The Times - Guardian unlimited - New Statesman TV - Interview with a Murderer TV - Ann Whelan - David Wilson - Birmingham Mail - Rough Justice TV -
Two former police officers may face criminal charges after three men jailed for murdering Carl Bridgewater were freed yesterday amid allegations of ‘serious, substantial and widespread police malpractice’.
The detectives have been interviewed about a forged confession which was instrumental in bringing the men to trial and sending them to jail for 18 years. A third officer implicated by new scientific evidence has since died.
Yesterday the Crown accepted that the fresh evidence left the prosecution case fundamentally flawed, and Michael Hickey, Vincent Hickey and James Robinson were freed on bail pending an April hearing when they will almost certainly be cleared. The manslaughter conviction against Patrick Molloy, who died in 1981, was quashed immediately.
After the hearing, the Prime Minister said that he expected an inquiry into the original convictions and another within the police. Merseyside detectives are investigating the way Staffordshire Police conducted the murder inquiry after 13-year-old Carl was found shot dead at an isolated farmhouse near Stourbridge. The officers named in court yesterday were, however, from the West Midlands force, assigned to the case by the regional crime squad. The Times article Ford & Farrell & Midgley 22nd February 1997, ‘Police may face Bridgewater trial’
The Crown Prosecution Service has decided no charges will be brought against 10 police officers accused of fabricating evidence against the Bridgewater Four.
When Michael Hickey, Vincent Hickey and Jim Robinson were freed by the Court of Appeal last year after 17 years in jail, the CPS was asked to investigate three separate allegations against the Staffordshire police detectives.
Merseyside police carried out the inquiry, but because there is no realistic prospect of any conviction from evidence gathered during the murder investigations of newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater, they decided not to press charges.
The fourth man convicted of killing Carl, Pat Molloy, died in prison in 1981.
The allegations focused on claims that an interview with Vincent Hickey was fabricated to induce Pat Molloy to sign a confession and that officers falsified evidence about a conversation during a car journey with Mr Molloy. Admissions by Michael Hickey were alleged to have been made up.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, said he appreciated the decision could be ‘difficult to understand’. The CPS could only act if there was enough evidence to be put before a court to make a conviction realistic.
Michael Hickey's mother, Ann Whelan, described the decision as ‘horrendous, outrageous and deplorable’. Guardian Unlimited 24th December 1998 Helen Carter, ‘Police in miscarriage of justice will not be prosecuted’
‘He’s very up and down, sometimes very angry, sometimes hyper. He has broken down and cried, especially when he’s talked to prisoners still inside. He’s had terrible stomach cramps because the food is so rich after a prison diet. He hasn’t slept in a bed yet, in fact he’s hardly slept at all and he’s asked me to remove the light in his room – he slept with a light on in his cell for ten years. He wouldn’t travel in a train carriage because it would be too claustrophobic after the cell and he says he gets lost in the house because there are so many rooms.’ That is how Ann Whelan, the mother of Michael Hickey, described her son three days after his release as one of the wrongfully convicted killers of the newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater.
The night of the men’s release was, understandably, one of euphoria. Nearly 19 years after their imprisonment the three surviving members of the ‘Bridgewater Four’ – Vincent and Michael Hickey and Jim Robinson – last week celebrated with their families and campaigners at the London Irish Centre in Camden Town. But even as the men began the renewal of relationships ended so abruptly with their arrests in 1978, there were reminders around them that their ordeal was not over. New Statesman article Seth Linder 28th February 1997, ‘From Jail to ... What? The fight for freedom is over, but the hard part is just beginning for the Bridgewater men’
‘My name is Bert Spencer: I don’t run and I don’t hide. And I do tend to say it as it is regardless. Many of you will remember my name in relation to the murder of Carl Bridgewater. I did not kill Carl Bridgewater and I am here to prove to you that I did not.’ Interview with a Murderer ***** Channel 4 2016
On 19th September 1978 13-year-old Carl Bridgewater left his home in Wordsley, West Midlands. Like thousands of other children across the country he was carrying out a paper round for pocket money. At 4 p.m. Carl was making one of his final deliveries of the day to Yewtree Farm – the owners, an elderly couple, were out. It seems Carl entered the farmhouse and disturbed a burglary. Carl was then shot in the face with a shotgun at point-blank range. The police’s suspicions were quickly aroused by a local ambulance officer - Bert Spencer. ibid.
The so-called Bridgewater 4 were jailed from between 12 and 25 years … They’d been set up by the police. ibid.
Exactly one month after the Bridgewater trial there was another brutal shotgun murder in the sleepy rural community of Stourbridge. It wasn’t just the uncanny similarity of the shootings or their proximity that made headlines, it was the name of the person who immediately confessed to the killing: that person was Bert Spencer. ibid.
He may be displaying some of the classic signs of psychopathy. ibid.
‘Is this not a fact that you did have guns? Is this not a fact you were an antique dealer? Is this not a fact you lived next door to the child and you refused to tell the police that? Is this not a fact that your car was seen turning into Yewtree Farm … Is this [not] a fact that you were the only man in uniform? … ibid. Ann Whelan, Carl’s mum to Bert Spencer, television interviews
The murder of Carl Bridgewater is one of the most infamous unsolved murders in British criminal history. Professor David Wilson, criminologist
A convicted killer sensationally put in the frame for schoolboy Carl Bridgewater’s murder by a TV documentary has been rushed to hospital hours after ringing the Birmingham Mail to say: ‘I’ve just had enough of being hounded.’
Bert Spencer,at the centre of a media frenzy following his appearance in Channel 4 documentary Interview With a Murderer, is currently at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincolnshire. Birmingham Mail online article 28th December 2016 ‘Exclusive: Bert Spencer has a stroke after being ‘hounded’ over Carl Bridgewater death’
17 years ago these men were jailed for a murder that horrified the nation. Lawyers say their conviction for the killing of 13-year-old Carl Bridgewater will one day stand alongside miscarriages like Birmingham and Guildford. Rough Justice, Who Killed Carl Bridgewater? BBC 1996
Yewtree farm is now abandoned. Carl Bridgewater was murdered here as he delivered an evening paper at about 4.20 p.m. on 19th September 1978. He’d been found on a settee: he’d been shot at close range. The police believed he disturbed a robbery. ibid.
Molloy said Vincent Hickey, the man who got him arrested, Jimmy Robinson and Hickey’s young cousin Michael had been downstairs with Carl when he was shot … He protested the confession was false and had been forced out of him. ibid.
If there’s a question mark over the police records, what about the confession itself? … The other three confessions are all in the same vein. ibid.