Saturday, 21 February 2009

”Yeah... that's right Richard... I don't care. I'm not trying to solve a puzzle here...”

The ‘Times’ appears to have done some of that investigative work that modern journalism graduates shun the way Dracula shuns the sunlight. And what they’ve found doesn’t make pretty reading:
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.

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.
What changed their minds? We’ll come to that…
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.

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.
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.
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.

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.
But perfectly valid if you have no reason to doubt the evidence that you’ve been given by the doctor on the scene:
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”.

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.
Aha! And they couldn’t really say to the family ‘Well, there’s no evidence now.’

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.

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.
Well, that’s nice of him…!

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….


Oldrightie said...

I’d like to say that it couldn’t happen today
If you are a white, male Conservative voter it could easily happen today.

Mark Wadsworth said...

That David Canter ought to be put on trial for perjury. He was clearly making 'the facts' fit the assumption, which wasn't even his assumption in the first place. Bastard.

DJ said...

One big difference is that in the US profiling is a job for the Feds. Meanwhile, in Britain it's wacademics doing a bit on the side. Who'd have guessed who'd end up with folks who can predict a serial killer has a speech impediment, and who'd get the guy wibbling about 'psychological logic' ?

JuliaM said...

"He was clearly making 'the facts' fit the assumption, which wasn't even his assumption in the first place."

At least he was prepared to reexamine his decision in the light of new research, and admit to jumping to the wrong conclusion. He could have stonewalled like Merseyside Police Farce.

So I suppose he deserves some credit for that...

"Meanwhile, in Britain it's wacademics doing a bit on the side."

Which makes you wonder how they get selected. Is it because they are reliably easily led?

Anonymous said...

It shows better in the print version than online, but the campaign on behalf of Gilfoyle has been running for some years. It is often the case that the MSM is willing to carry a story after campaigners have done spade work and handed them the files. This can take a while as campaigners often have to fight their way through FOIs, cross-referencing and getting information from people who might only be willing to talk after several years. The turning point is usually obtaining a file - sometimes by removing it without authority. Sometimes the MSM can get the last piece of the jigsaw, sometimes they have been with the story all along, sometimes they come in at the last reel.

Up to the smoking-gun point, there are various people prepared to lean on campaigners to keep stuff hidden, but once it is formally backed by the Associated Newspapers or News International or similar, their lawyers will do the proof-reading and the editor will carry the legal bills. Legal back-up if a story is accepted is still the great value of the DTP compared to, say, Guido.

The campaign to review Gilfoyle's conviction has been running this past 9 years, at one time appearing on

In 2000 the Police Federation (allegedly it was them) went after the ISP - probably following the Demon Internet ruling - and made the ISP pull the whole of the Portia website for a while. (Returned now – see chapter 2 The late Ken Norman, who set up Portia and was an investigative journalist for the BBC when it was a news organization, was an early adopter of web dissemination and took the precaution of getting material mirrored where ever possible, anticipating that censorship would happen.

The censorship is recorded here
and the article which was pulled is still available but I can’t use an href to get to it – you have to copy and paste.

The current Eddie Gilfoyle website is dated copyright 2008 and also has to be copy and pasted.

(Don't know if I'm doing something wrong, but the links don't seem to set consistently.)

Anonymous said...

Oldrightie,sadly it probably has,more than once too.

Anonymous said...

Here's an aside.

Why is the CPS not what we wish it to be? Perhaps because it spends money on jobs such as Group Equality & Diversity Community Engagement Manager

On the CPS careers website it says:

"Members of staff within Equality and Diversity are responsible for policy and strategy development and Performance Review to support equalities objectives. This includes championing Equality and Diversity within the CPS, ensuring policy development reflects Equality and Diversity issues and mainstreaming Equality and Diversity within all relevant CPS areas of work.

As a public service a key CPS priority is to engage with the communities across all CPS Areas, increasing transparency and building public confidence in the organisation. The Equality and Diversity team is responsible for Community Engagement policy and strategy and covers both employment and service delivery."

There were various positions available (the closing date has passed), listing 3 locations, so this batch is well over £100k's worth, what ever it is.

JuliaM said...

"In 2000 the Police Federation (allegedly it was them) went after the ISP - probably following the Demon Internet ruling - and made the ISP pull the whole of the Portia website for a while."

Typical! I guess government aren't quite so keen on the 'if you've got nothiong to hide...' message when they aren't trying to force acceptance of ID cards...

"Why is the CPS not what we wish it to be? Perhaps because it spends money on jobs such as Group Equality & Diversity Community Engagement Manager."

I suspect that's the same across the entire Civil Service (natitional AND local). So the total of useless non-jobs probably runs into the £millions...