Sixteen years after a man was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his heavily pregnant wife by hanging, The Times has uncovered evidence that throws his conviction into doubt.Not new evidence, either.
This isn’t a case of ‘Oh, we actually found the one armed man that this chap always claimed committed the crime..’ This is a case where the police have apparently conspired to deny and cover up evidence that the one armed man existed, despite knowing full well that he did:
Long-lost notes of police interviews have emerged that suggest that Eddie Gilfoyle was at work when his 32-year-old wife, Paula, died.What changed their minds? We’ll come to that…
The notes catalogue a series of blunders, including the destruction of evidence before scene-of-crime officers arrived. They also show that those first on the scene were convinced that they were dealing with a tragic suicide.
The notes were not shown to the jury and not mentioned during Gilfoyle’s trial in 1993. Merseyside Police repeatedly denied that they existed.Because by then, they were firmly into the ‘murder’ theory, and all that inconvenient evidence wouldn’t go down too well.
So they began ignoring it:
The Times has obtained notes of interviews with the officers called to the house on the day that she died. They state that the doctor who declared Mrs Gilfoyle dead told police that she had died six hours earlier – when her husband was at his workplace.Well, once you start down the murder route, introducing evidence that you initially had no reason to suspect it was murder calls into question your reasons for considering it murder now.
The 20 pages of notes appear to have been taken during an internal inquiry into police blunders at the scene. Until their disclosure today, there had been no suggestion that the doctor had addressed the question of time of death at the scene. There is no mention of it in his statements to the murder investigation.
Instead, the doctor told the trial jury that Mrs Gilfoyle had been dead for between three and eight hours before being found. This could have given Gilfoyle time to kill her after work.Is this the same doctor? If so, he has some questions to answer too…
The notes detail a series of mistakes that led to the internal inquiry by Merseyside Police. Mrs Gilfoyle’s body was cut down without any photographs being taken. Evidence was destroyed or tainted. The existence of the inquiry was not disclosed to the defence before trial.But perfectly valid if you have no reason to doubt the evidence that you’ve been given by the doctor on the scene:
The records also indicate that officers let a mortuary assistant destroy the noose – a vital piece of evidence that could have revealed who tied it.
The notes emphasise that there was no evidence of a struggle. Her body had no marks or defensive injuries. The doctor examined her and decided that there was nothing suspicious. He was “99.9 per cent happy with it being a hanging”.Aha! And they couldn’t really say to the family ‘Well, there’s no evidence now.’
However, when family, friends and workmates described how happy and optimistic Mrs Gilfoyle had been, the police began to wonder if she might have been murdered.
Because awkward questions might have been asked about why…
So, let’s put the husband on trial, and let the chips fall where they may, seems to have been the cynical decision. One that the CPS was happy to go along with:
The evidence at Gilfoyle’s trial was almost all circumstantial. Nearly twenty witnesses said that Mrs Gilfoyle had been making plans for the future. A trial source told The Times: “For two days, friends and relatives and workmates gave evidence in which they said that this girl was vivacious, bubbly, so excited about this new birth. The morning she ‘committed suicide’ she got books about children’s names. After two days of people saying she was happy, the idea that a pregnant woman hanged herself? The jury just looked astonished.”And presumably the judge’s summing up didn’t put enough emphasis on the weighting they should give to that circumstantial evidence.
Gilfoyle’s family contacted the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), which was so alarmed by its inquiry into the handling of the investigation that it alerted the Crown Prosecution Service to doubts about the conviction.Well, that’s nice of him…!
The criminal profiler David Canter, who worked with police to help to convict him, revealed last year that he had had second thoughts. Writing in The Times, he said that fresh research into suicide notes had persuaded him that Mrs Gilfoyle took her own life.
But when you read his explanation for his change of heart, you see just how the ‘expert witness’ isn’t necessarily anything of the sort:
All these matters and other factors, most notably the demanding creative imagination, beyond Eddie’s abilities, that would be needed to invent the sequence of notes and letters changed my opinion. I formed the view that my original analysis had been too greatly, if inadvertently, influenced by the story that the police had originally given to me. The reliance on number crunching was also misleading. I therefore wrote a further report for Eddie’s second appeal which argued that there was a psychological logic that made it very likely that Paula had taken her own life.Yup, instead of approaching the case with the detachment you might expect from an ‘expert’, and asking what the evidence pointed to, he seems to have started out along the line fed him by the police! Still, at least he appears to have been a real qualified professional. That doesn’t always happen, as DumbJon has pointed out!
It’s a very worrying case. I’d like to say that it couldn’t happen today.
But I wonder….