never been recovered, making this one of only a handful of murder convictions secured without a body.

The prosecution claimed Mehmet's brothers Ali, 55, and Cuma, 42, helped him in the murder after a "family council" decided that she and her forbidden lover must die. But the Old Bailey jury were not convinced and cleared the brothers of any involvement in her murder.

Tulay's mother Hanim, whose testimony against her husband was crucial to the prosecution, was too afraid to attend court for the rest of the trial. Last week police installed additional security measures in her home and that of her surviving daughter, Nuray, also a prosecution witness. Yesterday, Nuray praised her mother for testifying. She said: "No one should fail to realise what this means within our culture. These people do not forget."

She added: "For my father, I have only one request. I ask that he finally discloses the whereabouts of my sister. I wake up at night wondering where Tulay may be. In quiet moments during the day I ask myself if she suffered or knew what was in store for her."

Experts have said the breach of the code of honour, or namus, that detectives believe led to Tulay's killing could also apply when a woman speaks out against her husband.

The case marked the first time prosecutors have used expert witnesses in an "honour" crime. They described how the system worked among Turkish Kurds and highlighted features of the Goren case – such as the loss of her virginity to her boyfriend, a loss of family honour that triggered the murder – which paralleled similar murders in Turkey.

Police believe there are 12 "honour killings" a year in Britain, and a quarter of the victims are under 18. Police and prosecutors introduced new measures to protect and punish perpetrators in the wake of pubic criticism of failings in the case of Banaz Mahmod, who sought police help before she was killed by her father and uncle in 2006. Risk assessment measures identifying cases where victims may be vulnerable are now flagged up in police stations, police receive training in "honour" violence, and there are now prosecutors who specialise in the crime.

Sentencing Mehmet to life, Mr Justice Bean told him that his attempts to portray himself as an enlightened family man had not worked. "Your enigmatic smile conceals a violent and dominating personality," the judge said. "The victim was a child of 15 with her whole of her life before her. You were in a position of trust as her father. You planned her murder with considerable care."

Speaking about the day Tulay was killed, the judge went on: "You instructed your family to leave the house, telling her eight year-old brother to kiss her goodbye because he would never see her again. I was not surprised to be told that this moment has haunted him ever since."

An "average, normal or unexceptional murder" carries a 14-year sentence but the judge said Tulay's killing had many aggravating features, including planning, and was similar to racially or religiously aggravated killings.

Detectives came to believe that Mehmet killed his daughter as early as March 1999, when Hanim told them of her suspicions. But the Crown Prosecution Service advised against charging him because they could not rule out the possibility that she was still alive. At that time "honour killing", particularly in the Turkish and Kurdish community, was an alien concept to police and public. But when the case was re-examined in 2007, it followed the successful prosecutions of similar murders. In 2003 an Iraqi Kurd, Abdulla Yones, was jailed for life for killing his 16-year old daughter, Heshu, and in 2007, the father and uncle of Banaz Mahmod were given life imprisonment for her murder.

 

Gerry Campbell, of the Met's violent crime directorate, said the lessons learned had "galvanised us to know and understand honour-based violence".

    Tulay Goren's father given life sentence for 'honour killing', G, 17.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/17/tulay-goren-father-honour-killing

 

 

 

 

 

Convicted child murderer drugged and killed 18-year-old, court told

• Body of missing teenager found in defendant's garden next to body of murder victim, jury hears
• Peter Tobin, serving life for rape and murder, denies second murder

 

Monday 14 December 2009
15.51 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Esther Addley
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 15.51 GMT on Monday 14 December 2009.
It was last modified at 15.55 GMT on Monday 14 December 2009.

 

The convicted rapist and child murderer Peter Tobin drugged and murdered an 18-year-old school-leaver before burying her in his back garden next to the body of another teenager he had killed, it was alleged at Chelmsford crown court today.

Tobin, 63, murdered Dinah McNicol after picking her up as she was hitch-hiking home from a music festival in August 1991, the court was told. Her body was found 16 years later, buried in the garden of 50 Irvine Drive, in Margate, Kent, where Tobin was living at the time of McNicol's disappearance.

Peter Tobin pleaded not guilty to murdering 18-year-old Dinah McNicol. Photograph: Strathclyde Police/PA
Buried just feet away, also wrapped in bin bags, was the bisected body of 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton, who had disappeared in February 1991. Tobin has already been convicted of Hamilton's murder and is serving a life sentence.

He denies killing McNicol. A trial on the same charge in June this year was halted after Tobin became ill.

The jury of three women and nine men would hear evidence that traces of amitriptyline, a sedative drug, which Tobin was being prescribed at the time of the murder, had been found in her body, William Clegg QC, prosecuting, said. Vicky Hamilton had also been drugged with amitriptyline.

Clegg said the earlier conviction was relevant "as it demonstrates a propensity to abduct young girls, administer the drug amitryptiline to them, murder them and bury their bodies in rubbish sacks. There cannot be many people in this world who share those propensities".

Tobin was also convicted in 1994 of rape and buggery of a 14-year-old girl and indecent assault on another, after he had drugged both of them with the sedative.

McNicol's body was too badly decomposed to show evidence of rape, the court heard but, said Clegg, "there was clearly a sexual motive behind the abduction and murder of Dinah".

Tobin's fingerprints had also been found on three of the bags in which McNicol's body had been wrapped, Clegg said, adding that the jury would hear from David Martin, Tobin's neighbour at the time, who had seen him digging the hole into which McNicol's body was placed. "Having seen how deep the hole was Mr Martin joked to the defendant that he was digging to Australia," said Clegg.

Tobin, dressed in a black shirt and dark trousers, sat behind a screen, a few feet from McNicol's elderly father Ian, and other family members.

McNicol, a bright school leaver who loved to travel, was last seen on 5 August 1991, when she left the music festival in Liphook, Hampshire, to hitchhike to her home near Chelmsford with David Tremlett, a man she had met at the festival. They accepted a lift from a man who dropped Tremlett off first at Junction 8 of the M25, Clegg said, leaving McNicol alone in the front seat with the driver.

"We will seek to prove that that driver was in fact this defendant and that he not only abducted Dinah but murdered her."

Clegg said that in August 1991 Tobin had an arrangement with his then estranged wife Cathy Wilson that he would travel to Portsmouth, where she lived, on a Friday to collect their young son Daniel, and return on Monday to drop him off after spending the weekend with him in Margate. His return journey would have brought him past the spot where Tremlett and McNicol were picked up, he said.

The jury were told that on turning 19 in June 1991, Dinah had been awarded £2,700 as compensation for the death of her mother in a car accident, and that as someone who was "frugal with money", she was keeping the money for her future education.

In the days following her disappearance large sums of money were withdrawn from ATMs on the south coast. The first withdrawal was in Margate, Clegg said, "just a short distance from where this defendant then lived". Other withdrawals were from banks in nearby Ramsgate, in Brighton, where Tobin had previously lived on and off over a period of 20 years, and in Portsmouth.

"The only three towns in England known to have been associated to this defendant at the time were the towns where her bank card was used to steal money from her account after her abduction."

The case continues.

    Convicted child murderer drugged and killed 18-year-old, court told, G, 14.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/14/murderer-peter-tobin-denies-killing

 

 

 

 

 

Arsonist who killed three-year-old girl jailed for life

Graham Heaps told he must serve a minimum of 28 years in prison
for murdering toddler by setting fire to her family home

 

Tuesday 8 December 2009
13.54 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Helen Carter
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 13.54 GMT on Tuesday 8 December 2009.
It was last modified at 14.10 GMT on Tuesday 8 December 2009.

 

A man who killed a three-year-old girl in a house fire during a revenge attack at the home of his former girlfriend's family was today jailed for life for murder.

Graham Heaps, a 44-year-old labourer, was told he would not be eligible for parole for at least 28 years after the "wicked, vengeful, and cowardly attack", which killed Francesca Bimpson.

Her parents and three siblings survived the fire with less severe injuries.

Heaps was convicted on Monday by a jury at Liverpool crown court of murdering the girl at her home in Liverpool last December. He was sentenced today.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Henriques, told Heaps: "Your shocking, wicked act of setting fire to a family home with four children asleep in their beds was, in my judgment, motivated by sheer spite.

"It was a vengeful and cowardly attack on a family of six in their own home.

"They are a loving, close unit who did not deserve to be cursed by your unwelcome attention.

"Your intent was, I believe, to burn – that is, to kill – this whole family in their beds as they slept."

Francesca suffered 85% burns when she was unable to escape the smoke and flames and hid underneath a blanket. Petrol had been poured through the letterbox and ignited. She was rescued by firefighters but died from complications as a result of her burns in hospital three weeks later, on 23 December.

The jury heard that Heaps, who had had a relationship with one of Francesca's aunts, Linda Skelhorne, started the fire deliberately. The couple were woken by smoke alarms.

Francesca's father, Kieron Bimpson, 37, jumped from a first-floor window, leaving his panic-stricken partner holding their 17-month-old baby, Anne-Marie.

Although he was injured in the fall, he was able to reach the front of the property and climb on to a porch canopy to try to rescue his eight-year-old daughter, Christina, who shared a bedroom with Francesca.

The children's uncle, Frankie Skelhorne, who lives nearby, heard about the fire and kicked the front door in to find his sister in the main bedroom holding her baby "in a state of panic".

Christina lacked the strength to lift Francesca to safety from the front bedroom, and her father was unable to reach her before the guttering gave way beneath him.

Another sibling, 14-year-old Kieron Bimpson, jumped from a bedroom window. He also was unable to help his sister.

The court heard Heaps was an onlooker at the scene and briefly entered the house in an apparent rescue attempt, during the course of which he set his trousers alight. But he was attempting to destroy petrol on his clothing, and there was no good reason for him to be there.

A fire crew reached the house four minutes after receiving the emergency call. When Francesca was removed from the house, she was breathing faintly but had severe injuries.

Heaps was found lying face down on the lawn outside the house. Nearby was an empty plastic fuel container that was on fire. He had suffered burns and was semi-conscious. He was later cautioned and arrested while in hospital.

It later emerged that he had been in a relationship with Linda Skelhorne that ended acrimoniously. He had stolen a sim card from her mobile phone and, according to the prosecution, "bombarded" her sister Eleanor with obscene text messages and phone calls. Eleanor Skelhorne, 37, broke down while giving evidence against Heaps and the trial was adjourned briefly after she launched a verbal assault at him.

Heaps had told police he had visited a takeaway on the night of the attack, yet CCTV footage disproved this claim, the court heard.

Earlier, the court heard that Heaps had a career of petty crime and burglary stretching back 30 years to when he was a teenager.

Some jurors covered their faces with their hands as victim impact statements telling of the family's grief were read out.

"We are as a family trying to understand the murderous actions of a callous, vengeful, selfish coward who must be severely punished for his heinous crime," part of one statement read.

"The endless flashbacks and helplessness, emotional and physical pain and suffering is almost too much to bear. We went to sleep on a December night looking forward to Christmas and awoke in hell."

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Naylor, of Merseyside police, said the investigation had been traumatic for everyone involved and that the defendant had lied throughout the inquiry and the trial.

He added: "He [Heaps] has never once shown remorse for any of his actions. He has never shown any sympathy to any of the family at all for the trauma he has brought them.

"I hope today's verdict and sentence has been some justice for Francesca and her family."

Outside court, Mr Bimpson said: "There will never be a fitting justice for our baby. Her life was cruelly and prematurely taken by a coward."

He paid tribute to the tremendous courage and dignity of his other children and family.

Francesca's father said he was pleased with the 28-year jail term but added: "A hundred years, a million years, would not be long enough."

    Arsonist who killed three-year-old girl jailed for life, G, 8.12.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/08/arsonist-graham-heaps-murder-jailed

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher, 39, jailed for sex with 15-year-old pupil

Religious education teacher paid for boy to have tattoo during week-long relationship

 

Helen Carter
Guardian.co.uk
Wednesday 25 November 2009
14.37 GMT
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 14.37 GMT on Wednesday 25 November 2009.
It was last modified at 16.10 GMT on Wednesday 25 November 2009.

 

A religious education teacher who admitted 10 charges of engaging a 15-year-old pupil in sexual activity has been jailed today.

Madeleine Martin, 39, of Knutsford, Cheshire, admitted beginning a week-long relationship with the boy, who was under 16 at the time, when she appeared in court in September.

Today she was sentenced to 32 months in prison at Manchester Minshull Street crown court. Martin was also suspended from her job at a Greater Manchester school, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

The court was told that Martin had qualified as a teacher four years ago and first met her victim in September 2008.

The pair began communicating via the Facebook social networking website and their contact escalated into a sexual relationship.

On 9 February she asked the boy to do something that would remind him of her when they were apart. She drove him to a tattooist and paid for him to have "Mad" and a heart etched onto his skin.

They then drove to a secluded area, where they had sex. The boy quickly decided to end their involvement and told Martin.

He eventually told his mother what had happened and she immediately reported the matter to police in April.

Judge Jonathan Geake told her: "It is clear that your life came to a very low ebb. Unhappily it was against that background that you were trusted with mentoring this young teenage boy who himself was vulnerable in the sense that he was having his own difficulties at school.

"It is clear from the way in which the prosecution presented that case that rather than mentor him in the proper way, you used him as an emotional support and comfort for yourself rather than the other way round.

"You started to abuse the trust you were entrusted with. Eventually you lured him into intimacies which should never have happened and which you now admit should never have happened."

Mark Fireman, in mitigation, said his client had brought "shame on herself and her family" and had lost her career, and her friends. He said at the time of sexual contact she was going through a "very difficult time in her personal life". Her relationship with her husband had ended, and her sister was suffering from terminal cancer and eventually died.

"The matter left her extremely depressed and perhaps vulnerable to thoughts and actions that would not have normally have taken place."

He added: "It is an incident that she bitterly, bitterly regrets. She knows that she has caused great harm."

In a victim impact statement, the boy said he had been taunted by his fellow pupils and had not returned to the school. He also said he was embarrassed to show people the tattoo Martin had encouraged him to get. His mother told the court that her relationship with her son had suffered, and that he had become lethargic and lost interest in his hobbies. She added: "He has lost the sparkle he always had."

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Dave Moores of Tameside Child protection unit said: "Martin's actions will leave emotional scars on her victim and his family and have also impacted on the wider community.

"I would like to praise the bravery of the victim in speaking out and ensuring justice was done for him.

"I am satisfied that she has been given the sentence she deserves and hope this will send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated."

He added that Martin would remain on the sex offenders' register.

    Teacher, 39, jailed for sex with 15-year-old pupil, G, 25.11.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/25/jail-teacher-pupil-sex

 

 

 

 

 

Policeman jailed for murdering constable fiancee

Martin Forshaw bludgeoned Claire Howarth with hammer
and staged car crash to look like accident, court told

 

Monday 23 November 2009
13.13 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Press Association
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 13.13 GMT on Monday 23 November 2009.
It was last modified at 14.00 GMT on Monday 23 November 2009.

 

A policeman has been jailed for at least 18 years for murdering his police constable fiancee and trying to hide the act with a staged car accident.

As his trial was due to start at Manchester crown court today, Martin Forshaw, 27, of Tottington, Bury, changed his plea to guilty. Forshaw used a lump hammer to bludgeon his girlfriend, Claire Howarth, 31, at least five times a few hours before they were due to fly to St Lucia for their wedding five days later. He carried her downstairs at their home in Tottington and put her in her BMW car.

Prosecuting, Ray Wigglesworth QC said Forshaw drove around secluded country lanes in the area before staging a fake road accident and dialling 999.

Forshaw placed Howarth, who was still alive, in the driver's seat. He sat beside her with his foot on the accelerator and crashed the vehicle into a hedge.

When police and paramedics arrived at the scene Forshaw, known to friends and family as Alex, told them his fiancee had not been wearing a seatbelt.

She was taken to Royal Bolton hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Forshaw had been a serving police office with Cheshire constabulary since November 2003 and was an expert in self-defence and violent persons training. Howarth had joined Greater Manchester police in March 2007 and had just completed two years' probation with the force. She had been appointed as a community beat manager in Rochdale.

The couple had been in a relationship for 10 months and were set to fly to London Gatwick airport on the day of Howarth's death for a connecting flight to the Caribbean island where they were to be joined by family and friends.

Wigglesworth said there was evidence that Forshaw had still been seeing the mother of his four-year-old son and had kept the pending wedding a secret from some of his colleagues.

A postmortem examination showed that Howarth suffered multiple injuries including 14 separate injuries to her head and neck.

Forshaw told detectives that Howarth had attacked him with the mallet and was struck while he tried to defend himself. Pathologists ruled that account "totally implausible".

    Policeman jailed for murdering constable fiancee, G, 23.11.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/23/policeman-admits-murdering-fiancee

 

 

 

 

 

Husband with chronic sleep disorder strangled wife during nightmare

Prosecution asks jury for not guilty verdict
because Brian Thomas dreamed he was tackling an intruder inside camper van in Wales

 

Tuesday 17 November 2009
18.48 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Steven Morris
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 18.48 GMT on Tuesday 17 November 2009.

 

A devoted husband strangled his wife while having a nightmare that she was an intruder who had broken into the camper van they were sleeping in, a court heard today.

Father-of-two Brian Thomas, 59, and his wife, Christine, 57, had parked their van in a pub car park while on holiday, Swansea crown court was told.

He dreamt that an intruder was in the van, reached out to tackle the offender but instead strangled his childhood sweetheart and wife of 40 years.

The court heard Thomas, from Neath, south Wales, suffered from a chronic sleep disorder that meant he was not in control of his actions.

Thomas sobbed in the dock as a recording was played of the 999 call he made just minutes after strangling his wife.

In the distraught 3.49am call, he said: "What have I done? I've been trying to wake her. I think I've killed my wife. Oh my God. I thought someone had broken in.

"I was fighting with those boys but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming or something. What have I done?"

When police arrived he told them: "She's my world."

Thomas told officers that "boy racers" had been performing wheelspins and handbrake turns in the car park in the seaside village of Aberporth, south-west Wales, where he and his wife had first parked in July last year. They moved on but Thomas dreamt one of them was in the van.

Paul Thomas QC, prosecuting, said: "He became convinced that one of these youths had broken into the van and a fight erupted in which he grabbed one of them in an armlock.

"But it must have been a dream, he said, because there turned out to be no intruders and the person he had seized by the throat was his wife."

He said the prosecution was not seeking a verdict of guilty to murder because of medical evidence about his chronic nightmare problem.

Thomas told the jury: "This is a highly unusual case. The defendant accepts he caused the death of his wife, but the prosecution do not seek a verdict of guilty to murder or manslaughter.

"Instead, very unusually, we seek what is called a special verdict – a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity."

For almost 50 years Thomas had been prone to episodes of sleepwalking and other sleep-disorder behaviours, the court heard

Detectives were sceptical when Thomas claimed he had been asleep. But scientists specialising in sleep disorders conducted a series of tests and agreed his behaviour was consistent with the "legal concept of automatism".

Thomas said: "In other words, at the time of the killing the defendant was asleep and his mind had no control over what his body was doing."

The barrister stressed it was not being suggested Thomas was insane in the "everyday sense of the word".

He said: "This was a case of insane automatism – because the sleeping disorder the defendant had suffered from since childhood was 'part of him' and not something that could be cured."

The jury was told they had a "straightforward choice" of clearing him of murder or finding him not guilty by reason of insanity.

His defence team argued it was "non-insane automatism" brought on by the stress of the youths in the car park.

Elwen Evans, QC, defending, said the disturbance from the speeding cars caused the couple "significant levels of stress".

 

Thomas denies murder. The case continues.

    Husband with chronic sleep disorder strangled wife during nightmare, NYT, 17.11.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/17/husband-strangled-wife-during-nightmare

 

 

 

 

 

Two ringleaders of child abuse network jailed for life

Men led largest paedophile ring in Scotland,
responsible for 125,000 images and videos and abuse of friends' children

 

Guardian.co.uk
Thursday 29 October 2009
13.43 GMT
Severin Carrell
Scotland correspondent
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 13.43 GMT on Thursday 29 October 2009.

 

Lothian and Borders police handout photos of James Rennie (left) and Neil Strachan, the two ringleaders of Scotland's biggest paedophile gang, who were jailed for life today. Photograph: Lothian and Borders Police/PA

Two men have been jailed for life for masterminding a child abuse conspiracy that included an "utterly appalling" attack on an infant boy and the assault of a three-month-old baby.

Neil Strachan, a convicted sex offender, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 16 years in prison while his co-accused James Rennie, once an influential youth worker, was jailed for life with a minimum of 13 years at the high court in Edinburgh today.

Both men were given "lifelong restriction" orders, using powers introduced in 2006 for the most serious and violent sexual offenders, which will place them under risk assessment and management plans until they die.

Strachan and Rennie were ringleaders of Scotland's largest paedophile network, involving eight men who held 125,000 images and videos of child abuse. The ring was broken up in 2007 after a lengthy operation by Lothian and Borders police. Six other men have already received sentences ranging from two to 17 years.

The judge, Lord Bannatyne, said the pair were guilty of gross and appalling breaches of trust since both men had abused children entrusted to them for babysitting by close friends, and had photographed the abuse.

Strachan, 41, who is HIV-positive, had attempted to sodomise one 18-month-old boy on New Year's eve, taking a photograph known as the "Hogmanay image". Bannatyne said: "By its very nature, what is shown in that photograph is utterly appalling and would shock to the core any right-minded person who has had to see it.

"Over and above that, this offence involves the most gross level of breach of trust. You were invited into a house, treated as a friend of the family, and then entrusted with their child. You then breached that trust in the way shown in the 'Hogmanay image' in order to satisfy your base sexual interests. This, in my judgment, can be properly described as a dreadful crime."

The judge added: "You were in my view on the evidence a central player in this dreadful crime. You were one of the principal movers in the conspiracy."

Rennie, 38, had betrayed the parents of his victim, a three-month-old baby known as Child F who was also his godson, to a "truly appalling" extent by assaulting him over a four-year period.

Bannatyne likened Rennie, then co-ordinator of the gay rights agency LGBT Youth Scotland and a former teacher, to a spider "weaving an electronic web" to set up and then control their conspiracy..

The betrayal of Child F's parents "is truly appalling in its extent. These people had always stood by you; they had been there for you; given you their friendship; brought you into their lives and into the lives of their child (you were made their child's godfather); and they entrusted their child to you to look after. What did you do? You wholly betrayed that friendship and breached their trust in the grossest manner."

The pair, both from Edinburgh, were convicted of a string of child pornography charges, along with the six men previously jailed, and were further found guilty of conspiring to abuse children, as were three other members of the network, after a 10-week trial earlier this year.

Convicted for nine offences, Strachan, 41, was also jailed for attempting to rape the 18-month-old boy and sexually assaulting a six-year-old boy. Rennie, 38, was convicted of 14 offences including molesting a young boy over more than four years, beginning when the child was aged three months.

Bannatyne imposed a restriction order, similar to a life sentence, on both men as likely to "seriously endanger the physical wellbeing of a member of the public", and banned them from ever working with children.

The police investigation, Operation Algebra, used techniques pioneered in the US to identify digital cameras used for some images and recover emails from Microsoft using US court warrants. Sophisticated tracking equipment was used to trace Rennie's wi-fi broadband at his home.

The board of LGBT Youth Scotland said today there was no evidence any of the youths assisted by their agency were assaulted by Rennie, and "whole-heartedly welcomed" the convictions. It added: "LGBT Youth Scotland abhors any abuse of children and young people's rights. It is with a particular sense of betrayal of our organisational purpose and values that we learned of the crimes committed by James Rennie, and we are utterly appalled by his abuse and exploitation of children."

    Two ringleaders of child abuse network jailed for life, NYT, 29.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/29/courts-abuse-paedophile-ring-scotland

 

 

 

 

 

Bounder with a barrister's wig preyed on women from lonely hearts page ads

• Conviction halts 30-year fraud spree of 'King Con'
• He wined, dined and told of celebrity 'friends'

 

Monday 26 October 2009
21.53 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Sam Jones
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 21.53 GMT on Monday 26 October 2009.
A version appeared on p11 of the UK news section of the Guardian on Tuesday 27 October 2009.

 

Not for nothing was Paul Bint known as "King Con". Armed with a charming manner, a boundless reserve of deceit, a wig, a gown and a wing collar, the 47-year-old swindler wooed and defrauded a series of women by masquerading as a prominent criminal barrister, and when it suited him, as the director of public prosecutions himself.

Today,Bint's 30-year crime spree came to an abrupt halt – not for the first time – when he was found guilty of five counts including fraud, theft and driving while disqualified.

A jury at Southwark crown court heard that over the years Bint adopted a roll call of false professions and identities – hotelier, aristocrat, ballet dancer, banker, doctor, playboy, police officer and property magnate – to "worm his way into the hearts and homes" of many victims. He was, one barrister said, a man whose inability to exist in the real world fuelled fantasies that made "Walter Mitty look like a nine o'clock news reader".

Previously, Bint has been convicted of 155 offences and asked for nearly 350 others to be considered. Among them were 44 frauds and "kindred" crimes, 81 thefts or similar misdemeanours, offences against the person and property, brushes with the law relating to police, courts and prisons, and various miscellaneous matters.

For his latest campaign, Bint used the lonely hearts section of a newspaper and the internet to meet women whom he wined, dined and swindled by posing as the DPP, Keir Starmer QC, or a junior criminal barrister, Jonathan Rees. He told his victims he was friends with Robbie Williams, had socialised with Pierce Brosnan and had been married to actor Sarah Alexander.

He promised one woman a Caribbean holiday until he became convinced that her affections lay elsewhere. To avenge the perceived slight, he scrawled "bitch" on the side of her home, blamed his potential rival, claimed the man had repeatedly assaulted an ex-girlfriend, and convinced her to dump him.

Riel Karmy-Jones, prosecuting, said that by the time they realised who Bint was, he had misused a credit card belonging to one woman and stolen a bracelet from another. But the fraudster, who owned up in court to a 30-year criminal career, insisted he had done nothing wrong.

The jury disagreed, convicting him of five counts committed between 27 April and 5 May this year.

Two were for fraud by false representation – cheating a taxi driver of a £60 fare and using a credit card belonging to one of his victims. The others were for stealing a bracelet, burgling the robing room at St Alban's crown court and stealing a barrister's laptop, and test-driving a £59,000 Audi R8 while disqualified.

He was cleared of seven credit card frauds, and four of driving while disqualified, including one on the judge's direction.

The court heard that on one occasion, Bint used ones of his legal alter egos to dodge the taxi fare, telling the driver he was Starmer, that his wallet had been stolen and he would pay him back. The irate cabbie later went to the offices of the DPP to confront the real Starmer, and had to be placated by his secretary.

Karmy-Jones told the court the fraud and deception was "motivated first and foremost by gain for himself in financial terms and also creature comforts … But perhaps a rather close second to this was a need to increase his own sense of self-esteem.

"He was a conman, a confidence trickster, a man who, it seems, had no legitimate source of income other than state benefits and what he could scavenge off his victims, principally women, by abusing their confidence and trust."

He needed the "right name" and chose the DPP's most of the time. "You can imagine the effect that, together with the role of successful criminal barrister, might have," said Karmy-Jones.

Bint told the court one reason for his "continual performances" was that he cared deeply about what people thought of him. "It is a very big issue in my life. I want people to think, 'He is obviously a good person'."

Bint, who was born in Northampton, said he had been abused as a child, but did not blame this for his behaviour. "I know there are people who go through these experiences and don't lead the kind of life I've led," he said. "But it was a period in which I suffered … at the hands of people who I believed loved me."

Bint, whose first crime was stealing fishing equipment when he was 15, told jurors: "I lived in an absolute dream world and it started back then … I started to pretend to be other people. I used to daydream about living in a big house and having people around that loved me."

At 16, he "started to act out my dreams", by burgling Northampton general hospital, stealing a stethoscope and imagining he was a doctor. By the age of 21, his medical fantasies had led him to don a white coat and tour hospitals in north-west England. During one incident, he groped a woman and said: "Trust me, I'm a doctor."

He arranged X-rays, attended a man with a collapsed lung, put 12 stitches in another patient's head, tried to bluff his way into a heart bypass operation, authorised blood transfusions and dispensed drugs. In Leeds he attended to a 17-year-old car crash victim and told her parents she would be fine. She died six hours later.

Bint, of no fixed address, who has been diagnosed with an untreatable psychopathic condition, will be sentenced on 3 November.

    Bounder with a barrister's wig preyed on women from lonely hearts page ads, G, 26.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/26/paul-bint-king-con-conviction

 

 

 

 

 

Life for killer who stabbed father travelling to see newborn son

Amateur boxer died at Croydon hospital where partner gave birth

 

Friday 2 October 2009
12.44 BST
Press Association
Guardian.co.uk
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 12.44 BST on Friday 2 October 2009.

 

A killer who stabbed a young father in the heart as he was on his way to see his newborn son was jailed for life at the Old Bailey today.

Amateur boxer John "King" Abbey, 26, was with his three-year-old daughter when he was attacked at a bus stop by Charles Acquaah in January.

He died an hour later at the Mayday hospital in Croydon, south London – where his partner had given birth earlier that day.

Acquaah, 22, of Croydon, was told he would have to serve a minimum of 15 years in jail after being found guilty of murder. Judge Stephen Kramer told him: "You armed yourself with a knife in case you saw him. You put it up your left sleeve.

"On January 29, you took out the knife and deliberately stabbed him in the chest and through the heart." The murder left Abbey's children without a father, said the judge.

The judge said he was satisfied that the two men had been friends who had arrived in Britain from Ghana and then fallen out.

Abbey's partner, Natra Abokar, 29, said in a statement that she feared for the future of the son born on the day of his father's death. "On every birthday, the past – and King's death – will come up like a terrible nightmare," she said.

Of her daughter, she said: "She saw her daddy killed in front of her own eyes. She saw a man she knew as her daddy's friend hurt and kill him."

The court heard that the little girl had told her mother that "Junior" – as Acquaah was known – "put the knife in daddy's chest".

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said there had been trouble between the two men in the months leading up to Abbey's death, and the murder was an "act of pure revenge". They had met by chance at the bus stop in London Road, Croydon, when an argument broke out.

Abbey boxed for Ghana in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and remained in the UK afterwards. He was short of money and got a job with a recycling centre, using his friend Acquaah's details.

Acquaah had allowed him to have his wages paid into his bank account, but Abbey changed the arrangement after finding some of the money was missing. Acquaah then made allegations against him and threatened to kill him.

Abbey was forced to resign from the job, said Altman.

Detective Chief Inspector Cliff Lyons said outside court that it was a "sad and shocking case", and described the killer as "heartless and spiteful".

    Life for killer who stabbed father travelling to see newborn son, G, 2.10.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/02/new-father-knife-crime-ghana

 

 

 

 

 

Mass murder at 30,000 feet: Islamic extremists guilty of airline bomb plot

 

September 7, 2009
From Times Online

 

Three men were found guilty today of conspiracy to murder thousands of passengers and crew in an unprecedented airline bomb plot that could have proved as deadly as the 9/11 attacks.

After a retrial at Woolwich Crown Court, jurors found the ringleader, Abdulla Ahmed, and two other men, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain, guilty of plotting to blow up airliners en route from Heathrow to the United States.

Another defendant, Umar Islam, was found guilty of a more general charge of conspiracy to murder because jurors could not decide whether he knew of the specific targets in the plot three years ago.

Three other men, Arafat Khan, Ibrahim Savant and Waheed Zaman, were found not guilty of conspiracy to blow up aircraft but could face a retrial on the more general conspiracy to murder charge because jurors could not reach a verdict.

The eighth defendant, Muslim convert Donald Stewart-Whyte, was found not guilty on all charges but had pleaded guilty to a firearms offence.

Ali, 28, was the leader of an East London terror cell inspired by al-Qaeda, the court heard. He had planned to detonate home-made liquid bombs in suicide attacks on transatlantic aircraft bound for major north American cities.

It was the most complex and daring British-based terrorist conspiracy in modern times and could have caused thousands of deaths in the air and on the ground.

Counter-terrorist police, the security services and prosecutors spent more than £35 million foiling the plot and bringing Ali to justice.

The arrest of the gang in August 2006 sparked tight restrictions on carrying liquids on to aircraft that led to travel chaos and which remain largely in place three years later, although detectives complained that their operation had been compromised by the fact that news of the plot had leaked out from Washington first.

The guilty verdict will come as an enormous relief for Government ministers who endured heavy criticism for introducing the draconian luggage restrictions.

It will also be seen as a vindication of the decision to retry Ali after he was found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions last September. The previous jury at the South London court failed to reach verdicts on the specific airline plot.

British-born Ali, of Walthamstow, was inspired by the July 7 bombers and Osama bin Laden and considered taking his baby son on his suicide mission.

He planned to smuggle home-made bombs disguised as soft drinks on to passenger jets run by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

The hydrogen peroxide devices would have been assembled and detonated in mid-air by a team of suicide bombers.

Ali singled out seven flights to San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, New York and Chicago that departed within two-and-a-half hours of each other.

Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic would have been left powerless to stop the destruction once the first bomb exploded.

Police said the plot was drawn up in Pakistan with detailed instructions passed to Ali during frequent trips to its lawless border with Afghanistan.

They believe a mystery al-Qaeda bombmaker was responsible for the ingenious liquid bomb design, concealed within 500ml Oasis or Lucozade bottles.

Surveillance teams watched Ali on his return to Britain as he assembled his terror cell, gathered materials and identified targets.

Undercover officers looked on as the unemployed former shop worker used cash to purchase a £138,000 second-floor flat in Forest Road, Walthamstow.

They planted a secret bug that revealed it was converted into a bomb factory where Ali met others to construct the bombs.

The flat was also used as a location for Ali and others to record suicide videos threatening further attacks against the West.

In his video Ali warned the British public to expect "floods of martyr operations" that would leave body parts scattered in the streets.

Ali was watched as he used public phone boxes, mobile phones and anonymous e-mail accounts to keep in touch with mystery terrorist controllers in Pakistan.

On his arrest, he was found to be carrying an elaborate and damning blueprint for the plot scrawled in a battered pocket diary. Airport security arrangements and details of flights, including the seven highlighted services, were discovered on a computer memory stick in another pocket.

All the defendants except Mr Stewart-Whyte, a Muslim convert, admitted conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and will be sentenced next Monday.

The jury took a total of 54 hours and 11 minutes to reach their verdicts in the retrial.

Ali, wearing a dark blue sweater, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out, while Hussain nodded his head as the verdicts were read and shrugged his shoulders as he left the secure dock at the back of the court.

Mr Stewart-Whyte looked to the ground as he was cleared before smiling.

Judge Mr Justice Henriques thanked the jury for their service over the last six months of the trial and encouraged them to attend the sentencing hearing on Monday.

 

 

 

Charges in full

 

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain

Guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft, conspiracy to murder, conpsiracy to cause explosions and conspiracy to cause public nuisance.

 

Umar Islam

Guilty of conspiracy to murder; conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Jury failed to reach a verdict on conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft.

 

Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan, Waheed Zaman

Guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. Not Guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft. Jury failed to reach verdicts on conspiracy to murder.

 

Donald Stewart-Whyte

Not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions on aircraft and conspiracy to murder. Admitted firearms and cannabis possession charge.

    Mass murder at 30,000 feet: Islamic extremists guilty of airline bomb plot, Ts, 7.9.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6824884.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Brothers, 12 and 10, plead guilty to attack on schoolboys

Victims, aged nine and 11,
were robbed, sexually assaulted and burned with cigarettes in Edlington, South Yorkshire

 

Thursday 3 September 2009
13.40 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Peter Walker
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 13.40 BST on Thursday 3 September 2009.
It was last updated at 16.44 BST on Thursday 3 September 2009.

 

Two brothers aged 12 and 10 today admitted carrying out a brutal attack on a pair of young boys during which they tortured, robbed and sexually assaulted their victims.

The brothers – who cannot be named for legal reasons – were in foster care when they lured their victims, a boy aged nine and his 11-year-old uncle, to semi-wild parkland on the edge of Edlington, a former pit village near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, on 4 April this year.

The boys were subjected to what prosecutors at a previous hearing called a "horrific, violent, sustained physical attack" involving bricks, sticks and a noose.

The victims also suffered cigarette burns and were forced to perform a series of sexual acts on each other.

Today at Sheffield crown court, where their case was sent to be tried in the adult judicial system, the pair admitted grievous bodily harm with intent, robbery, and forcing a child to take part in sexual acts.

Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, described the offences as "grave crimes".

The two separately admitted one count each of assault in connection with an attack on another 11-year-old boy on 28 March.

The grievous bodily harm charge was submitted as an alternative to an earlier attempted murder allegation, which the brothers denied.


"It has been explained [to the victims' families] that although the offences are not of the same gravity, the maximum sentence for causing grievous bodily harm with the intention so to do is the same for that of attempted murder," Campbell said.

"Each [family] has understood that the acceptance of these pleas would mean that their sons do not have to give evidence."

The maximum sentence for grievous bodily harm with intent is life imprisonment.

The crime prompted deep shock in Edlington and nationwide, and evoked comparisons with the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger by Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were 10 at the time.

It also raised fresh questions for the children's department of Doncaster council, which was taken over by a new Westminster-appointed management team a month before the attack.

The takeover was imposed after case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven babies and children in the area over a five-year period.


At the time of the attack, the perpetrators had been living with a foster family in Edlington for several weeks, but critics said they should have been in secure care given previous complaints about their behaviour.

The younger victim of the attack was found wandering through Edlington in a traumatised state, with blood on his face and a severe cut on his arm down to the bone.

Soon afterwards, the 11-year-old was found, unconscious and partially naked, at the bottom of a ravine.

Prosecutors believe part of a sink had been smashed against his head. His injuries were so severe that he was taken to hospital by air ambulance and spent two days on a ventilator.

The younger boy told police that he and his uncle had been lured to the Brick Ponds parkland with the promise of seeing dead wild animals.

According to testimony from the nine-year-old – which was recounted to a court hearing several days after the crime and has not, until now, been able to be reported – the attackers then robbed them of money and a mobile phone.

The case was heard in one of the smaller rooms in the crown court and the judge, Mr Justice Keith, wore a suit rather than wig or robes in an attempt to make the setting less intimidating.

The brothers sat in the main section of the court rather than the dock. The older defendant, wearing a dark shirt and tie, and with close-cropped dark hair, spoke clearly and confidently when answering the charges, but at times appeared restless, shuffling in his seat and yawning on a couple of occasions.

His considerably smaller and slighter younger brother, also with dark hair and dressed in white shirt and dark tie, answered the charges more hesitantly and appeared at times to have difficulties following the proceedings. At one point his barrister asked for a pause in the case so matters could be explained to the 10-year-old.

The judge told them the situation was clearly "very strange for you, and I can tell you it is pretty strange for us lawyers to have boys your age in a court like this."

He said the prosecution would outline details of the case at a future sentencing hearing.

With the comparisons to the Bulger case have come questions about whether boys so young should appear in an adult court.

The age for presumed criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10, much lower than in many other European countries.

    Brothers, 12 and 10, plead guilty to attack on schoolboys, G, 3.9.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/sep/03/brothers-plead-guilty-attack-schoolboys

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie Purdy: 'We've got our lives back'

Campaigner triumphant after Lords victory to clarify law on right to die

 

Friday, 31 July 2009
The Independent
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

 

Debbie Purdy, who has dedicated her living days to winning the right to plan her death, made legal history yesterday when five law lords backed her landmark appeal to have the law on assisted suicide clarified.

The 46-year-old campaigner, who has multiple sclerosis, was "ecstatic" after the peers unanimously supported her call for the Director of Public Prosecutions to spell out the circumstances in which her husband or someone in a similar position might face prosecution for helping a loved one end their life abroad.

Having lost twice in the High Court and Court of Appeal, yesterday's decision brought huge relief. Flanked by her husband, the Cuban violinist Omar Puente, and to cheers from her supporters, Mrs Purdy said after the ruling: "I'm ecstatic. I am eagerly awaiting the DPP's policy publication so that we can make sure what we do does not risk prosecution. I think people are beginning to realise now that this is not about a right to die; it is about a right to live.

"It feels like everything else doesn't matter and now I can just be a normal person. It's terrific. It gives me my life back. We can live our lives. We don't have to plan my death."

Responding to the ruling, the DPP Keir Starmer, QC, said prosecutors would start work immediately to produce an interim policy by September, followed by a public consultation before the final policy is published next spring. "This is a difficult and sensitive subject and a complex area of the law," he said. "However, I fully accept the judgment of the House of Lords. The Crown Prosecution Service has great sympathy for the personal circumstances of Mrs Purdy and her family."

The decision will bring relief to scores of people facing similar dilemmas. More than 100 UK citizens with terminal illness or facing intolerable suffering have travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland with friends or relatives to end their lives. No one has been prosecuted but the risk is always there. Under the present law, anyone who helps facilitate a suicide faces up to 14 years in jail.

Giving judgment in Mrs Purdy's case yesterday, the law lords said the DPP should be required to set out an "offence-specific policy", identifying the facts and circumstances that he would take into account in deciding whether it was in the public interest to prosecute under the Suicide Act.

Experts said the ruling meant it was no longer acceptable for the DPP to decide what was a crime on a case by case basis and that after he had set out the principles that would exclude prosecutions for compassionate assistance, the law would effectively have been changed. But the law lords said the ruling did not decriminalise assisted suicide, which was rejected after a highly charged debate this month by peers in the House of Lords sitting as the second chamber of Parliament and not as a court.

Mrs Purdy suffers from progressive multiple sclerosis which could mean she faces an undignified and distressing death. That might be avoided if she were able to travel to Dignitas to end her life peacefully.

Her dilemma was that unless the law was clarified she might be forced to end her life sooner than she planned, while she was still able to travel to Switzerland independently, to avoid the risk of her husband being prosecuted for assisting her. If the risk of prosecution was sufficiently low, she could wait until the very last minute before travelling with her husband's assistance.

The law lords said: "Everyone has the right to respect for their private life and the way that Mrs Purdy determines to spend the closing moments of her life is part of the act of living. Mrs Purdy wishes to avoid an undignified and distressing end to her life. She is entitled to ask that this too must be respected."

Campaigners hailed the victory as bringing an end to the "legal muddle" over assisted suicide. Pressure for a change in the law has grown. The Royal College of Nursing declared this month it was dropping its opposition to assisted suicide and adopting a neutral stance.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: "This historic judgment ensures the law keeps up with changes in society and, crucially, provides a more rational deterrent to abuse than a blanket ban which is never enforced."

    Debbie Purdy: 'We've got our lives back', I, 31.7.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/debbie-purdy-weve-got-our-lives-back-1765339.html

 

 

 

 

 

Man hacked off neighbour's head after hearing voices

Mentally ill Eric Cruz believed his victim was planning to kill his 17-month-old son, court told

 

Monday 27 July 2009 14.51 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Press Association
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 14.51 BST on Monday 27 July 2009.
It was last updated at 14.53 BST on Monday 27 July 2009.

 

A "deeply religious" man hacked off the head of his next-door neighbour and put it in a wheelie bin after he heard voices telling him to protect his toddler son, a court heard today.

Eric Cruz, 32, who has paranoid schizophrenia, launched the brutal assault because of his delusional belief that the neighbour was planning to kill his 17-month-old child.

The Philippines-born biology graduate thought he was on a "mission to protect children" and claimed saints would talk to him, Manchester crown court heard.

Another neighbour claimed he heard the repeated chanting of "voodoo, voodoo, voodoo" from the Cruz household in the hours leading up to the attack.

Patrick McGee, 63, was stabbed 17 times with severe force as he answered the door of his home in Crumpsall, Manchester, on the evening of 15 December last year.

Cruz then slashed at his neck and severed the head, which he carried outside and placed in a bin in his neighbour's front garden.

Just 15 minutes later, Cruz, a warehouseman, dialled 999 and calmly told the operator he had cut off the head of his neighbour.

The court was told Cruz misunderstood his neighbour's friendly nature as intrusiveness, which had "fed into his delusions".

Sentencing him to an indefinite hospital order, Judge Michael Henshell said: "This is a tragic case.

"Patrick McGee had worked all his life. Everything I have heard about him gives me the clear impression he was a kind, gentle man, the perfect neighbour.

"He was welcoming to Eric Cruz and his family when they moved next door to him.

"Tragically Eric Cruz suffered from a mental illness, apparently for some time. He heard voices. He had fixed and firm beliefs that voices were commanding him to do various things.

"He believed he had a mission to protect children and believed it was necessary for him to take the life of Patrick McGee to protect his own child.

"He was driven to that wicked and irrational act by the illness he suffers.

"The nature of that killing was so brutal that the effect on his family will last for the rest of their lives.

"For a kind and gentle man to have his life ended in this way is really unspeakable."

Cruz admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. His not guilty plea to murder was accepted by the crown.

    Man hacked off neighbour's head after hearing voices, G, 27.7.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/27/eric-cruz-hacked-neighbour-head

 

 

 

 

 

Police investigated over notes that could give Gilfoyle murder alibi

 

July 24, 2009
From The Times
Dominic Kennedy, Investigations Editor

 

Prosecutors have been called in to consider charges of perverting justice and official misconduct after The Times found notes that indicate a convicted wife murderer is innocent.

The records, which were undisclosed at Eddie Gilfoyle’s trial, show that a police doctor who examined his wife’s body estimated that she had hanged herself at a time when her husband was away at work.

A chief constable has disclosed that, after The Times published the notes that his force had said never existed, the Crown Prosecution Service was asked to examine criminal sanctions. “Merseyside Police did refer the matter to the CPS to consider the offences of ‘Doing an act that tends to pervert the course of public justice and/or misconduct in a public office’. The advice to date, on the facts known, [is that] there is insufficient evidence to support a prosecution at this time,” Bernard Hogan-Howe, Chief Constable of Merseyside, wrote.

Gilfoyle’s lawyers and a former Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside, Alison Halford, called on Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, last night to order an independent inquiry.

The CPS said it had been asked by police to provide “early advice” rather than a “full file” of evidence. It appointed as adviser a prosecutor from outside Merseyside to ensure that the process was seen to be objective and independent. By contrast, Merseyside Police has declined to call in any outside force.

Gilfoyle, 47, has been behind bars protesting his innocence since 1992, when his wife, Paula, who was 38 weeks pregnant, was discovered hanged in their garage in the Wirral village of Upton.

The handwritten notes have been repeatedly lost and found by Merseyside Police and were not disclosed to a Police Complaints Commission investigator. The documents come from an internal inquiry, conducted by the force soon after Mrs Gilfoyle died, to learn from mistakes made by officers at her death scene. The papers state that the police doctor who saw Mrs Gilfoyle’s body estimated she had died six hours earlier, when her husband was at work as a hospital auxiliary.

During Gilfoyle’s murder trial in 1993, where they might have given him an alibi, they stayed undisclosed. A jury convicted him of murdering his wife, 32, after tricking her into letting him dictate a suicide note.

When in 1994 the Police Complaints Authority asked Lancashire Superintendent Graham Gooch to review the murder investigation, he asked for the notes. Chief Superintendent Edward “Ted” Humphreys, who headed the internal inquiry, said that to the best of his recollection no notes had been taken. His assistant, a detective inspector, recalled taking notes but said that they had been destroyed.

Just before Gilfoyle’s appeal against conviction in 1995, partly on the ground that the notes were unavailable, the papers were located and disclosed to the defence. When The Times asked last year for the notes under the Freedom of Information Act, Merseyside Police said: “Information is held that indicates that no such notes ever existed.”After The Times discovered and published the notes in February, the Information Commissioner cleared the force of intentionally withholding the documents.

Mr Hogan-Howe said in a letter to Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat MP, that the mistake occurred because freedom of information staff had found the old statement suggesting there had never been any notes. The Times understands that the missing papers were found to have been in the possession of Mr Humphreys.

In 1995 the Police Complaints Authority asked Merseyside to investigate possible misconduct but, as he had retired, no further action was considered proportionate. The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it has seen no new evidence to justify a fresh misconduct investigation.

    Police investigated over notes that could give Gilfoyle murder alibi, Ts, 24.7.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6725375.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Former public schoolboy Isa Ibrahim convicted of planning 'carnage'

 

July 17, 2009
From Times Online
 

A former public schoolboy who converted to an extremist strand of Islam and built a viable suicide bomb vest was convicted today of planning “carnage” at a crowded shopping centre.

Andrew Ibrahim, 20, who changed his name to Isa in 2007 after his religious conversion, was arrested after members of the Muslim community in Bristol became concerned about his behaviour and contacted police.

Ibrahim, the son of a hospital consultant, was convicted of making an explosive with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK in April 2008.

He was also found guilty of a charge of preparing terrorist acts by purchasing material to make an explosive, making that explosive, buying material to detonate the explosive, carrying out “reconnaissance” before the act and “making an improvised suicide vest in which to then detonate an explosive substance”.

Ibrahim was given an indeterminate sentence at Winchester Crown Court and told that he should serve a minimum of 10 years.

Flanked by four prison officers, Ibrahim showed no emotion as the jury delivered its majority verdict.

His mother fled the court in tears as the sentence was passed.

Ibrahim's conviction, after a month-long trial, has been hailed as the first visible success for the Prevent element of the national counter-terrorism strategy which tries to enlist the help of British Muslims in the fight against radicalisation.

The alert was raised when an imam contacted a Special Branch officer, who was on a canal boat holiday at the time, and said that he was worried about the young convert’s demeanour and language. He also mentioned seeing burn marks on his hands.

Initially all police had was the first name “Isa” and the fact that he was a convert.

Detectives found Ibrahim — who was homeless for a period after becoming a heroin addict and estranged from his family — within 36 hours at the GP’s surgery where he collected his methadone prescription.

Officers were making inquiries of the staff when Ibrahim walked in and was promptly arrested.

After he was held, police discovered his flat on Comb Paddock, a cul-de-sac in the suburb of Westbury on Trym where he had been manufacturing explosives, wiring detonators and stitching a suicide vest.

A search of the flat in April 2008 revealed a quantity of the high explosive Hexamethylene Triperoxide Diamine (HMTD) in a biscuit tin in the fridge, a crude detonator circuit under the kitchen sink and the vest, with pockets to carry the explosives, hanging on the bedroom door.

Further inquiries revealed that Ibrahim had filmed a test-firing of his explosive mixture and stored the footage on his computer. CCTV footage from the Broadmead shopping centre showed him making a reconnaissance trip during which he made notes in his mobile phone. One piece of text read: “Food Court dense area”.

Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Hazell of Avon and Somerset police told The Times that without help from Bristol’s Muslim communities Ibrahim might not have been caught.

“Without that information I’m not sure we would have ever found him because he was operating alone,” said Mr Hazell.

“If he had done what he was planning we would have had carnage in the centre of Bristol.

“The community convinced me. If the community is uncomfortable, if they have a gut feeling, then I’ve got to go with that.”

The city has a diverse Muslim population — with communities originating in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Iraq, Algeria and Afghanistan — and 11 mosques or meeting houses. Representatives of a number of communities expressed concern about Ibrahim.

Mr Hazell said: “They didn’t like his view of Islam, particularly his praise for suicide bombers and were especially alarmed when he had a heated row with a visiting imam.

“The calls to us came in when he showed some people the injuries on his hands, including marks from shards of glass, which he said were caused when a bottle blew up when he was mixing chemicals”.

Mr Justice Butterfield told Ibrahim that, even though he had not made a detonation device or completed the suicide vest, “your preparation to inflict an atrocity on the innocent civilians of Bristol were advanced”.

“You are a dangerous young man, well capable of acting on the views you held in the spring of 2008.”

He added that he considered Ibrahim to be a “continuing danger” to the public but gave a substantial discount on the minimum term imposed due to the fact that he had acted alone and because of his age.

“You were, in my judgment, a lonely and angry young person at the time of these events, with a craving for attention,” said the judge.

Ibrahim was born Andrew Michael Philip, the younger of two sons of an Egyptian father and an English mother who, although separated, both attended sections of his trial.

Nassif Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian, is a consultant pathologist at Frenchay Hospital who, the court heard, collects antique pottery, stamps, coins and Nazi memorabilia. Ibrahim’s mother, Valerie, works as an administrator at Bristol University Medical School.

The would-be bomber was educated for a period as a boarder at Downside School, near Bath, where Auberon Waugh was a pupil. His elder brother Peter is an Oxford University graduate who is now studying to become a barrister.

But Ibrahim drifted into casual drug use at the age of 12 and by his late teens was a heavy user of heroin and crack cocaine. He told the jury that his mother had asked him to leave the family home after discovering his drug use. At the time of his arrest he was selling the Big Issue to help pay for a £60-per-day drug habit.

In court, Ibrahim denied making a bomb with intent to endanger life. He said that he was making explosives to occupy his time while he struggled to come off heroin.

David Spens, QC, for the defence, asked the jury if his client was “an Islamic extremist intent on carnage and mass murder in the heart of Bristol?” or “a weak, lonely figure living much of his life in a fantasy world” and “a prat”?

The jury’s verdict was that Ibrahim was a would-be terrorist.

Mr Hazell added: “This is the first time that Prevent has led to the thwarting of a suspected terrorist incident and shows the importance of building trust with communities.”

    Former public schoolboy Isa Ibrahim convicted of planning 'carnage', Ts, 17.7.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6714836.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Double jeopardy killer Mario Celaire gets minimum of 23 years jail

 

July 3, 2009
From The Times

 

A footballer who killed his former girlfriend was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years in jail today after becoming the first person in Britain to be convicted of a crime for which he had been previously found not guilty by a jury.

Mario Celaire, 31, was retried because of the abolition of the double jeopardy rule which had prevented anyone from being brought before a court twice for the same crime. The law was overturned in 2005 for cases where “new and compelling evidence” could be produced.

The new evidence against Celaire included a confession to his new girlfriend that he battered Cassandra McDermott, 19, to death in November 2001. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted murder in May more than six years after he was cleared of the crime.

Today he was jailed for life at the Old Bailey with the tariff set at 23 years.

Celaire, a former player for Brentford, was with the non-league club Maidstone United when he was arrested in 2007. He was known to the club’s fans as Mario McNish, having changed his name the year before.

He began going out with Miss McDermott when she was just 15, repeatedly beating her and once throwing her down the stairs.

She dumped Celaire after four years of abuse and met a new man but her ex-boyfriend began stalking her.

A driving instructor told police how he followed her on lessons and said: “He thought that if he couldn’t have her no one else would.”

Miss McDermott was killed while house-sitting for her mother Jennifer, a senior probation officer, at her home in Norbury, south London, while she was on holiday in the West Indies.

Celaire of Sydenham, south east London, had either punched her or pushed her head into furniture, knocking her out. She choked to death on her own vomit.

He claimed in the first court case that Ms McDermott was alive and well when he left her and the jury acquitted him of murder and manslaughter after deliberating for less than three hours.

But in February 2007 he admitted the killing to Ms Hoyte, a part-time model, after she found papers relating to the court case at a flat in Walthamstow, East London. He then flew into a rage and struck her on the head with a hammer.

Doctors thought that Ms Hoyte would die from her brain injuries. But nine months after the attack, despite paralysis down one side of her body and extreme difficulties communicating, she was able to speak to detectives.

Prosecution lawyers applied to reopen the inquiry into Ms McDermott’s killing and successfully got the acquittal quashed in the Court of Appeal.

The ends of the case marked the conclusion of an eight year fight for justice by the family of Miss McDermott.

Sister Andrea McDermott, 30, said: “We knew Mario killed Cassie. Today we have been vindicated. We have had to wait eight years for it - eight years of hell.”

Mother Jennifer McDermott said: “This double jeopardy will give people the chance to say we can go back to fight again, we won’t give up."

    Double jeopardy killer Mario Celaire gets minimum of 23 years jail, Ts, 3.7.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6630525.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Teenager's murder conviction may be miscarriage of justice

Seven new witnesses say Sam Hallam was not at the scene when an Ethiopian chef was killed by gang



Saturday, 13 June 2009
The Independent
By Mark Hughes, Crime correspondent

 

A teenage boy sentenced to life in prison for a murder he says he did not commit could have his conviction quashed after the emergence of new evidence seen by The Independent.

Sam Hallam, from Hoxton in east London, was 17 when he was jailed in 2005 for being part of a gang that beat to death Essayas Kassahun, an Ethiopian chef. But now seven new witnesses have come forward with statements to the Criminal Cases Review Commission suggesting Mr Hallam was not at the scene of the crime, and was instead playing football half a mile away.

An eighth testimony, from a youth worker who sat in on police interviews with teenagers arrested after Mr Kassahun was killed, alleges that three witnesses told police during interviews that Mr Hallam was not at the scene – but that this information was never disclosed to Mr Hallam's defence team.

Neither the police nor Mr Hallam's defence team requested mobile phone evidence which could have helped prove his exact location.

If the CCRC decides the new evidence renders Mr Hallam's conviction unsafe, it can recommend the conviction is quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, in his first interview since conviction, Mr Hallam said: "I am confident the CCRC will realise there has been a mistake because I will not admit to something I did not do."

Essayas Kassahun, 22, was murdered on 11 October 2004, when he intervened as a gang of 15 youths attacked his friend, Louis Colley. He suffered serious head injuries and died two days later. Mr Hallam insisted he was half a mile away, playing football with a friend. But the friend was said to be reluctant to become involved in a police investigation, and did not confirm his alibi. Mr Hallam was later named in a police witness statement by a girl who it is claimed – after hearing rumours that a man called Sam was involved in the attack – changed her original statement to say that Sam Hallam was one of the attackers.

This female witness also passed these rumours to a male witness, a friend of Mr Kassahun's, who subsequently changed his statement, naming Mr Hallam as one of the killers. But, at trial, the girl said she could not be sure Mr Hallam was there, and said: "I was just looking for someone on the spot to blame, really." The male witness said Mr Hallam was "the only white boy I know from Hoxton, so I said it was Sam".

Mr Hallam was sentenced, at the age of 18, to life in prison, and told he must serve a minimum of 12 years. Of his eight co-defendants, two were convicted. Bullabek Ring-Biong, 20, was found guilty of murder, while a 17-year-old was convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm, and violent disorder. After Mr Hallam's conviction, an appeal was launched, but with no new evidence, it failed.

Now a campaign group, led by Paul May – the man who helped free the Birmingham Six and the Bridgewater Four, has contacted witnesses who were not approached for the original trial. Most say they were at the scene, but that Mr Hallam was not there. Two of these also cast doubt on the account of the female witness who named Mr Hallam, saying she was not at the scene.

The CCRC has seen the evidence and has, as well as interviewing Mr Hallam, interviewed the subject of his original alibi, as well as his original solicitor, to find out why he did not call these witnesses. It is possible investigators could also access police notebooks which may provide three other accounts which place Mr Hallam away from the scene.

The CCRC will also seek to access mobile phone records which, if available, could prove Mr Hallam was not at the scene – though these are routinely kept by mobile phone service providers for only one year. Mr Hallam's campaign is confident that, even without these, the witness statements should be enough for the CCRC to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

    Teenager's murder conviction may be miscarriage of justice, I, 13.6.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/teenagers-murder-conviction--may-be-miscarriage-of-justice-1704129.html

 

 

 

 

 

Partner of man killed by Met officers calls for investigation to be made public

Celia Stubbs launches campaign to release police document about death of Blair Peach thirty years ago

 

Saturday 13 June 2009
The Guardian
Paul Lewis

 

Ten thousand people crowded into the East End cemetery on a warm June morning to see his pine coffin lowered into the ground, 30 years ago today.

Blair Peach had been dead for 51 days. By the time the Metropolitan police released the body for burial the anger about what happened to him had spread across the world.

A 33-year-old teacher from New Zealand, he had almost certainly been killed by a police officer, his skull crushed with an unauthorised weapon as he tried to walk home from an anti-fascist demonstration.

The death had transformed Peach, an activist in the Anti-Nazi League, into a political martyr. "I wanted privacy, but in the end I was glad it had become a public event," said Celia Stubbs, his partner of 10 years. Now 68 and living in Brighton, her recollections of that day still bring tears.

Today, coinciding with the anniversary of the funeral, Stubbs will launch a campaign to release a secret police document produced by the Met commander who investigated Peach's death. She is sure it holds the answer to the 30-year mystery surrounding events on a surburban street in Southall, west London, on the evening of 23 April 1979.

John Cass, who retired to live in Wales 20 years ago, has told the Guardian he is not opposed to his findings being made public. Disclosure of the document would finally reveal the names of the officers he considered suspects.

The Peach case was a seminal moment and, like the deaths decades later of Stephen Lawrence and Jean Charles de Menezes, triggered a crisis in policing.

However, it was the death at the G20 protests in April of Ian Tomlinson, the only person since Peach to have died at a demonstration after being attacked by police, that compelled Stubbs to agree to a campaign run by Inquest, the group that advises families of people who die in police custody.

Tomlinson, a 47-year-old newspaper vendor, died of internal bleeding after being hit and shoved to the ground by an officer who has been questioned under caution for manslaughter. He was cremated at the same cemetery where Peach was buried.

"When I saw that footage [of the Tomlinson attack], I instantly drew comparisons," said Stubbs, a former social worker. "Then I thought: aren't police supposed to have changed? It was like history repeating itself. But in 30 years technology has changed every­thing. Suddenly there it was, on film. That would have changed everything in Blair Peach's case. The parallels with Tomlinson make a public interest case for releasing the report."

 

The night he died

Peach had been attending a demonstration against the far-right National Front, which had staged a controversial meeting in the heart of Southall's Sikh community, the night he died. Like Tomlinson, he was trying to get home when clashes broke out between police and protesters. Stubbs also attended the protest, but amid the mayhem they never made contact.

Peach was alone after being separated from his friends at the moment he is thought to have been attacked by a member of Special Patrol Group (SPG), whose officers had spilled out on to the streets from parked vans. Eleven witnesses said they saw Peach hit by at least one officer, and gave consistent accounts of the attacks.

"There were two policemen, one with a shield, one without," one resident, Parminder Atwal, told the inquest. He watched in horror as lines of police chased demonstrators down his street and into his back garden. "As they ran after people, Blair fell; I think he was pushed with the shield, as he was overbalancing the other hit him on the head."

Police left a clearly disorientated Peach on the pavement, and it was left to Atwal and other residents to get him to his feet and offer him water. "He couldn't hold the glass," Atwal said. "His eyes were rolled up and his tongue stuck up. He couldn't speak. He was deteriorating by the minute."

By the time Stubbs arrived at Ealing general hospital, around midnight, Peach was dead. Devastated and in shock, Stubbs was taken to a police ­station, where she was interrogated. "I was in such a dazed state and the police were really bullying," she said. "I felt they were on the offensive, treating me like a suspect. What was Blair's politics? Why was I at the protest? At the back of my mind I already knew they had killed him."

Peach's death sparked an outcry, and national outpouring of grief. Thousands marched past the spot where he died. The night before his funeral 8,000 Sikhs attended his open coffin that lay in state at the Dominion Theatre.

The Met's then commissioner, Sir David McNee, was steadfast in the defence of his officers. At a press conference the day after Peach's funeral, McNee told a black reporter: "I understand the concern of your people. But if you keep off the streets of London and behave yourselves you won't have the SPG to worry about." Stubbs said the failure of the Met's current commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, to acknowledge problems with the Territorial Support Group – the successor to the SPG, now under investigation over Tomlinson's death – is one of a number of disturbing parallels.

Peach and Tomlinson died after being confronted by police forming cordons, or "kettles", before nightfall. In both cases, police were suspected of leaving their victims on the floor.

"Public concerns about police tactics at the G20 demonstration reflect the concerns we had after the Southall demonstration when Blair was killed," said Stubbs. "I hope that lessons have been learnt from Blair's death and that the Tomlinson family do not come up against the blank wall that we did. There must not be a cover-up this time."

Now, as then, the Met stands accused of misleading the public over the actions of its officers. As well as the criminal inquiry into Tomlinson's death, the Independent Police Complaints Commission recently announced a separate investigation into whether police withheld crucial suspicions surrounding his death from the public.

"We've been requesting the report for 30 years," she said. "Perhaps now is the time to help a democratic debate about police powers."

In 1979 the investigation was left to Commander Cass, who said his team of 30 investigators exhausted 30,000 man hours on the Peach case. A pathologist report into Peach's death said his broken skull was not likely to have been caused by a truncheon. Instead, he indicated he had been struck with a lead weighted rubber cosh or hosepipe filled with lead shot.

When Cass raided lockers at the SPG headquarters he uncovered a stash of unauthorised weapons, including illegal truncheons, knives, two crowbars, a whip, a 3ft wooden stave and a lead-weighted leather stick. One officer was caught trying to hide a metal cosh, although it was not the weapon that killed Peach. Another officer was found with a collection of Nazi regalia.

Months later details of Cass's key findings were leaked. He was reported to have identified a team of six SPG officers, at least one of whom he believed must have struck the fatal blow. Recommending charges against the officers, his report was also said to include details of how officers lied to his investigators to cover up the attack.

However, no charges were ever brought, and the following year the coroner at Peach's inquest controversially suppressed the Cass report. The coroner relied heavily on Cass's findings to call and cross-examine police officers, but refused to allow Peach's family lawyers access to the details.

"Our counsel were incredibly hampered because they didn't have the report," said Stubbs. "That contained all the police statements – all the important inside information. So our counsel were cross-examining the police witnesses blind."

The coroner was criticised for inappropriately guiding the jury, discouraging them from being critical of the police. They returned a verdict of misadventure.

For Stubbs the outcome of the inquest was the ultimate betrayal. "Blair's inquest amounted to a posthumous sentence of death upon a man who was on his way home from a demonstration against the National Front and found himself in a trap," she said. "Police chose to go berserk."

 

Settlement

Months after the inquest an independent committee of lawyers and academics on the National Council of Civil Liberties delivered its own conclusions on the available evidence. It said: "The inescapable conclusion which follows from the medical and the eyewitness evidence is that Blair Peach was killed by a single blow deliberately inflicted by a member of Unit 1 or Unit 3 of the SPG."

However, the closest the Met came ever to admitting its involvement in Peach's killing was in 1989, when the force paid £75,000 to his family in an out-of-court settlement. Around the same time, lawyers were permitted to view SPG officers' notebooks, which have since gone missing.

Last year the Met refused a request from a member of the public under the Freedom of Information Act for the Cass report, claiming that releasing it could jeopardise future prosecutions and "cause distress" to Peach's family. Neither Stubbs nor Peach's two surviving brothers, however, were asked their opinion.

"They must know we've been after that report for years and we are not seeking prosecution of officers – just the truth," said Peach's brother Philip, 67. "I was led to believe the Cass report was quite fair and robust, so surely now is the time for it to be made public."

Support for Peach's family seems to be mounting. Last month a Home Office minister told Stubbs the government had "sympathy" with her campaign, but the decision remained with the Met.

On Thursday parliament's joint committee on human rights added its weight in calling for full disclosure of the report, arguing that it would assist its inquiry into policing tactics at the G20 demonstration.

"If Peach's family are willing to see it published, that should be paramount," said Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, the committee's chair. "In our view, our understanding of the background to the policing of protest in London would be assisted if we were able to study this report."

Thirty years on, the six officers said to have been named in the Cass report as possible suspects are unlikely to want details of the investigation unearthed. If they are still with the Met those officers will be nearing retirement and, very possibly, senior ranking officers. There were no responses to attempts by the Guardian to contact them this week.

However, contacted by telephone, former commander Cass, now 84, said he was not opposed to his report being made public, and acknowledged Peach's relatives had been "thinking about this for a lifetime".

"A lot of time has gone by," he said. "But if it was released now I've got no qualms about it."

He added that he had "no animosity" toward the late Sir Thomas Hetherington, who as Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to press charges against SPG officers.

"I suppose I am sitting on the fence. You know, I've still got my loyalties to the Metropolitan police."

    Partner of man killed by Met officers calls for investigation to be made public, G, 13.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/12/blair-peach-police-investigation-death

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Kinsella killers sentenced to life

Three young men told they will serve at least 19 years for murdering 16-year-old schoolboy in London last year

 

Friday 12 June 2009
11.17 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Helen Pidd

 

The three young men who killed 16-year-old Ben Kinsella were today given life sentences at the Old Bailey in London.

Juress Kika, 19, Jade Braithwaite, 18, and Michael Alleyne, 20, from London, were told they would serve minimum terms of 19 years for killing Ben, the brother of the EastEnders actor Brooke Kinsella.

All three of the killers had criminal records and were described by police as "depressingly familiar characters".

After the verdicts were read out, it emerged that Kika had been on the run from police for 10 days after a robbery in which a man was stabbed.

Ben and his friends had been to a bar to celebrate the end of their GCSE exams when a row broke out in Islington, north London, on 29 June last year. Although the confrontation had nothing to do with him, Ben was chased along the street with other youngsters and stabbed to death when he stopped running.He was stabbed 11 times in five seconds by the three youths in revenge for the "disrespect" shown to Braithwaite.

"I am overjoyed," Brooke Kinsella, 25, said after the verdict. "It's awful, awful, but we got all we needed – it's justice. There is never going to be enough justice, but we have got it now."

Her mother, Deborah, 46, told the judge: "We had brought Ben up to always walk away from trouble. This sadly cost him his life ... He walked away to get safely home and they took advantage of that – he was one boy on his own.

"We, as his family, have been left devastated and in total despair. Our whole world has been totally turned upside down."

    Ben Kinsella killers sentenced to life, G, 12.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/12/ben-kinsella-murder-life-sentence

 

 

 

 

 

Three found guilty of Ben Kinsella murder

• Brother of former EastEnders actor was stabbed to death
• Mother tells of wonderful son cruelly taken from family

 

Helen Pidd and agencies
Guardian.co.uk
Thursday 11 June 2009
11.56 BST

 

Three young men were found guilty today of murdering Ben Kinsella, the 16-year-old brother of the former EastEnders actor Brooke Kinsella.

Juress Kika, 19, Jade Braithwaite, 18, and Michael Alleyne, 20, were convicted by a jury at the Old Bailey in London for the murder of Ben whose mother described as a "wonderful son … [who had] values and respected everyone he met".

On 29 June last year he was chased and then stabbed 11 times in five seconds by the three after they believed Braithwaite had been shown "disrespect" by the victim's friends in a pub row in which Ben had played no part.

After the verdicts it emerged Kika had been on the run from police for 10 days after a robbery in which a man was knifed on 19 June. All three of the killers had criminal records and were described by police as "depressingly familiar characters".

The 16-year-old and his friends had been in the Shillibeers pub in Holloway, north London, to celebrate the end of their GCSE exams when what the police described as a "stupid non-event" started that left Braithwaite's pride knocked. Braithwaite had earlier bragged he would "stab people up" with a weapon concealed in his waistband.

As Ben played no part in the confrontation he believed he was safe. When the petty squabble continued out on the street, he and his friends ran away. But Ben lagged behind, and the three men picked him out and chased him.

Cornered between a car and a van Ben pleaded with his killers: "Why are you coming over to me for? I have not done anything."

But sports coach Braithwaite, whose street name was J-man, bragged, "Do you know who I am? I have got a knife, you don't know what I can do with it," before kicking Ben in the stomach.

As he collapsed the trio bent over him and repeatedly stabbed him.

The teenager died a short time later despite surgeons' efforts to save him.

Ben's mother, Deborah, told the Old Bailey judge of the pain that the loss of her son had caused her family. In a statement she said: "The people who murdered him knew nothing about our Ben, not a hair on his head, a bone in his body, not anything about our wonderful son.

"They had never met him before or spoken to him, they just cruelly took his life away with knives for no apparent reason. We had brought Ben up to always walk away from trouble. This sadly cost him his life."

About 400 people joined the family to march against knife crime following Ben's death.

Braithwaite had previously been given a community order for an attempted robbery. Alleyne was a convicted heroin and cocaine dealer who also had convictions for robbery and possession of cannabis. Kika had convictions for cannabis possession, robbery, affray and for restricting or obstructing a police officer.

In her statement, Deborah Kinsella said: "We were a big, happy, loving family. We are one down, one missing. We are hard-working and just wanted the best for all our children in life. There are now just three of us at home.

"We have had to move house because it broke our hearts to not see Ben in his bedroom curled up sleeping and safe in his bed.

"We so miss Ben's love and laughter and most of all the boy thing in our family. Ben was our precious son that we cherished and were so immensely proud of, and by the way we had brought him up …

"No parent or sibling should ever have to go through or see what we have seen with our son. He died in front of us, we then had to visit him in a morgue, the undertakers and finally to bury him. We can now only visit Ben at a cemetery, our beautiful son who so loved life."

Sentencing will take place tomorrow.

    Three found guilty of Ben Kinsella murder, G, 11.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/11/ben-kinsella-murder-guilty

 

 

 

 

 

Six youths from bicycle gang found guilty of murdering schoolboy

 

June 9, 2009
From Times Online
Shaquille Smith

 

A gang of six youths were found guilty at the Old Bailey today of murdering a 14-year-old schoolboy stabbed in a park.

Shaquille Smith was attacked by a 10-strong bicycle gang called the London Field Boys as he sat in the park in front of his home in Hackney, East London, in August last year.

George Amponsah, 19, Godiowe Dufeal, 20, Amisi Khama, 18, all from Hackney, and three 17-year-olds - Freddie Amponsah, Kadean Dias and Leon Atwell - were found guilty of murder.

Shaquille had been sitting with a 16-year-old girl and a boy on the warm evening instead of doing the dishes at home. His mother had let him off his daily chores because she thought he would be safe with the older girl, said Aftab Jafferjee QC, for the prosecution.

But the gang came into the park near London Fields soon after the trio arrived. Mr Jafferjee said: “On the night, they were operating as a roving gang of youths with violence on their minds.”

Within a short time, the friend had to run away, the girl was cut across the neck and face and Shaquille was killed.

"He was an utterly blameless boy who said nothing and did nothing to anyone in the park to cause offence, let along justify being murdered,” Mr Jafferjee said.

“Ordinarily at that time in the evening, that boy would have been doing the dishes but, as he was with the girl, his mother did not call him back into the house, confident that he would complete that chore before going to bed.”

The target of the gang was allegedly the 17-year-old friend, who had been challenged about his brother, the court heard.

Mr Jafferjee said that when he confirmed his identity, one of the gang told him: “Well, you are getting it.”

When the friend ran off with his dog, the attackers turned on Shaquille and the girl, the court heard.

Shaquille was the 25th teenager killed in the capital in 2008.

The six were remanded to July 10 for reports before sentencing and Judge David Paget warned they would all be given life terms.

He said: "I have to bear in mind not just the age of Shaquille but bear in mind his total innocence."

He praised Shaquille’s family for its dignity during the trial. Shaquille’s mother, Sandra Maitland, said in statement to the court:

"A knot is in our hearts that will not undo. A light has been dimmed and put out of our lives. We never had a chance to say goodbye."

    Six youths from bicycle gang found guilty of murdering schoolboy, Ts, 9.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6463889.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Amateur boxers beat millionaire Frank McGarahan to death

 

June 9, 2009
From Times Online
Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent

 

Two amateur boxers pleaded guilty today to beating to death a millionaire who tried to intervene to help a stranger.

As chief operating officer of Barclays Wealth, Frank McGarahan, 45, had some of the world’s richest people among his clients and managed assets worth £133 billion.

He had been in Norwich celebrating a christening and, in the early hours of the morning, intervened when he saw a group attacking a tramp.

Two members of the gang, Tom Cowles, 22, and his brother Ben, 21, then turned on him.

Mr McGarahan, a father of two, was held in a headlock, punched in the head several times and knocked to the floor.

One of Mr McGarahan’s brothers, Tony, was in Norwich Crown Court today as CCTV footage of the incident was played.

It showed Mr McGarahan being attacked but managing to get to his feet. He then staggered around before collapsing and lying motionless on his back.

It also showed Mr McGarahan’s brother, Kevin, being punched to the floor and lying motionless. Mr McGarahan’s cousin, Sean Ryan, was seen being punched to the floor as he tried to help.

Mr McGarahan, of Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, died the day after the attack in September last year.

Mark Dennis, QC, for the prosecution said that Mr McGarahan had intervened after witnessing a group of youths attacking a man “of down-and-out appearance” and, with his brother and cousin, had approached the group with caution.

They asked what was going on and the CCTV footage showed them approach with “non-aggressive intent”. They were met with abuse and told to “F*** off or you will get some”. He said one of the group of youths had tried to justify the attack on the down and out by saying: “You don’t know what he has done. He has got what he deserved.” Mr Dennis said that Kevin McGarahan had then called the group of youths “cowards”.

Shortly afterwards, Ben Cowles, a pipe fitter, “took a run” at Mr McGarahan and punched the banker in the head, Mr Dennis added.

Cowles then attacked Kevin McGarahan, punching him in the head, before punching Frank McGarahan again.

Mr Dennis said: “It was a blow which was followed a few seconds later by Frank McGarahan’s sudden and dramatic collapse.”

Today the Cowles brothers, who were members of Norwich Lads Amateur Boxing Club, admitted manslaughter. They had denied murder.

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, told the court that he thought the prosecution’s decision to accept a guilty plea to manslaughter was sensible and appropriate.

However, he said that he understood that the decision to accept the plea would have been difficult for prosecution lawyers and for Mr McGarahan’s family.

Sentencing was adjourned until later this month and the brothers were remanded into custody.

At the time of Mr McGarahan’s death his family issued a statement, describing him as a fair-minded man who could not stand by as someone was being attacked.

“He tried to break it up and paid with his life,” it said. ”He paid the ultimate price for trying to be a good citizen.”

The statement went on: “Everyone who knew Frank remembers him as a caring, kind, considerate, generous and funny man. He was a fantastic father to his two young beautiful daughters, a loving husband to his wife, a big-hearted son to his mum and dad and a brilliant brother and uncle. He was simply a great family man.

“We will never understand how or why anyone could murder such a decent, caring and loving man. We will never comprehend it or truly recover from it.”

    Amateur boxers beat millionaire Frank McGarahan to death, Ts, 9.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6462805.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Conman Glenn Rycroft 'murdered lover over £5,000 debt'

 

June 9, 2009
From Times Online
Adam Fresco, Crime Correspondent

 

A prolific gay conman murdered his married lover after his victim became suspicious that he was plundering his bank account, a court heard today.

Glenn Rycroft had previously conned family and friends out of £200,000 by pretending he had a brain tumour and needed expensive treatment and also getting them to invest in a bogus investment scheme.

The former British Airways steward admitted admitted 25 charges of obtaining money by deception in December 2003.

Today the Old Bailey heard that Gareth MacDonald, 30, a married father of three, left his wife to start a relationship with Mr Rycroft, 33, but began to suspect that he was being robbed in 2007.

The couple endured a stormy relationship and in September 2007 Mr Rycroft reported that he had found Mr MacDonald’s body in a Travelodge they had been staying in.

Mr Rycroft claimed he had left early in the morning and returned later to find the corpse.

But today Crispin Aylett, QC, for the prosecution, said: “The defendant murdered Gareth MacDonald by hitting him twice over the head with a fire extinguisher.

“Inside the room, Gareth MacDonald was lying face down on the bed. There was blood everywhere as a result of two large, curved cuts to the back of Mr MacDonald’s head.

“The weapon was still close at hand. On the floor, by the side of the bed, was a blood-stained fire extinguisher. Gareth MacDonald had obviously been struck with the base of the fire extinguisher. He had been struck with such force that he was already dead.”

The prosecution claim Mr Rycroft killed Mr MacDonald, from Prestatyn, north Wales, after he threatened to expose him over money that had gone missing from his account.

The pair were on the way to meet an aunt and uncle of Mr Rycroft so he could pay them back £5,000 he owed them at the time of Mr MacDonald’s death.

Mr Aylett described to the jury how, before meeting Mr MacDonald the defendant had conned friends and family out of £200,000, none of which has been recovered.

In September 2000 he had convinced friends and family to invest in a “British Airways Investment Bond” and they were promised returns of between 10 - 15 per cent, the court heard.

Several people gave him a total of £144,000, including two women who gave him their life savings to invest. Two months later he took unpaid leave and then resigned from his job, claiming he had a cancerous brain tumour, the jury heard.

To make out he was receiving chemotherapy he shaved his head and told one investor, his brother-in-law, that he was being insensitive asking for his money back, it was said.

He also told close family and friends that he needed expensive medical treatment only available in Australia and they rallied round, giving thousands of pounds they could not afford, the court heard.

But the whole thing was a charade, the jury were told.

Mr Aylett said that all the while Mr Rycroft was living the high life and travelling around the world. In just over a year, he said, he took eleven holidays, to Florida, Bahamas, a golfing holiday in Portugal, to America and in July 2001, on the pretext of getting treatment, went to Australia with two friends, staying in expensive hotels.

Mr Aylett said it was important the jury knew the truth about Mr Rycroft so they could decide on the character of the man when assessing his claims.

“This defendant has shown himself to be rather more than a common or garden liar. He is, you may think, rather a good one. He persuaded a number of friends and relatives to part with money in what must have been a convincing investment scam.

“I suggested earlier that you might think that killing Gareth MacDonald to avoid having to meet his aunt and uncle might be regarded as rather an extreme step to take. On the other hand, this is a man who was prepared to claim to have cancer in order both to make money and, no doubt, avoid being revealed as a fraudster.”

Mr Aylett told the jury: “The fact that the defendant has behaved dishonestly in the past does not make him guilty of murder. On the other hand the prosecution suggest that it is open to you to take account of this evidence in assessing the truthfulness or otherwise of this defendant and the lengths to which he is prepared to go in order to keep his head above water.”

Mr Rycroft, from Rhyl, Holywell, Clwyd, North Wales, denies murder.

The trial continues.

    Conman Glenn Rycroft 'murdered lover over £5,000 debt', Ts, 9.6.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6463825.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Two sentenced to life in prison for stabbing French students to death

• Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez knifed more than 200 times
• Jack Straw apologises for 'grave failings' in handling of case

 

Alan Travis, Owen Bowcott and Audrey Gillan
Guardian.co.uk
Thursday 4 June 2009
17.56 BST
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 17.56 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.
It was last updated at 18.41 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.

 

Two men were sentenced to life today after being found guilty of the savage murder of two French students who were tied up in their London flat, tortured and stabbed 244 times.

Prosecutors described as "an orgy of bloodletting" the attacks in June last year by Dano Sonnex, 23, from Peckham, and Nigel Farmer, 34, of no fixed address. The bodies of Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were found after an explosion sparked by the murderers setting fire to the flat in New Cross, south-east London.

Sonnex will serve a minimum of 40 years and Farmer a minimum of 35 years.

At the time of the murders Sonnex was out on parole under probation supervision after serving an eight-year sentence for violence and robbery.

Bonomo's mother, Lydie, said her son would still be alive today if not for the blunders of the criminal justice system that let Sonnex go free.

The justice secretary, Jack Straw, has apologised in person to the families of the victims and in February accepted the resignation of London's chief probation officer over the "grave failings" in the handling of the case. Official internal probation and police inquiry reports published alongside the verdicts today identify a series of "serious management failings" by probation staff, the police and nearly every other part of the criminal justice system.

Straw said that as justice secretary he took full responsibility for the failings of the probation service. "Sonnex could and should have been in custody at the time he committed these murders," he said. "It was the consequence of very serious failures across the criminal justice system that he had not been arrested and incarcerated some weeks before."

The supervision of Sonnex was left in the hands of a newly-qualified probation officer who was struggling with a caseload of 127 offenders in the understaffed Lewisham probation office where nobody had more than two years' experience.

Among the blunders was the failure to identify Sonnex as a high-risk offender, that it took 33 days for a warrant to be issued to send him back to prison, that the courts mistakenly released him on bail, and that even then the police failed to go and look for him until the day of the murders.

On sentencing, Mr Justice Saunders told the Old Bailey the pair had only escaped being jailed without chance of parole for the "truly horrific" murders because of their young age.

He told the killers: "The misery and suffering that you have caused cannot be measured. These are the worst crimes I have ever had to deal with and, unhappily, no punishment that I can pass can ever bring any real comfort to the families.

"Only you two know exactly what happened, why it happened, and which of you bears the greater blame."

At least half of the 12 jury members were in tears as they listened to the prosecutor read out victim impact statements by the fathers of the two boys and one of their mothers. Both men and women dabbed their eyes and some struggled to compose themselves.

Guy Bonomo's statement addressed his son's killers directly. He said: "We have sat in court for the last six weeks, hoping for answers, trying to find out what happened to our children. But you have lied in court and have refused to tell the truth. This is what we have been waiting for. Without knowing what happened that night and why, we cannot move on and find peace. I ask you again, why?"

Francoise Villemont, Ferez's mother, said: "How to carry on, to live and survive after you have lost your murdered child in such inhuman conditions. He died suffering in such a way; I could never forget what was done to him. This barbaric act is indescribable and inexcusable. No human being deserves such a death. To die for so little gain does not make any sense to anybody."

The jury was told that both of the accused were habitual users of drugs, including crack cocaine, and Sonnex had a long history of violence. During the trial each blamed the other for the killings.

Sonnex had been jailed for wounding with intent and robbery in 2003 and released on licence in February last year. He was subsequently arrested for handling stolen goods and had his licence revoked. Sonnex told the court he was back in custody for "four or five weeks tops".

At the start of the trial Sonnex admitted one count of burglary, which Farmer denied. Both pleaded not guilty to murder, arson, false imprisonment and trying to pervert the course of justice.

Farmer chewed gum impassively as he listened to the jury foreman say that he had been found guilty on all six charges by a majority of 11 to one.

Sonnex's face was fixed in a frown that he cast downwards, only intermittently lifting it to look at the jury. As he was led from the dock he stared at Laurent Bonomo's father and shrugged his shoulders before going down to the cells.

In his statement released at the end of the trial, David Scott, the former chief probation officer of London who resigned over the case, said that "probation risks becoming a Cinderella service unless urgent attention is paid to its workload, over which it has few effective controls, as well as to its absence from key decision-making about policy and resources".

He said the murders filled him with regret: "I took full responsibility for the performance of the staff that I led, and tendered my resignation as soon as it was clear that failings in the probation service were partly to blame for allowing the crimes to take place."

Harry Fletcher of Napo, the probation union, said blaming individuals avoided the acceptance of political responsibility. "Ministers should either fund the criminal justice system and allow probation officers to do their job properly or stop claiming they are protecting the public. Probation did receive additional funds over the last decade but it did not result in extra probation officers."

Since the Sonnex case an extra 60 probation officers have been drafted into London with a further 80 to be recruited this year. An urgent assessment is being undertaken by the chief inspector of probation, Andrew Bridges, on the rest of London probation.

Only three years after the similar Monckton murder case caused a national outcry, probation chiefs insist that work with high-risk offenders in specialist probation public protection units across the capital has improved. But the failure in this case – where Sonnex was wrongly categorised as a medium-risk offender – shows little improvement in general probation work in London.

    Two sentenced to life in prison for stabbing French students to death, G, 4.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/04/french-students-murder-bonomo-ferez1

 

 

 

 

 

Life for rapist left free to attack women after police blunders

• Kirk Reid may have been responsible for 100 attacks over 23 years
• Judge says 44-year-old could have been caught sooner

 

Thursday 4 June 2009 14.58 BST
Guardian.co.uk
Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 14.58 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.
It was last updated at 14.58 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.

 

A serial rapist who went unchecked for years because of police mistakes was jailed for life today.

Kirk Reid, a women's football referee who police believe was responsible for more than 100 attacks in 23 years, was told he would serve a minimum of seven and a half years in prison before being entitled to apply for parole. The judge criticised early police investigations – which left Reid, 44, free to stalk the streets – and said Reid could have been caught sooner.

Reid, of Colliers Wood, south London, was sentenced for 28 attacks on 27 women, including two rapes. He admitted two indecent assaults.

The rapes took place in 1995 and 2002, and the series of indecent assaults took place between August 2001 and October 2007.

He also admitted two counts of possessing indecent images of children on his home computer. But the judge at Kingston crown court said she was convinced Reid's offending went back to 1984. He admitted raping a woman at that time in evidence but it was not included as a charge.

"You have been committing these serious violent offences against women since 1984, and that means that your false self and your behaviour is deeply entrenched within you," Judge Shani Barnes said.

"To say you have a hostility to women is stating the blindingly obvious. It is not just a deep-rooted hostility against women, it is something very dark and very dangerous."

Detectives believe the 44-year-old was a prolific attacker and continue to investigate whether he is behind a further 71 assaults. Police sources believe that more than 100 women could have fallen victim to Reid.

Most of his victims were between the ages of 20 and 40 but Reid's youngest victim was 17 and the eldest a 61-year-old woman. The attacks include the rape of a woman Reid grabbed on the street in March 2002 and the rape of a woman in a flat in 1995.

Reid focused on the route of the 155 night bus along the A24 corridor in south London. The bus service is used by many people heading home from central London and passes several tube stations.

He waited until his victims walked into quiet side streets and they were often outside their homes when he grabbed them from behind.

The Metropolitan police was forced to apologise to Reid's victims after it was disclosed he was not arrested until four years after he became a suspect.

Officials at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are investigating blunders that allowed him to remain free for so long.

Reid was the second serious sex attacker to slip through the police net, and the case highlights investigative failures in London. A second inquiry is under way into how taxi driver rapist John Worboys, who drugged and attacked his passengers, evaded detection.

Both cases led to a shakeup of the way rape and serious sexual assaults are investigated within the Met.

    Life for rapist left free to attack women after police blunders, G, 4.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/04/kirk-reid-serial-rapist-life-sentence

 

 

 

 

 

Murder or suicide? Eddie Gilfoyle's 16-year fight to clear his name

 

Gilfoyle hopes that new evidence about his wife's death will lead to his vindication
Eric Allison
Guardian.co.uk
Thursday 4 June 2009 14.07 BST
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 14.07 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.
It was last updated at 14.07 BST on Thursday 4 June 2009.

 

It could be a run of the mill family get-together: a devoted sister and her husband calling in on her brother to update him on the recent graduation of their children. They sit in comfortable chairs around a small table and, over coffee, proudly show him pictures of the event.

But this is no ordinary family gathering. The meeting is part of an odyssey that began 16 years ago and will continue until the prisoner, Eddie Gilfoyle, is cleared of a crime he says he did not commit; a crime which his supporters say was never a crime in the first place. In a twist of fate, the brother-in-law, Paul Caddick, is a former police sergeant who spent a career building up cases against criminals. He has now used the last decade-and-a-half dismantling the evidence that convicted his wife's brother of murder. Gilfoyle was jailed for life in 1993.

In the evening of 4 June 1992, 33-year-old Paula Gilfoyle was found hanging from a beam in the garage of the family home in Upton, Wirral. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Her husband, Eddie, had earlier returned from work to find Paula missing and a suicide note in the kitchen. The marriage had been through a difficult period and, believing the note to mean Paula was leaving him, Gilfoyle drove to his parents' house to seek advice. He returned with his parents and Paul Caddick who, finding the keys to the garage, made the gruesome discovery.

When other police officers arrived at the scene they had no doubt the death was a suicide. A detective constable cut the rope and laid the dead body on the floor. He later told investigators that his action was taken to "preserve her dignity". Whatever the reasons, the officer's actions prevented an accurate reading of the body temperature being taken, which could have established the time of death, a factor that was later to be crucial. A subsequent police review of the response to the death criticised the cutting down of the body, stating that the action possibly destroyed valuable evidence. The report also criticised the lack of photographs of the body and the scene.

Following Paula's death, members of her family approached the police saying they did not believe she had taken her own life. In particular, two of her friends said that Paula had told them that her husband was doing a course on suicide at work – he was a hospital technician – and he had asked her to write suicide letters, which he dictated. No such course existed and Gilfoyle has always denied telling his wife that it did. Gilfoyle was arrested and a murder investigation began.

The hearsay evidence of Paula's friends was not used in court, but there is little doubt that it influenced the police to treat the death as murder. They took the suicide note to Professor David Canter, a pioneer of criminal profiling in the UK, who judged it to be fake. Although Canter's evidence was not put before the jury at Gilfoyle's trial, it formed part of the prosecution case – and was used in the opening address by the crown. Canter believes his opinion influenced the CPS. Following Gilfoyle's conviction, Canter embarked on research into suicide notes and now believes his original opinion was wrong. He now says the note was "written, unaided, by Paula and is consistent with a very real determination to kill herself".

At 11am on the morning of Paula's death, a wine canvasser, Maureen Brannon, called on the Gilfoyles. She left the house at 11.20am. Whatever happened afterwards, there is no doubt that Eddie Gilfoyle was at work – an eight-minute drive from home – at around 11.30am, when two of his workmates recorded seeing him arrive. He had alibis for the rest of the day and the prosecution's case was that he killed his wife before leaving for work.

Nineteen days after Paula's death, on 23 June, a forensic scientist, Phillip Rydeard was at the Gilfoyle home with the police. In a later statement, Rydeard said he discussed the possibility of finding other significant evidence, "such as ropes". Later that day a piece of rope was discovered tied into a slipping noose in a drawer in the garage. This, the prosecution said, was a "practice noose" used by Gilfoyle. On the same day, a local woman, Maureen Piper, told police she had spoken to Paula in the local post office at 12.40pm on the day she died.

After the murder conviction, a member of the Merseyside Police Complaints Authority reported concerns over the force's handling of the case and a detective chief superintendent from Lancashire police, Graham Gooch, carried out a reinvestigation. He interviewed PC Cartwright, who conducted a search of the garage four days after the death and reported: "PC Cartwright is adamant that the rope was not there at the time. He recalls looking into the drawer in which the rope was subsequently found and it was not there."

A Trial and Error documentary on Gilfoyle's case was shown on Channel 4 in 1996, and the programme-makers were then sued for libel by a police officer. The case came before the high court in 2002 and Channel 4 mounted a defence based on their belief that the Merseyside police investigation into the murder of Paula Gilfoyle was fundamentally flawed. The case was settled out of court. Channel 4 accepted that the officer had not behaved corruptly.

Afterwards, the two barristers who acted for Channel 4 wrote to the Criminal Cases Review Commission expressing their concern at the conviction. Desmond Browne QC and Matthew Nicklin wrote that the failure to allow the jury to consider the evidence of Maureen Piper, in itself, "renders the verdict unsafe". They listed nine alleged flaws by Merseyside police in their investigation into the death and expressed their "real and substantial concerns about the safety of Gilfoyle's conviction".

In a report to the CPS, dated 13 July, DCI Baines, the officer in charge of the investigation, wrote: "a witness claims to have seen Paula in the post office at Moreton on the afternoon of her death. However, it was Paula's sister, Susan, who was in the post office." On 9 October, 1992, the CPS wrote that they had put Piper's evidence in the unused material because "the police believe she is mistaken and that it was indeed Susan Dubost in the post office. Accordingly, it appears Piper is mistaken in regard to her recollection."

Piper did not give evidence at Gilfoyle's trial. But she is still adamant that she saw Paula Gilfoyle the day she died. She says a friend was with her at the time and confirms her conversation with a pregnant woman. Piper also told two other friends, the day after the death, that she "saw her yesterday in the post office".

Speaking to the Guardian in 2005, Piper said the idea of her mixing up the two sisters, as suggested by the police, was ridiculous. "I have known them all their lives and, in the first place, they don't look alike and second, one was eight-and-a-half months pregnant," she said. "How could I be mistaken?" In his first police interview – before Piper came forward – Eddie Gilfoyle told police that his wife was intending to go to the post office that day.

Despite her certainty about the sighting, Piper believed Gilfoyle to be guilty at the time of her interview. She had heard rumours that he had left his place of work during the day and believed he had killed his wife in the afternoon.

Former police officer Caddick believes other people may have seen Paula that day, either in the post office, or the Upton and Moreton locale. "Paula had an antenatal appointment, which she failed to keep, at a clinic yards away from the post office; other people may have seen her, without realising the significance of the sighting," he said. Caddick urges anyone who saw Paula Gilfoyle on the day she died to come forward, even if they have already spoken to the police.

Dr Bernard Knight is a retired professor of forensic pathology. He says that, with the single, possible, exception of the Roberto Calvi case, he had not come across an instance of murder by hanging in 38 years' practice. He says it would be virtually impossible to hang a conscious person against their will without leaving marks indicating a struggle. There were no such marks on Paula's body.

Gilfoyle's case has twice been referred back to the court of appeal, but his claim to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice has been rejected.

Alison Halford was deputy chief constable of Merseyside when Gilfoyle was convicted. She retired soon after and now advises the Conservatives on home affairs. She has taken an interest in Gilfoyle's case and has visited him in prison. She says his case has been "screaming out for justice for over 16 years" and says she will continue to work for his release and to find out "why Merseyside police treated him so shabbily". She also calls for "those responsible for his wrongful conviction to be called to account". Ironically, Halford was responsible for promoting Paul Caddick to sergeant and describes him as a "fine officer who has lost a career because of the Gilfoyle case".

Gilfoyle's lawyer, Matt Foot, believes his client has been let down at every stage of the criminal justice system and that there is nothing safe about his conviction. "The more you look at his case, the more doubt emerges and his case is one of the oldest miscarriages of justice," he said.

Gilfoyle says the worst factor of his wrongful conviction, and the 16 years he has been in prison, is that he has never been allowed to grieve for his wife and unborn child. " I loved my wife and it torments me to know that people believe I could have harmed her. Our child, a daughter, would have been 16 now and every day I wonder how she would have turned out," he said.

    Murder or suicide? Eddie Gilfoyle's 16-year fight to clear his name, G, 4.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/04/eddie-gilfoyle

 

 

 

 

 

12-year-old girl gave birth after being raped

Teenage childminder to be sentenced after admitting attack

 

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
Guardian.co.uk
Wednesday 3 June 2009
16.02 BST
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 16.02 BST on Wednesday 3 June 2009.
It was last updated at 16.02 BST on Wednesday 3 June 2009.

 

A girl aged 12 gave birth after being raped as an 11-year-old by her teenage childminder, a court has heard.

The girl is from West Lothian and cannot be named for legal reasons. The high court in Glasgow heard today that she was raped by her childminder, Jason Middleton, in September 2005 when he was 16.

Middleton, now 19, from Grangemouth, at first denied having any sexual contact with the girl but DNA tests confirmed he was the baby's father.

He pleaded guilty to rape and was bailed and immediately placed on the sex offenders register. He faces sentencing next month.

The court heard that the baby is in the process of being adopted.

Middleton's defence lawyer, Richard Goddard, told the court: "My client was deprived of a normal upbringing. He had no moral framework. He had almost non-existent parental guidance."

Jennifer Bain, the prosecutor, told Judge Rita Rae QC that the rape took place when Middleton was left alone with the girl. "She gave birth to a daughter in 2006. The child was conceived before her 12th birthday and she became a mother at the age of 12," Bain said.

"When the accused was taken to a police station and questioned he denied having any sexual contact with the girl."

The girl had considered suicide because of her ordeal, the court heard.

    12-year-old girl gave birth after being raped, G, 3.6.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/03/girl-gave-birth-after-rape

 

 

 

 

 

Baby P mother and stepfather jailed for toddler's death

• Killing could have been prevented, official report says
• Stepfather also jailed for raping two-year-old girl

 

Friday 22 May 2009
12.28 BST
Guardian.co.uk
James Sturcke and agencies

 

Baby P's mother was jailed indefinitely today for causing or allowing her son's death, as an official report said the killing "could and should have been prevented".

The mother was told she would serve a minimum term of five years.

Her boyfriend, 32, was given a 12-year sentence at the Old Bailey for his role in the killing of Baby P, now named as Peter. To run concurrently, he was also given life with a minimum term of 10 years for raping a two-year-old girl.

Jason Owen, 37, from Bromley, Kent, a lodger at the same home as the pair, was given an indeterminate sentence and told he would serve a minimum of three years.

Due to the time the mother has already served in custody, she could be eligible for parole in August 2012. Her boyfriend cannot be released until August 2017.

Neither Peter's mother nor her boyfriend can be named for legal reasons. Peter was 17 months old when he was found dead in a blood-spattered cot in August 2007 with a broken back and fractured ribs.

He had more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over eight months. "You are a manipulative and self-centred person, with a calculating side as well as a temper," the judge, Stephen Kramer, told Peter's mother.

The sentencing came as a second review, by the Haringey safeguarding children board, said doctors, lawyers, police and social workers should have been able to stop the situation "in its tracks at the first serious incident".

Even after Peter was put under a child protection plan, his case was regarded as routine "with injuries expected as a matter of course". Agencies were "lacking urgency", "lacking thoroughness" and "insufficiently challenging to the parent".

The review found that agencies "did not exercise a strong enough sense of challenge" when dealing with Peter's mother and their outlook was "completely inadequate" to meet the challenges of the case.

Peter's mother showed no emotion in the Old Bailey until her boyfriend was sentenced to life. Her mouth fell open as she appeared to mouth "No". As she was led away, a woman's voice called out "fucking tramp".

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP in Haringey, welcomed the sentence and the second report. "The guilty have at last been punished, but we still cannot rest until we fully understand how this poor little boy suffered so terribly, and for so long, under the noses of Haringey's children's services."

Featherstone praised the rigour of the second serious case review. "The first serious case review either showed clear incompetence or was a cover-up," she said. "This one could not be more different from the first. It says exactly what we should have learnt at the start of this awful tragedy: Haringey council, health professionals and the police all failed to protect Baby Peter from three individuals who set out to harm him."

The judge told all three defendants that "significant force" had been used on Peter "on a number of occasions".

"Whatever the truth of what took place and the role and motivation of each individual, the result was that a child died in horrific circumstances with injuries that can only have caused great pain and distress prior to his death."

Peter's mother wrote a letter to the judge from prison that was read aloud in court yesterday.

In it she apologised for the pain and suffering she had caused and begged her family, including Peter's natural father, for forgiveness.

"I have lost all I hold dear to me. Now every day of my life is full of guilt and trying to come to terms with my failure as a mother," she wrote.

"I punish myself on a daily basis and there is not a day that goes by where I don't cry at some point."

Peter's natural father told the Old Bailey yesterday of his horror at the knowledge that the little boy suffered months of pain, fear and loneliness before his death.

He said his life had become a "living nightmare" since losing his son.

In a victim impact statement, the father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told of the moment he was confronted with his son's lifeless body in a north London hospital. "He appeared to be asleep, and I just wanted to pick him up and take him home. But there was nothing I could do for him.

"I kissed him on his forehead and said goodbye. My son was gone forever."

Peter's death sparked an outpouring of public anger and led to strong criticism of the social workers, police officers and health professionals responsible for protecting him.

Five employees of Haringey council in north London were sacked, including the children's services director Sharon Shoesmith, and the General Medical Council has suspended two doctors involved in the case.

    Baby P mother and stepfather jailed for toddler's death, NYT, 22.5.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/may/22/baby-p-jail-mother-stepfather

 

 

 

 

 

Dano Sonnex admits tying up French murder victim

 

May 19, 2009
From Times Online
David Brown

 

A burglar accused of the sadistic murder of two French students dramatically changed his evidence today and admitted that he had helped to tie up the men before they were stabbed to death.

Dano Sonnex, 23, told the Old Bailey that he had climbed into the flat in New Cross, South London, while Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez were still alive.

He described tying up Mr Ferez while a friend bound Mr Bonomo.

Mr Sonnex had previously insisted that he had not entered the flat before both men were stabbed almost 250 times in what has been described as an “orgy of bloodletting”.

At the opening of his defence Mr Sonnex claimed that he had been acting as a lookout while a friend burgled the flat in the early hours of June 29 last year. After hearing shouting he was called into the flat to “give a hand”.

Mr Sonnex told the court that it was against prison rules to name someone accused of wrongdoing, although it was acceptable to describe what they had done. However, it was clear that the friend he referred to was his co-accused, Nigel Farmer, 34.

Mr Sonnex told the court: “I climbed in. To my right was Gabriel Ferez. He was sitting on the futon in his pants and he was talking French very, very loudly.

“My friend had Laurent Bonomo. He was on the bed. He had his hand around his neck and was pushing his head into the pillow, shouting aggressively ‘stay down, stay down’.

“Gabriel Ferez was very, very edgy. Just sitting there.

“[My friend] said: ‘Grab that one’. I grabbed him around the neck and did exactly what my friend was doing with Laurent Bonomo, so he was face down.

“He was struggling but he was not fighting back.

“I realised [my friend] had started to punch Laurent Bonomo in the face because Laurent Bonomo was struggling. There was numerous amounts of punches.”

Mr Sonnex said that Mr Farmer then pulled items out of a cupboard and told him to tie up Mr Ferez, 23. He described tying the Fenchman’s wrists with a pair or tights and his ankles with another piece of material.

“My friend started to tie Laurent Bonomo,” Mr Sonnex told the court. “Laurent Bonomo said something about his girlfriend. My friend said ‘keep on thinking about your girlfriend, keep on thinking about your girlfriend’.”

Mr Sonnex claimed the friend then searched the flat and passed him some mobile telephones, Sony PlayStation Portables and a bank card belonging to Mr Bonomo, 23.

“I asked him for the PIN number of the card,” Mr Sonnex told the court. “He was very compliant and he said ‘yes’ and gave me the number.

“My friend kept on saying ‘keep on thinking about your girlfriend and you will be all right’. I left the flat and told my friend to keep on searching.”

When asked why he had informed his barrister only yesterday that he was changing his account, Mr Sonnex replied: “I thought that the jury would not believe that I did not kill those people.

“It is better to be truthful. I wanted to tell the truth and let the jury decide. I did not kill those people.” Mr Sonnex had earlier claimed that both he and Mr Farmer burglars and drug dealers.

On the night of the murders Mr Farmer had been robbed of his cash and drugs at a nightclub and wanted to make back the money he had lost, Mr Sonnex told the court.

Mr Farmer had attempted to burgle a flat occupied by Laila Morse, who plays Mo Harris in the BBC soap opera EastEnders but had been scared off, he added.

Mr Sonnex, from New Cross, has pleaded guilty to burglary at the apartment on the day of the killings.

Mr Farmer denies the charge.

Mr Sonnex and Mr Farmer, of no fixed address, each deny murder, false imprisonment, and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The trial continues.

    Dano Sonnex admits tying up French murder victim, Ts, 19.5.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6320399.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Guang Hui Cao guilty of murdering young Chinese couple in Newcastle

 

May 19, 2009
From Times Online
Nico HInes

 

A Chinese man collapsed in court today as he was found guilty of brutally murdering two graduates in their home in Newcastle.

Guang Hui Cao, 31, fainted after the foreman announced that the jury had agreed unanimously that he had tied up, beaten and killed the young couple last summer.

The court heard that he tricked his way into the home of Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang, both 25, to try to steal the hundreds of thousands of pounds that they had made selling forged qualifications and in an internet betting scam.

Cao, a restaurant worker in Morpeth, stood motionless in glasses and a white T-shirt in Newcastle Crown Court until the prosecution said they were pressing for a full life tariff. Proceedings were halted and an ambulance was called when he suddenly fell to the ground, apparently unconscious, with his eyes rolled back and his head lolling to one side.

When the hearing resumed Cao was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 33 years.

He had pretended he wanted to sub-let a room in the couple’s flat in Croydon Road, but once inside he murdered their pet cat and subjected the pair to a frenzied and sustained attack.

Known by their anglicised names of Kevin Yang and Cici Zhou, they were discovered by friends two days after they died on August 7, last year.

Miss Zhou was found lying face down on a bed. Her killer had bound her wrists with tape and then hit her over the head with a heavy weapon, possibly a hammer.

A piece of towelling was stuffed into her mouth, which had been taped shut. She had suffocated around 90 minutes after the ordeal began.

Mr Yang was discovered in the other bedroom, having been hit with a hammer in the face and head. His throat had been slashed after he had lost unconsciousness.

The court heard that the couple were involved in a lucrative internet betting operation which saw £233,000 pass through their bank accounts in three years.

Mr Yang was involved in sending information from live football matches to Chinese gamblers who benefited from a TV time delay of several seconds, allowing them to bet on events already knowing the outcome.

He also supplied fake education certificates and other documents to Chinese students who wanted to enrol on education courses in the UK, or get jobs on returning to China.

After the murder, Cao changed his clothes and fled from the property with laptop computers and mobile phones which linked him to the couple.

The phones were found dumped in a nearby park by two boys, with the batteries and SIM cards missing.

They were handed to police after the murders were featured on the Crimewatch programme and police discovered phone contacts between the couple and Cao.

He was arrested at his home and police discovered a speck of Mr Yang’s blood on Cao’s glasses, while more blood was found in two recesses of Cao’s watch.

In his defence, Cao claimed he had been blackmailed into unwittingly helping to set up the couple’s deaths after threats were made to his family in China.

He said he was in the flat at Croydon Road when they were killed, but was tied up and locked in the bathroom.

Cao had claimed that masked gunmen burst into the house and killed Mr Yang because he made someone “unhappy” with his behaviour.

He said he was afraid to contact police because he was frightened that his parents would be harmed if he came forward and because he had stayed in the UK illegally after his student visa expired in 2003.

Miss Zhou came to Britain as a student in June 2005, while her boyfriend arrived in 2003 and met her in Newcastle after he studied English and accounting in Cardiff.

The couple have been buried together in China. Their families watched the trial with an interpreter through a video link.

Miss Zhou’s father, Sanbao Zhou, said he felt “as if the sky had fallen on us” when he heard about his daughter’s death.

“We nurtured her for 25 years and now she is suddenly gone. Words alone cannot possibly convey the harm that has been done to our family.

“There is an ancient Chinese saying: ’The most suffering one can go through in one’s life consists of losing one’s mother when one is still young, losing one’s wife in the prime of one’s life and losing one’s children in one’s old age.'

“This is especially true when one’s child has been murdered. For us, anger and sadness is mingled together.”

Mr Yang’s mother, ShuZhen Qu, said: “This person did not just kill two people, he has killed two families. If this had not happened, we expected our son to return to China and the lives of our entire family would have been very different.

“We have now been sentenced to go to hell. Our family will never be able to have any future generations."

    Guang Hui Cao guilty of murdering young Chinese couple in Newcastle, Ts, 19.5.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6320063.ece

 

 

 

 

 

'Freedom? It's lonely'

When Sean Hodgson's conviction was quashed after 27 years in prison,
he may have thought his nightmare had ended.
But, as Aida Edemariam reports,
it has only been the beginning of a long and painful struggle to come to terms with what happened to him

 

Wednesday 29 April 2009
The Guardian
Aida Edemariam

 

I first met him on a Saturday night, in Soho. My boyfriend and I were just turning off Shaftesbury Avenue when we passed a pale, thin man sitting alone on a step. Blood was running down the side of his face. We stopped, and turned back. Was he OK? We didn't get much of an answer. He kept raising a hand to touch the wound, but he didn't seem to have any comprehension of what it was, or how it had got there. He threw up. We called an ambulance, and tried to chat with him while we were waiting. His words were so slurred it was hard to make out much of what he said. And then we asked who he was.

Along with a man called Stephen Downing, Sean Hodgson holds the dubious record of being the longest-serving victim of a miscarriage of justice in Britain: 27 years, plus, in Hodgson's case, another year or two on remand - nigh on 30 years. The night we first met, he had been out of prison for three days.

And he had been drinking, yes - but when we meet again it becomes clear that most of the physical impairments I first noticed were not the result of alcohol. The pallor was prison pallor: a brief walk round a prison yard every few months and prolonged periods of illness have left him completely drained of colour. A robust 6ft and 13st at his trial, he is now fragile, sinking curved into a sofa as if his bones can no longer take responsibility for his shape. And there's the nervous energy: although his body is otherwise unnaturally still, one leg swings independently, constantly, with the regularity of a metronome.

His speech is slurred because of the many drugs he has to take - drugs for depression, drugs for schizophrenia, drugs for angina (he has had three heart attacks, brought on, he says, by hunger strikes), drugs to deal with the after-effects of treatment for prostate cancer, drugs for the pain caused by keyhole surgery on his shoulder - but he is more compos mentis than he at first seems. His answers are direct, monosyllabic, often leavened by a sly humour.

We talk in an airy Notting Hill hotel, when he has been out of prison for four weeks. In that time he has received one benefit cheque, for about £180, and a one-off discharge payment of £46, or just over £1.70 for each year of his sentence. Unsurprisingly, this has run out.

"What are you living on?"

"Fresh air."

"How are you eating?"

"I'm not eating. "

"Surely you must have something."

"I have coffee."

"What are you going to have for lunch today?"

"Coffee."

Hodgson was the second child in an Irish family from Wexford who moved to a village near Durham when he was about four. When he was seven, he told a journalist just after his release, he was abducted and raped by a man who hanged himself in jail before his trial. Hodgson's father refused to take him back, so he says he was partly raised by his grandparents. His parents died while he was in prison, but his grandmother, now 107, is still alive. "She curses the English. Because of what they've done to me." He moved to London, did casual work, often on building sites, and funded an increasingly serious drug habit through petty crime. He is still impressed that he could drive 60ft cranes under the influence.

He was arrested about a year after the 1979 rape and murder of Teresa De Simone because he seemed to have inside knowledge of the case, and because he confessed. The confession was upheld because his blood type matched that found at the scene - even though it was a common blood type, and even though it soon emerged that he had confessed to hundreds of other crimes, some of which had never been committed. In court he pleaded not guilty, and refused to enter the witness box. "Because I am a pathological liar." When he was sentenced to life, he says now, he was "sad. Sad and glad. Because I know that if I hadn't gone to prison then, I'd have been dead now, from the drugs."

He says he refused to let his girlfriend of five years visit him. "I didn't think I'd ever get out of prison, so I told her to go and live her own life." What did she say to that? "She never said nothing. Had a little cry, I suppose." Later he says that she has never married, and that she has been in touch since his release. Will he go to see her? His voice drops so low that the words are hardly coming out at all. He has begun to wring his hands. "I don't want to. Brings back memories."

"The first year was hell." He almost growls the word. There were hunger strikes, spells on suicide watch. He spent months on hospital wings, and eight years in the 80s, he says, in Broadmoor, because "I heard voices." The last, long stretch he served at HMP Albany, where, he says, his cell measured 8ft by 4ft. He never did any education, took on no work, did no group therapy or remedial training, because "by going on them courses you're admitting guilt. If you do anything it says you're guilty." Unwilling to brave the melee of the canteen, he ate his meals in his cell, which contained a bed, a desk, and, latterly, a budgie called Paul; he says he spent his days listening to Radio 4, especially the plays; reading the Guardian, which he would cadge off the Quaker minister every morning; and novels, especially Jeffrey Archer. Wake-up was at 7am, and lock-up at 7pm. "They only let you out of your cell three times a night. Press the computer and it lets you out for five minutes to get hot water, go to the loo, whatever you want to do." He spent 22 hours of every day alone. "You've got to keep strong. You've got to persevere." And what kept you going? "My appeal."

One day he responded to an ad for Julian Young's law firm in Inside Time, a newspaper for those incarcerated at Her Majesty's pleasure; unusually, Young's office wrote back. He is still impressed that they actually came into the lifers' centre for a sandwich and a cup of tea. DNA testing had not been available when he was convicted but when, in 1998, defence lawyers asked whether the Forensic Science Service still had exhibits from the trial, they were told they had been destroyed. Rag Chand, a barrister who worked with Young on the case, had a gut instinct that this was wrong and spent four months tracking them down. Swabs taken from the victim's body and tapings from her clothes and car were eventually found in a forgotten archive on an industrial estate in the Midlands. They were tested and came back negative. Hodgson was not told until the samples were retested and the results absolutely sure. Then his appeal was rushed through, and on Wednesday 18 March 2009, he walked hesitantly out on to the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice, accompanied by his brother.

Lifers who admit guilt go through a few years of preparation for their release: they are given parole, are able to work outside the prison, to put housing and income in place; they can retreat to the prison whenever the outside world gets too overwhelming. Those who have never admitted their guilt very rarely get parole, and thus receive none of this. So Hodgson was taken immediately to the housing and benefits offices - where it transpired that someone had stolen his identity and he no longer had a national insurance number, meaning that officially he did not exist. His MP had to intervene to sort that out.

With his brother he had his first pint and cigarette as a free man. Although they had spoken twice a week throughout his incarceration they hadn't actually seen each other for over 10 years, because, he says, his brother couldn't afford to travel to the prison. After their drink, his brother went back to his hotel, and the next morning, home, to work a night shift. And then he was on his own.

According to Gordon Turnbull, the psychiatrist who debriefed Terry Waite when he returned after nearly five years as a hostage in Lebanon and has since made a speciality of the subject, the very least Hodgson can expect to be dealing with is severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition develops, as he describes it, when physical and emotional trauma imprinted on the right hand side of the brain cannot be transferred to the left hand side of the brain, where experience is processed, because "the left hemisphere will actually reject material that doesn't make sense". (In left handed individuals it's the other way round.) Hence, in a prison situation, "someone who's guilty can just send the information across and say, 'Yeah, I did it, fair cop.' And then the brain can settle down." But in someone who isn't guilty, "you get a lot of flashbacks": unresolved, unprocessed experience that will repeatedly offer itself up, not as in normal dreams, but with all the intensity of the original damage.

There is a measurable scale of suffering. In the case of people who have experienced a natural disaster, where no one person can be blamed, 5% will still have active PTSD after a year. With rape, the figure is 75%, and with torture, it is virtually 100%. This is the level Turnbull would expect Hodgson to be at even if he didn't have the complicating factors of schizophrenia and years of drug use (though about the former he notes wryly that even perfectly normal people can begin to hear voices if they have suffered enough sensory deprivation). The army routinely requires that full-time soldiers returning from combat go through a specialised reintegration process, because otherwise 40-50% of them will have active PTSD in a year's time; innocent people sentenced to life receive nothing of the sort. There is the further issue that surviving in hostage conditions - or being innocent in prison, where the person is effectively the hostage of the state - requires specific conditioning and adaptation. When they emerge "they need to be actively rewound in order to survive. Not everybody does."

"Feeling safe is the most important thing of all," says Turnbull. "When people feel safe they change physiologically and they begin to be able to recover properly. Stress damages the brain. It damages the USB [computer] cable, as it were, between the hemispheres. But it's a temporary damage. When people don't recover it's because they continue to be stressed." All it would take, he says, is a couple of weeks to begin with - in a completely safe place, staffed by people who understand the specific nature of what he has been through. Despite the best efforts of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, or Mojo, which has been campaigning for years for the funds to build a specialist retreat in which to prepare the just-released for re-entry into society, there is currently no such place. I ask Turnbull if Hodgson's experience so far will delay his healing. "It's going to make it virtually impossible for him to recover."

Instead, he is under the care of the Royal Courts of Justice Citizens Advice Bureau miscarriage of justice service. The service assesses prisoners while they are still incarcerated, organises room and board and access to benefits when they get out, registers them with a GP, refers them to counsellors, and to solicitors who can help them fight for compensation. In practice, as Young, and the various charities who campaign on the issue point out, they do their best, but it isn't nearly enough, especially when it comes to mental health support. The service has a psychiatrist on its advisory group, who makes an initial assessment and a referral within the NHS. But there are well-documented delays in mental health provision throughout the NHS to start with, and, as the chief executive of the service, James Banks, recently admitted that "with the level of support they need, they will often have to access that privately, and because of the delays in the compensation process they don't have the resources for that".

In the meantime, Hodgson is being housed in hotels for the long-term homeless. This one, on a gracious street drifting with pink blossom, looks clean, bright and comfortable, and Hodgson is very pleased to be in a room two-and-a-half times the size of his previous cell (he says he was taken to see a studio flat in Fulham which he refused because it was smaller than his cell). But this is already his second berth: at the last hotel, an alcoholic tenant was being paid by a TV production company to try to broker a deal to do an interview with Hodgson. The man was told in no uncertain terms, by Young and by the hotel owner, to desist, and Hodgson was moved. In this hotel, many of the guests don't speak English. Others are not well. As we are talking, in reception, a young man wanders in, talking incomprehensible English. "He's stoned," says Hodgson. "The doctor gives him pills, but he takes them all at once." The man wanders out again, singing Happy Birthday.

So Hodgson spends a lot of time in his room watching Sky, for which he paid £9. "It's a novelty!" Didn't he watch TV in prison? "I couldn't afford to get a TV. I only got £3.50 a week. They take a pound off for your television and you've only got £2.50. What can you do with £2.50?" He finds it particularly useful when he needs to self-medicate - when thoughts of prison crowd in, and he needs to distract himself. During the day he takes long walks through Hyde Park, savouring the open space, even though the long years in bleak surroundings and foreshortened vistas have damaged his eyes' ability to focus and his perception of colour.

He was most overwhelmed by the traffic; how much there was, how fast. How did it make you feel? A pause. "Scared." Was it difficult to cross the street? "Sometimes." He sounds exhausted. "It's all right now. I soon learned to press the buttons."

And life is expensive. "£2.60 for a little cup of coffee. Starbucks. Its everywhere, isn't it? Everywhere! I've never seen it before." He is disconcerted by the rearrangement the West End has undergone in his absence - the pubs he navigated by, Ward's in Piccadilly - "it's all gone. It's strange. The chemist has moved over the road, and a theatre's moved into the chemist's. It's crazy."

Nevertheless, on the Saturday after his release, he went out on the town. And what did you do? "Got knocked down by a taxi!" He laughs, as if it is a weird sort of achievement.

Some friends, from before his time in prison, had taken him into town to celebrate a 21st birthday, Ireland's victory over Wales in the Six Nations and, presumably, Hodgson's release, and they bounced from pub to pub, buying him double shots of Jack Daniels. At some point they became separated, and he was walking unsteadily down Shaftesbury Avenue when a taxi, apparently pulling over to avoid a police car, knocked him over with its wing mirror. And that was when we first crossed paths.

Was it a good night? "Apart from falling down." A smile struggles through his face. "It took me three days to recover." He says it with a touching bravado, as he did on the night, when we asked him what he'd been doing. "I drank 10 pints!"

I had asked the paramedics to make sure he got home safely, and it seems that after they stitched his face up they put him in a cab. It was reported the next day that all he had received so far was £46. It cost him £30 to get to his hotel.

The story somehow appeared in the tabloids a couple of days later. Hodgson says a Mirror journalist had been following him since his release. "He just followed me, taking photographs. Making up a story. He went there and he did this. Chatting to this person, chatting to that person." How did that make you feel? "Rotten. He stopped for a while. On Saturday he was camped out there again. I never went out."

Generally he has been pleased with how people have reacted to him, though to be honest it doesn't seem that the bar was set particularly high. "They aren't scared of me or anything like that." Why scared? "They would have been if I'd still been convicted. Or if I'd come out a different way. If it had been quashed on a technicality." In fact, says Turnbull, this is an extra burden the wrongfully convicted often face. "Unlike hostages, they don't have the advantage of being welcomed back as heroes." The relative absoluteness of DNA evidence is a great help for Hodgson, but often "there is the attitude of, 'No smoke without a fire.' For instance, with the IRA bombing campaign [the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven] there was the feeling of, 'Well if they weren't involved in that, they were involved in something else. Public sympathy isn't as great. It makes it all the more difficult to reenter the society that has slammed them up."

And it simply exacerbates the fact that Hodgson, and the others like him, are caught in a corrosive double-bind. The system has failed them absolutely. They cannot trust anyone related to it - and yet, on release, they need the system's help: its psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers and police. It is a destabilising position from which to encounter the peculiar loneliness of freedom.

It isn't surprising, then, that Hodgson already misses aspects of prison. "I miss the crowds. Always been used to having crowds around me for the last 27 years - well, 31 years. And you got to go to bed at a certain time, and you've go to do this, and you've got to do that ... I don't miss it, but I don't know where it's all gone. It's so liberal outside. Nobody tells me to go to bed here. I can go wandering the streets all night if I want." And do you? "No. I go to the shop maybe. There's an all-night shop round the corner." Are you finding freedom kind of lonely? The leg, still for a while, begins rocking, rocking. "I am, yeah." Did you expect that? "I expected it to be different. And it is different." He chats to the people on the hotel desk. When he can think of nowhere else friendly to go, he turns up at Young's office.

In what I take to be something of an understatement, he says his mood is "up and down". When it's up, "I just go to the pub, and laugh and joke in the pub." Does he feel anger? "I'm angry at the system. How can they keep a man in prison for 27 years knowing that he's innocent?" How does he deal with the anger? "Just go to my room. Watch TV or distract myself with the radio." His voice is weary, a monotone. A couple of times he has felt so depressed he has called a crisis line. But it was busy, he says. "So I just went to bed."

John McManus, who as co-founder, with Paddy Hill, of Mojo, has dealt with case after case like Hodgson's, and has warned him to expect tears at the most inappropriate times. "Their emotional self is frozen. They suppress all emotion, because in prison to show any emotion would be to show weakness. So when they come out they might find themselves in a relaxed position, and all of a sudden for no reason they'll be in tears and they don't understand it. I've watched them all and they all follow a pattern. I haven't known any who haven't either been suicidal or wanted to go into jail after a year. I guarantee he'll be saying the same in a year's time."

It's partly the depression. "They've only had one vision through all those years. That goes out the window. Suddenly they have no personal goals. They don't know what to do with themselves. Once you've reached your Everest, there's only one way to go and that's down." Then there's the point, "usually about nine months after they come out, when they suddenly realise how much they've lost. There's a big hole in them and it goes right through their stomach. Suddenly they have this feeling of loss that is so great that their anger wants to burst out. But instead of explode they implode. They use alcohol to blank out memories and horrors. They die of heart attacks. They isolate themselves away from society. They don't want to be reminded of what they've lost."

Then there's the issue of compensation. Trustworthy allies, already difficult to find, are even more so when there's a lot of money involved. Even family can be swayed by knowing someone who may come into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Hodgson is already building his emotional defences against the onslaught - and testing out the unfamiliar feeling of choice. "I'll be driving a car next week. I'll go out and buy one. Possibly this time next week I'll have a Range Rover."

But first he has to get the money. It isn't automatic - it has to be applied for. The government capped the amount at £1m for cases where the person had served over 10 years (it's £500,000 below that), but Hodgson may be able to get more because of the mistake over the forensic samples, which added 11 years to his sentence. These applications take time: some clients of the Royal Courts of Justice miscarriage of justice service have already been waiting for more than six years. Young estimates that Hodgson's case will take at least a year - not counting the separate suit against the Forensic Science Service, which appears to be denying ever speaking to the police about the case. So for a year, he will have just benefits.

Then, when compensation is finally paid out, the government, unbelievably, docks room and board, or "saved living expenses" calculated on the basis of what a frugal person might have spent on their own upkeep if they were free. "As if you voluntarily popped into the local prison," says Young, contemptuously. "Yes, it would have cost them something to live - but you've taken their liberty. If you can afford £50bn to bail out a bank you can afford to compensate someone for 27 years in prison." McManus estimates that Hodgson will pay a minimum of £100,000 for the privilege. The appeal was paid for by legal aid, but it does not cover the process of applying for compensation. And so he will have to pay legal fees too.

"It's like [the state is] projecting some of the responsibility back on to the individual," says Turnbull. "As if he should have made a better job of proving his own innocence and not allowed the system to make the mistake it did. It's like accusing a rape victim of being provocative, spreading the responsibility beyond those who should be taking it. He should have been set free immediately, compensated magnificently and put through a system to restore him to as near his normal self as possible, and yet none of things are happening."

In their absence, Hodgson has come with his own modest recipe for healing. All he really wants to do is leave London. He wants to go up to Yorkshire - with or without a Range Rover - and find "a bungalow with a bit of land. And keep rare breeds of sheep." And there, alone, try to forget.

    'Freedom? It's lonely', NYT, 29.4.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/apr/29/sean-hodgson-release-prison

 

 

 

 

 

Plumber's mate Jake Fahri found guilty of murdering Jimmy Mizen, 16

 

March 27, 2009
From Times Online
Steve Bird

 

The man who fatally injured the schoolboy Jimmy Mizen by hurling a glass bowl at him during a fight was today found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Jake Fahri, 19, was ordered to serve a minimum of 14 years for killing the 16-year-old former altar boy by hurling an oven dish with full force into the boy’s face, at a southeast London bakery in May last year. When the glass shattered on impact, a shard severed the boy’s jugular and an artery to the brain before embedding itself in his spine.

Jimmy, who was 6ft 2in tall and described as a "gentle giant", bled to death in his brother’s arms.

His large family applauded as the verdict was delivered but they soon fell silent, weeping and comforting each other. His father, Barry Mizen, later appealed for people to come together and help to stop Britain from "becoming a country of anger".

In deciding on a guilty verdict, the jury rejected the claim by Fahri, a plumber’s assistant who had a history of violence and who had been expelled from school for bullying, that he was acting in self defence.

Only now can it be revealed that Fahri had four previous convictions; two for robbery - one of which involved a knife - a burglary and a ruthless assault on a teenage girl. On each occasion he avoided a young offenders’ unit, instead receiving supervision orders and referrals.

Fahri showed no emotion as he was sentenced, but as he was taken to the cells he called out: "I will be all right, mum, I’ll be all right" to his weeping mother in the public gallery.

Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said: "A trivial incident over absolutely nothing in a high street bakery ended three minutes later with the death of a blameless young man."

He said that although Fahri had two clear opportunities to walk away from a row in the shop, he went back to cause serious harm to Jimmy, who he felt had "disrespected" him.

He told Fahri: "You carried out your intention so successfully that you killed him, depriving a loving family of a son and brother."

But the judge added: "The court accepts you did not intend to kill your victim and that you are a very young man."

The judge praised the Mizen family for the dignity they showed in court and for the "clear and moderate" way in which they had worded their impact statements to the court.

Outside court, Barry Mizen's voice cracked with emotion as he said it had been a privilege to be Jimmy's father. "I want to thank God for Jimmy, thank God for his life. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have been his parents," he said, with his wife and youngest son, George, standing by his side. "This country stands apart from other countries. This is a country of civility and a country of fair play, fairness, and a country of safety. We are rapidly losing that.

"We have become a country of anger, of selfishness and of fear. It doesn’t have to be like this. Let’s together try and stop it."

On May 10 last year, the day after his 16th birthday, Jimmy and his brother, Harry, 19, went to a nearby shop in Lee, southeast London, to buy his first lottery ticket. They moved on to the Three Cooks bakery, where they encountered Fahri.

The man barged past Jimmy before swearing at him and trying to goad him into a fight for not moving immediately out of his way. Jimmy, a rugby player, stood his ground and Fahri, feeling he had "lost face", struck out, hitting him on the head with a soft-drinks bottle.

As the fight escalated, Fahri was pushed across the shop floor and punched into a corner by the brothers, who then forced him outside and locked the bakery doors. But Fahri, described by one witness as being "furious" and "berserk", smashed the shop window and, wielding a heavy metal sign, attacked them again.

Jimmy grabbed hold of the sign and began to prise it from his attacker’s hands - at which point Fahri grabbed a large Pyrex-style oven dish and threw into the boy’s face.

After the attack, Fahri emerged from the bakery smirking and swaggering, despite having seen the serious injury he had caused, witnesses said.

Tommy Mizen, 27, arrived at the scene and chased his brother’s killer, who ran to a friend’s home. When Tommy returned to the bakery, he found a scene which one witness said was similar to a bloody horror film. Samantha Pampling, a 17-year-old assistant at the shop, was screaming hysterically while Jimmy had tried to seek refuge in the shop’s storeroom. When Tommy managed to get inside, Jimmy collapsed in his brother's arms. Tommy eased him down to the ground and yelled for someone to call an ambulance.

Those who went to Jimmy’s aid tried to stem the bleeding with tissues and hand towels, but to no avail, and Jimmy bled to death. When his mother arrived at the scene, she fainted. When she came to she summoned a priest.

The prosecution claim Fahri’s anger was also fuelled by the fact that he recognised Jimmy’s brother, Harry, as the schoolboy who had twice got him in trouble with his school; once after Fahri had mugged him for 20p and on another occasion for beating him up in the street. Jimmy had six brothers and two sisters.

Part of Fahri’s defence was that the boys ganged up on him, but the jury rejected his claims as witness after witness gave evidence showing that Fahri was clearly the aggressor.

    Plumber's mate Jake Fahri found guilty of murdering Jimmy Mizen, 16, Ts, 27.3.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5986659.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Baby OT dies after doctors stop treament

 

March 21, 2009
From Times Online
Times Online

 

A seriously ill baby died today after his parents lost a legal bid to overturn a ruling giving hospital staff the power to stop medical treatment keeping him alive, the parents' solicitor said.

The nine-month-old boy, known only as OT, died shortly after 10am following the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment by the Trust, said solicitor Christopher Cuddihee of Kaim Todner.

The parents said: "During his short time with us OT became the focus of our lives.

"We were present during his last moments, together with O's extended family.

"He died peacefully. We will miss him greatly and wish to say that we are proud to have known our beautiful son for his brief life."

Two Court of Appeal judges yesterday refused the parents permission to challenge a ruling by Mrs Justice Parker which gave the hospital treating the boy the right to stop medical treatment keeping him alive.

The parents said after the decision they understood their baby's treatment would be withdrawn today and said: "We plan to enjoy what little time we have left with our son."

OT had a rare metabolic disorder and had suffered brain damage and major respiratory failure.

His parents, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said only one other child with their son's condition had been identified by modern medicine and they added: "We are all in unknown territory."

In a statement issued through Mr Cuddihee after the decision, Mr and Mrs T said they were "deeply distressed" by the court's ruling to allow doctors to take their "only and beloved son" off the ventilator which was keeping him alive.

They said relationships with doctors and staff at the hospital became "very difficult" at the end of last year when medical staff wanted to withdraw treatment while they felt they "had to fight to ensure that he is given every possible chance".

Mr and Mrs T said there were "lots of issues which still worry us" but added: "We think we did the right thing even though we were repeatedly told it was hopeless and that we were being irresponsible in not following the medical advice that he should be allowed to die."

The parents, who could not face hearing the decision yesterday and waited outside the court, went on: "We are and always will be convinced that despite his desperate problems his life is worthwhile and is worth preserving as long as it is possible to do so without causing him undue pain.

"That was the real argument between us and the doctors - they think his life is intolerable and that his disability is such that his life has little purpose; but we, along with some of the nurses, believed that he experiences pleasure and that he has long periods where he was relaxed and pain free.

"Our belief in his humanity and inherent worth justified us taking every step to support him."

But Mr and Mrs T said that despite "all the problems and creeping mistrust" with the medical team, and the fact that they disagreed "profoundly" with the doctors, they wanted to put on the record that for a substantial period the hospital staff "have strived to support him and keep him alive".

"We have been and remain enormously grateful to the National Health Service for the huge effort and massive cost that has been involved in OT's battle for life," they said.

Referring to the parents during the hearing at the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Ward said the judges were "not unmindful of the horror of their predicament".

He said he would like to have addressed the parents personally but asked their lawyers to pass on the message that although the hearing seeking permission to appeal had been conducted "in a brusque, uncaring, unfeeling way on a crude issue of law", he wanted to tell them it was impossible not to feel the "deepest sympathy for their predicament".

"One has great respect and admiration for them," he said.

The NHS trust involved, which, like the child and his parents, cannot be identified on the orders of the courts, had argued OT had no prospect of recovery and that he suffered intolerable pain as a result of his treatment and condition.

OT's parents fought the trust's application for a declaration that withdrawal of treatment was in the child's best interests.

They wanted doctors to keep him alive as long as possible, so long as that did not cause him unacceptable suffering.

Lord Justice Ward and Lord Justice Wilson said they would give their reasons for rejecting permission to appeal at a later date. There was no further avenue of appeal for the parents.

    Baby OT dies after doctors stop treament, Ts, 21.3.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article5949666.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Prisoner has murder conviction quashed after 27 years

Appeal court corrects miscarriage of justice
as new DNA evidence quashes Sean Hodgson's conviction
for rape and strangling of barmaid Teresa de Simone in 1979

 

Wednesday 18 March 2009
15.21 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Sandra Laville, Sam Jones and Matthew Weaver
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 15.21 GMT on Wednesday 18 March 2009.
It was last updated at 15.32 GMT on Wednesday 18 March 2009.

 

A man who spent almost three decades in prison for crimes he did not commit had his conviction for rape and murder quashed by the court of appeal today thanks to a DNA analysis that could have established his innocence a decade ago.

Sean Hodgson, now 57, was sentenced to life in 1982 for the murder of Teresa de Simone, a 22-year-old gas board clerk and part-time barmaid.

De Simone's partly clothed body was found in the back of her Ford Escort by the Tom Tackle pub in Southampton, where she worked, in December 1979. She had been throttled to death with her gold crucifix necklace.

Hodgson made various confessions to police before pleading not guilty at his original trial at Winchester crown court. His defence team argued that Hodgson, who has mental health problems, was a pathological liar and his confessions were false.

He was convicted on the basis of his confessions and matches of blood type with samples found at the scene. No assessment of his mental state, or his apparent obsession with confessing to crimes he had not committed, was made.

Last week, Hampshire police reopened the murder inquiry after new analysis of DNA evidence from the scene did not match a sample from Hodgson. Such tests were not available at the time of his conviction – DNA evidence was not used in a British court until 1986.

Following the force's comprehensive forensic case review, evidence was passed to the Criminal Cases Review commission, which referred it to the appeal court and said there was a "real possibility the court would consider the conviction unsafe and quash it".

However, it emerged in court today that Hodgson could have been freed in 1998 when his legal team asked the Forensic Science Service to review the exhibits in the case. But they were wrongly told that the exhibits had been destroyed, and an investigation has been launched by the forensic science regulator.

Frail and pallid, Hodgson stood on the steps of the high court supported by his brother, Peter.

When his solicitor asked whether he would rather go back inside the court, he pointed to the press pack, saying: "I want to go down there."

To cheers and applause, he made his way slowly down the steps. When asked how he felt, he replied, in a barely audible voice: "Ecstatic. It's good to be out."

Asked what he made of the revelation that he could perhaps have been freed a decade ago, he said: "Disgraceful."

Around him, members of his family and legal team were in tears. "I've had a dream for 27 years — I know it's a hell of a long time," his brother said as he thanked the lawyers. "Now it's finally coming true."

A statement issued by Hodgson's solicitor, Julian Young, said his client was relieved that his innocence, which he had maintained for so many years, had been confirmed.

"Sadly, the mother of the victim now has to face the possibility and distress of the circumstances of the case being reopened," he said. "At a time when the criminal justice system is under scrutiny, it is gratifying to see all parties co-operating to rectify a serious miscarriage of justice."

Young also spoke of the mistake that had cost Hodgson a decade in prison. "Ten years ago, someone in the Forensic Science Service, perhaps by accident, made an error of some sort ... as a result, he stayed in custody 10 years longer," he said.

Indicating that further action for compensation was under consideration, he said: "Whether Forensic Science have liability in respect of an error 10 years ago is a matter for another day, when we have a chance to talk to Sean at some length."

Hodgson – who, the court heard, has suffered mental and physical health problems for many years – was now being helped by a miscarriage of justice team and would be visiting healthcare professionals. It would then be for him "to make his own decision on where he wants to live", Young said.

He added that Hodgson was "looking forward one day to going to watch a football match", adding that he believed he was a Sunderland supporter.

Earlier, Hodgson sat in court to hear the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, and his colleagues, Mr Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Wyn Williams, rule that his conviction was unsafe and would be quashed.

In his ruling, Judge said it was in the broad public interest for the court to set out the facts so people could understand how the conviction came about, why it had been quashed and how it was that these "disturbing events" took place.

He emphasised that, unlike many other miscarriages of justice, the conviction was not being quashed because some unacceptable feature of police misconduct had emerged, a witness had been untruthful or mistakes had been made during the trial.

"The conviction will be quashed for the simple reason that advances in the science of DNA, long after the end of the trial, have proved a fact which, if it had been known at the time would, notwithstanding the remaining evidence in the case, have resulted in quite a different investigation and a completely different trial," he said.

He said swabs taken from De Simone's body had been examined and sufficient remnants of sperm had been found on them for proper DNA analysis to be carried out, resulting in the conclusion that the sample on the swabs did not come from Hodgson.

"Whoever raped her ... on these findings, it can't be the appellant," Judge said. "The crown's case was that whoever raped her also killed her, so the new DNA evidence has demolished the case for the prosecution."

He said the decision "leaves some important unanswered questions".

"Perhaps the most important is that we do not know who raped and killed the dead girl," he said. "We can but hope that, for the sake of the appellant and the family of the murdered girl, that her killer may yet be identified and brought to justice."

At the end of the judgment, Judge announced that Hodgson would be discharged. A CPS spokesman later confirmed there would be no retrial.

Hampshire police said they had begun a new investigation into De Simone's murder, but said the inquiry could prove "protracted".

Speaking outside the high court, Detective Chief Inspector Philip McTavish said: "This is aimed at identifying the owner of the new DNA profile. The fact that we have this DNA also means that we are able to eliminate people from our inquiry. The original investigation and evidence is now being revisited with the benefit of the DNA evidence, and we will utilise the advances in forensic science."

Hodgson, who is also known as Robert Graham Hodgson, has spent much of his time in the psychiatric wing of Albany prison on the Isle of Wight. Fewer than 10 other people – including Harry Roberts, who killed three policemen in west London in 1966, and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe – have served longer in jail.

The review commission has asked the Crown Prosecution Service to review all similar murder cases where DNA evidence is available and defendants are still alive.

Hodgson, the second-longest serving prisoner to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice in modern criminal history, is entitled to compensation that could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Only Stephen Downing, jailed for beating to death Wendy Sewell in Bakewell, served a few months in jail longer before being set free. His conviction was overturned in 2002 and he is thought to have been awarded £500,000.

    Prisoner has murder conviction quashed after 27 years, G, 18.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/18/prisoner-hodgson-murder-quashed-miscarriage

 

 

 

 

 

27 years on, man wrongly convicted of killing barmaid is a week from freedom

 

• Murder appeal DNA shows innocence of mentally ill prisoner
• Serial confesser's case may bring more reviews
 

Thursday 12 March 2009
The Guardian
Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 00.01 GMT on Thursday 12 March 2009.
It appeared in the Guardian on Thursday 12 March 2009 on p11 of the UK news section.
It was last updated at 02.18 GMT on Thursday 12 March 2009

 

For 27 years the mother of a young barmaid had believed her daughter's rapist and killer was behind bars. In the last few days it has become clear to Mary Sedotti that the man who strangled her daughter in the early hours of a December morning 30 years ago has never been caught.

In a week's time Sean Hodgson, 58, the mentally ill misfit who was convicted of killing 22-year-old Teresa de Simone, is likely to walk free from the court of appeal in London after DNA tests that were not available at the time of his conviction conclusively proved he was not the killer.

Currently being held in the hospital wing of HMP Albany, his 27 years behind bars make him one of the longest serving inmates in the British penal system. Only the likes of police killer Harry Roberts have served longer.

Hodgson, also known as Robert, was convicted in 1982 of killing the young barmaid, whose body was found semi-naked in her car outside a pub in Southampton. She had been throttled with her gold crucifix necklace.

Hodgson had confessed to a priest that he was the killer, and admitted the offence on several other occasions to detectives, but no assessment was made of his mental state or his apparent obsession with confessing to crimes he had not committed.

At his trial Hodgson retracted his admissions, pleaded not guilty and told the jury he was a pathological liar. The jury did not believe him, and he was convicted on a unanimous verdict. It is only in the last 11 months that a new legal team has picked up his case and realised they were staring at a miscarriage of justice.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is now asking the Crown Prosecution Service to consider reviewing scores of other similar murders where DNA is now available and the defendant is still alive.

Simone's mother Mary Sedotti, who still lives in Southampton, has been kept informed of all the developments in the case. She told the Guardian: "Of course I would like to see this reinvestigated. It is very difficult for me."

The case against Hodgson began to unravel last March, when a new legal team led by solicitor Julian Young took it on.

"We looked at it and thought we were on to something," Young said. "We went to see him in prison and he continually denied he had killed her. He has repeatedly denied he was the killer throughout his time in prison."

Young's team wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service and Hampshire police last July to ask for the evidence in the case to be reviewed.

The police agreed to resubmit all the evidence to the Forensic Science Service and in two batches of results - in late December and January of this year - it was established that the DNA found on De Simone's body was not Hodgson's. No match was made with any other suspect. The papers were sent to the CCRC and in two days the case was referred to the court of appeal where it will be heard on 18 March.

"It is not in our interests to see someone whose conviction is unsafe in prison," a prosecution source said. "We supported Mr Hodgson's defence team and moved very quickly on this."

De Simone, a part-time barmaid, had been working in the Tom Tackle pub on the night of 4 December 1979 before going on to a nearby disco with her friend Jenni Savage.

After dancing for a few hours Savage drove her friend back to her car in the pub car park at about 12.30am. They sat chatting for a while before Savage waved goodbye to De Simone as she walked away to her car. She was never seen alive again.

When De Simone's mother woke the next morning she realised her daughter was not in her room and thought something must be wrong.

Her husband, the young woman's stepfather, drove round to the pub and spotted the car but did not take a closer look. It was only later when the landlord arrived to open up that De Simone's partly naked body was discovered.

Two days after the murder detectives interviewed Hodgson, who was hovering around the case claiming that he had information about the killing. A year later Hodgson, who was by then in prison for stealing a car, called guards to his cell and said he needed to see a priest.

"I have got to see someone because the scene keeps coming back to me in my cell," he told the prison guards.

Father Frank Moran was called to HMP Wandsworth to speak to Hodgson, who claimed he had strangled and raped De Simone and wanted people to know what he had done.

Detectives interviewed Hodgson and he confessed again. At the time it was not usual practice for mental assessments to be made of a prisoner. Hodgson had also made a series of other confessions to hundreds of burglaries and rapes.

By the time he came to trial in 1982 Hodgson denied murder. He told the jury he had made it all up.

"I would like to tell the members of the jury why I cannot go into the witness box," he said.

"Firstly, it is because I am a pathological liar. Secondly, I did not kill Teresa de Simone. Thirdly, every time I have been nicked by the law and that has been many times, I have made false confessions to crimes I did not commit."

The only other evidence against him was blood analysis which showed the killer had blood group A or AB - Hodgson and a third of the male population were in that category.

Appeal court judges will hear the case next Wednesday.

 

 

 

DNA detection

In DNA terms we are all very similar, the 3m or so DNA letters that make up your genome typically differs by just 0.1% from the person next to you - unless you are related to them. It is these differences which DNA fingerprinting (or profiling) uses to identify individuals. This can be done from samples such as blood, saliva or hair left at a crime scene. The technique works by testing several markers in the genome.

Typically, these markers are the number of DNA letters between cuts made at specific points in the DNA by enzymes that act as molecular scissors. An early success saw the technique used to convict Colin Pitchfork in 1988 of the rape and murder of two girls in 1983 in Narborough, Leicestershire.

Forensic scientists can now achieve a DNA match using much smaller samples. The revised technique - called low copy number DNA (LCN) evidence - involves amplifying the DNA in the original sample before creating a profile. It has been used by the UK's Forensic Science Service since 1999 in more than 20,000 cases. It featured in the conviction of Australian Bradley Murdoch for the murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio.

James Randerson

27 years on, man wrongly convicted of killing barmaid is a week from freedom, G, 12.3.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/12/dna-teresa-de-simone-hodgson

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie Gilfoyle: I didn't do it, end of story

I'd sooner die in jail than admit that I did kill her,
says the man who has served 17 years for his wife's murder


February 21, 2009
From The Times
Dominic Kennedy, Investigations Editor

 

Eddie Gilfoyle says he would rather die in jail than make a false confession to murdering his wife and their unborn baby.

“I've told them year after year I'm not admitting to something I haven't done. I don't give a s*** what you do to me. I would sooner die in jail,” Gilfoyle told The Times in an exclusive interview this week.

He is eligible for parole at the end of the summer after serving 17 years for the murder of his wife Paula, who was founded hanging in the garage next to their house in June 1992. But his release could be blocked because he continues to protest his innocence. One of the conditions for being granted parole is that the prisoner must have faced up to his supposed criminality. But Gilfoyle insisted: “I'm not going to start telling stuff to those bastards just so they can tick boxes. I haven't done it, end of story. I know people find that hard to understand: this guy spent 17 years in jail, if he admits it he could get out tomorrow. F*** it. I've got principles. I haven't fought just for the hell of it. They have had me in jail for 17 years for something I haven't done, the cheeky bastards. That's putting it mildly.

“My freedom was taken away 17 years ago. I'm never going to be that person again. Even if they quash my conviction tomorrow the damage is done. Even if they open the door tomorrow my freedom has gone. I'm not going to get the years back, my life back, the mental damage, the emotional damage. There are things that have happened in jail that they are never going to be able to repair.

“I've got to start making a whole new life for myself. Where do I begin? Can I begin?”

Speaking by telephone from Sudbury open prison in Derbyshire, he listed the experiences that he had missed as a result of being in prison: “Going to Paula's funeral. My dad died; I never spent enough time with him before he died. My mum is ill.”

Anger and bitterness are close to the surface and he is in no doubt who to blame. “It was a conclusion-driven investigation,” he said. He blames “the police, Crown Prosecution Service. The whole judicial system is just beyond a f****** joke. I've not stopped thinking about Paula and the baby, my trial, the way I have been treated, the police, the prosecution and the s*** they have come up with.

“A lot of what was put forward at the trial was false or inaccurate and manipulated to make me look like a bad bastard. I didn't kill Paula. Nobody can ever ever make me change my mind and make me say that I did. If somebody came up and said I can give you £10 million, it would make no difference.”

To outsiders, Mrs Gilfoyle gave the appearance of being a happy mother-to-be but her husband said marriage with her was like living with a split personality. He accepted that the trial witnesses had all described Mrs Gilfoyle as cheerful.

“Different girl,” he said. “Different person to the one I was living with, trust me. That wasn't the person I was living with. It was as if I was living with a schizophrenic. That's not a nice thing to say but when you have all her family and all her friends saying she was a happy bubbly girl...”

The pregnancy? “She was all right at the beginning and then she got really moody. She used to change. She could be having a moan and groan at me and then one of her friends would come to the house, she would be bubbly, then as soon as she came back she would go back to being miserable, subdued, moaning and arguing etc. Her friends didn't see that she was this miserable soul.

“I don't know what effect all this is having on her family but I'm not interested in her family. I'm interested in my family.”

His bitterness is based on the evidence given by Mrs Gilfoyle's relatives in court that she had been positive and happy. He has also been portrayed as a liar. He insisted: “I never lied in my police interviews. The fact that I told the truth is actually coming out now. I have never given up hope. I have never given up my belief I will get there.”

He continued: “Not a day goes by when I don't think about Paula and the baby.” Asked if he had grieved, he said: “This is not an environment that you could do that type of stuff in. Once I'm out of jail I'm going to have to get my head round it all. Whilst I am in jail I can't.”

In the “suicide note”, Mrs Gilfoyle had written: “Don't blame yourself Eddie.” But Gilfoyle said: “Too late for that. I blame myself. How can I not? I've let her do it without knowing that that was her intention. If I look back, all the signs are there so, yeah, I do blame myself.

“On the morning she died she offered me breakfast in bed. I don't eat breakfast. She told the wine survey woman [a market researcher who visited the house on the day she died] she was a twin. It's silly little things like that you can't dismiss. It plays on your head. Why did she do it on that day? There's no respite from it. It's just constant soul-searching. It's hard because you are always looking for 'did I miss that?' The pain doesn't go away. There's no respite.”

Gilfoyle was moved in autumn last year from Buckley Hall medium security prison in Rochdale, where he had been a cleaner and studied for NVQs in industrial cleaning. He was also given a position of trust as a “listener”, helping new inmates to settle in. Life is dominated by routine — and small pleasures.

The first surprise when he was brought to his new single cell in Sudbury was that it had a window which opened, a luxury for a man who had been behind bars for 16 years. He has been given a job on the farm looking after the cattle and sheep, for which he is paid £11 a week.

Gilfoyle has to decide whether to spend that money on phone cards, rolling tobacco or instant coffee. His family send him £10 a week and clothes, bed coverings and DVDs by Shania Twain, Dire Straits and Bon Jovi. As a young man he played in local bands; today he has a guitar and sings along, though apparently his performances have received a mixed reaction from fellow inmates.

He spends £1 a week to have a television in his room. Rather than a uniform, he is allowed jeans and a sweatshirt. His day ends with a roll-call at 8pm and then he has a couple of hours relaxation before going to bed.

Gilfoyle expressed gratitude towards those who have supported his campaign for his conviction to be overturned. “I've got phenomenal support. People who have seen the truth, read the facts, know my case inside out. They smell a rat. I don't have to say to them 'Do you smell a rat?' They make their own decisions.”

He mentioned the former Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable, Alison Halford, who visits him, and David Canter, the criminal profiler who helped to convict Gilfoyle but now says he is innocent. “She [Alison Halford] is absolutely disgusted with the way it has been treated,” he said. “She is a fantastic woman and it takes balls to stand up and do what she has done. So has David Canter had the balls to say, 'I think I have got this wrong'.”

    Eddie Gilfoyle: I didn't do it, end of story, Ts, 21.2.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article5776454.ece

 

 

 

 

 

Killer's gang cheer after hearing sentence

 

Thursday, 29 January 2009
The Independent
By John Fahey and Mike Hornby, Press Association

 

Three gang members convicted over the killing of schoolboy Rhys Jones cheered as they left the courtroom today.

They celebrated after the judge ruled they will only serve five years in prison between them.

James Yates, 21 tomorrow, Nathan Quinn, 18, and Dean Kelly, 17, yelled with delight after being sentenced for assisting murderer Sean Mercer, 18.

Rhys, 11, was murdered by Mercer in Croxteth, Liverpool, in August 2007.

Last month Mercer, of Good Shepherd Close, Croxteth, was jailed for a minimum 22-year-term.

The trio left the bullet-proof dock after winking and smiling at family and friends at Liverpool Crown Court.

Seconds later they were heard celebrating loudly and a security guard was also heard telling them to be quiet.

After time on remand is taken in to account, the Croxteth Crew members' actual time served will be five years but the full sentences totalled 13.

Yates, who supplied Mercer with the 1915 Smith and Wesson used to gun down the innocent schoolboy, was given a seven-year sentence.

He was also convicted of assisting Mercer dump the gun and the killer's clothing for which he will serve two concurrent six-year terms.

Yates, of Dodman Road, Croxteth, will serve half his sentence - like his co-accused - and have 286 days on remand, knocked off.

He will be out at the start of 2012.

After Mercer killed Rhys on the car park of the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth, Yates was at the centre of a plan to avoid justice.

He rushed to Mercer's aid as they converged at the home of Boy M - who cannot be named - with Nathan Quinn.

The judge, Mr Justice Irwin, told Yates: "There is strong evidence you were an active gang member, trusted by Mercer.

"It was evident that you and Quinn were first on the scene at the home of Boy M.

"I have no doubt you were a willing assistant helping in any way you could."

Nathan Quinn, of Wickett Close, Croxteth, is already serving five years for possession of a gun.

The thickset teenager - who has had nine rulings against him for fights behind bars - accompanied the gang who transported Mercer to Kirkby, Liverpool, where he was doused in petrol in order to clean him of evidence.

Last month, Quinn was convicted unanimously by a jury of two counts of assisting an offender.

He was due to be released from his current sentence in June 2010 - imposed for trying to buy a gun just weeks after Rhys's murder.

Today he was jailed for two more. He will serve only one of those and be released in June 2011.

As he was led from the dock he looked at a friend in the public gallery and pulled a face of surprised glee.

Mr Justice Irwin told him: "You were relied upon by Mercer and went directly when summoned.

"You were there to help in any way you could with the gun and clothing and, I have no doubt, with anything else that needed to be done.

"From the pre-sentence report you continue to deny the offences.

"You acknowledge your gang membership, claim friendship with Yates, but suggest you had nothing to do with the events of that evening.

"This demonstrates that you are still hiding from the truth.

"It is very significant you are already serving a five-year sentence for possession of a firearm and ammunition."

Dean Kelly, 17, of Sword Walk, Croxteth, was sentenced to four years for possession of guns, ammunition and assisting an offender.

The court heard he was expelled from school at just 14 despite every effort being made to accommodate him and control his behaviour.

When Rhys was murdered Kelly was drifting along, with no job, training or education and he moved out of his grandfather's house because he tried to make him behave.

In the aftermath of Rhys's murder, Kelly hid the murder weapon and made sure the gang's plans to avoid detection were being implemented by a witness who turned supergrass.

Kelly - who has an ASBO for terrorising sports centre staff - got involved with the gang's plan on 26 August, four days after the murder.

The judge said: "By the 26th the killing was all over your estate and the country but you moved the murder weapon in the middle of that outcry."

Boy M, 16, who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and was previously beaten up by his gang mates for "grassing", was given a two-year supervision order with a four month 7pm to 7am curfew for assisting an offender.

He had dumped some of Mercer's clothes, the bike used to cycle from the murder scene and the gun.

James Hughes, 22, of Willow Way, Croxteth, was jailed for six months for lying to police about Boy M's whereabouts when Rhys was killed.

The judge told him the "stupid gang culture" ruled because people were scared and intimidated into lying.

Hughes had to be jailed, said the judge, in a bid to make people scared of lying to the police.

Fellow gang members Gary Kays, 26, and Melvin Coy, 25, both of West Derby, Liverpool, were jailed for seven years for their part in the cover up.

Detectives built their case by bugging the homes of Boy M and Yates which harvested damning audio evidence.

A teenager close to the gangs confessed his involvement to police, was given immunity from prosecution and gave evidence during the 11 week trial.

Today, Rhys's parents Steven, 45, and Melanie, 43, sat side by side in court and remained impassive.

    Killer's gang cheer after hearing sentence, I, 29.1.2009, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/killers-gang-cheer-after-hearing-sentence-1519592.html

 

 

 

 

 

Teenager stabbed man to death after 'I feel like killing' message on Facebook

Killer given minimum of 17 years for 'senseless and unprovoked' murder in Bolton bar

 

Thursday 29 January 2009
15.49 GMT
Guardian.co.uk
Press Association

 

A teenager who posted a message on Facebook saying he felt "like killin some1", hours before he stabbed a man to death in a crowded bar, was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years in prison today.

Leon Craig Ramsden, 19, stabbed 31-year-old Paul Gilligan while he was drinking in The Pepper Alley, in Bolton, Lancashire, six months ago.

While in the bar last July Gilligan, of Little Hulton, Salford, was stabbed in his shoulder and chest. He died from his injuries an hour after the attack, Manchester crown court heard.

Ramsden, of Turnstone Road, Bolton, had posted a message on his Facebook wall earlier that evening which read: "I'm twisted at home. My head's up my arse. I feel like killin some1 need to stay off the hard stuff ha fuck it it's Saturday ha."

Sentencing Ramsden to a minimum of 17 years in prison for the murder, the judge, Justice Teare, said: "Paul Gilligan was 31 years old. He lived with his partner and three children. His death has caused great suffering to them and also to his parents and his two brothers."

He added: "This was a senseless and unprovoked murder which has devastated Paul Gilligan's family."

The court previously heard that Ramsden went on a three-day alcohol and cocaine-fuelled binge before the attack and had not slept for 36 hours before his attack on Gilligan.

Guy Gozem QC, prosecuting, told the jury that several customers in the bar had seen the "unexpected" and "brutal" attack but did not realise that Ramsden had stabbed Gilligan as the knife was concealed in his fist. The two men were thought to be "play fighting" minutes before the incident.

Ramsden left the bar, but returned seconds later and stabbed Gilligan, then ran away. He was arrested that evening when a nightclub doorman found him carrying a knife sheath and alerted the police.

The judge told Ramsden today: "You left Pepper Alley after the headlock and decided to return. You could simply have left the area of the club but you chose to return and stab Paul Gilligan."

He added: "Nothing Paul Gilligan did could justify or excuse your actions. I therefore do not regard provocation as a mitigating factor."

Ramsden's entry on the social networking website Facebook was deleted but then recovered in the course of the investigation from a laptop that had been used by a witness to access the site after news of the stabbing.

The teenager, who was handcuffed to a prison guard in court today, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.

Outside the court Detective Inspector Mark Roters, from Greater Manchester police, read a statement on behalf of ­Gilligan's partner and family.

The statement read: "We worked so hard for justice to get a young, dangerous, lad off the streets for a long time. This youth has never shown remorse and he felt he was untouchable. He knew he had killed a man, one loved by many, in a heartless, shocking, cowardly stabbing.

"Paul didn't deserve this, nor would he have anticipated such brutality. He is greatly missed and was such a happy, social, family man. We will never get over his death."

Roters said: "Ramsden is a pathetic individual who believed he had been slighted by Paul in front of a crowd of people. As revenge for this, Ramsden killed him. This was a needless and extremely violent attack that resulted in the death of a father-of-three.

"Ramsden's behaviour has resulted in the loss of well-loved father, son, brother and friend. He now has a long time to reflect on what he has done."

    Teenager stabbed man to death after 'I feel like killing' message on Facebook, G, 29.1.2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jan/29/facebook-stabbing-bolton