In the last few years Andrew Adams has been in trouble a lot.
In 2009, he stole 30 packs of fillet steak. When caught, he readily admitted the crime and said he did it because he had no money and was hungry. The day after he stole the meat from his local M&S, he was in court on fraud charges relating to a previous crime – he’d found a cheque book, and cashed two cheques totalling £640. The penniless meat thief was ordered to pay the same amount to the bank by way of compensation.
In 2012, Andrew was found guilty of yet another theft. The judge activated an existing suspended sentence and Andrew went to prison for 12 weeks – for stealing a pair of trousers. Andrew’s lawyer tried to argue for a reduction in his sentence. The judge refused, saying that the fact that Andrew wrongly spent 14 years in jail before being thrown out onto the streets with no money or support and having claims for compensation repeatedly and perversely denied by the government was no longer a mitigation.
The sequence of events that would see a pair of trousers land Andrew Adams in prison started 25 years earlier. On the night of 10th January 1987, a man called Alfred “Jack” Royal got into a scuffle outside his local chip shop in Newcastle. At some point, the fight turned ugly, a pen knife was produced and the other man was stabbed, fatally. The other man in this case was called David Thompson, and Jack Royal knew him. David had been Jack’s son’s business partner.
Jack was tried, twice, over the incident. At his first trial the jury was unable to reach a verdict; at the second, the jury believed Jack’s story of self-defence and the 54 year old science teacher walked free.
Just after half past eleven on the night of March 19th 1990 Jack Royal got up to answer the the doorbell at his home in Sunniside, Newcastle. As he looked though the porch window, a shotgun blast fired at close range hit him in the face. He died almost instantly. The noise drew one of the Royal’s neighbours to the window and she watched the killer run to a white Austin Montego. The car, which had been stolen earlier that day, would be found ablaze in a car park just a few hours later.
Thirty minutes or so earlier, Andrew Adams had been stopped by police. As a 42 year old, a judge ruled that he had so little of anything there was no point fining him. However, as a 23 year old aircraft engineer Adams was living the high life, and on this particular night he was driving his silver Renault 5 Turbo around Newcastle accompanied by long time friend John Hands. Constables Howstan and Robotham stopped the pair and, after quickly establishing that it was Adams’ car, sent them on their way.
In the following days the neighbour who watched Royal’s murderer escape the scene was invited to help the police identify the gunman. From a set of 55 mug shots Beverley Yeadon picked one out. She was sure that she recognised the man and later picked him out at an ID parade; at the subsequent trial she told the jury that ‘He was definitely the driver. I had seen the face that night.’ The man’s name was Walter Hepple and the police went on to discover that David Thompson – the man killed by Jack Royal – was Hepple’s sister’s partner, and father to her children.
Ten months later, in January 1991, Andrew Adams suddenly and unexpectedly found himself single. His girlfriend caught him in a nightclub with another girl sat in his lap, and promptly moved out of the house that she and Adams had bought together. Adams invited his friend Kevin Thompson – no relation to David Thompson, or any of the other Thompsons in this sorry tale – to move in with him. If Adams thought that having a new housemate would help restore harmony to the household, he was wrong. Thompson soon owed Adams money and tension escalated between the two friends.
In May of 1991 the atmosphere in the house was fatally disrupted when police burst in and arrested Adams and Thompson for an armed robbery on a nearby Presto supermarket. Adams was not involved and was quickly released when police checked out his alibi. Thompson was charged by police after being picked out of an ID parade, and, although the case against him was later dropped, Adams asked Thompson to find somewhere else to live.
In the intervening ten months, police had been working on building a case against Walter Hepple for the murder of Jack Royal. At trial the defence team of James Chadwin QC and Patrick Cosgrove argued that the neighbour’s identification of Hepple during the ID parade was flawed; that as she had seen 55 mug shots before the ID parade, she was merely recalling one of those when she picked Hepple out of a line-up. Despite the curious coincidence in managing to pick out someone with such a strong connection to the victim – a possible motive for killing him, even – Chadwin and Cosgrove were successful and Hepple was acquitted.
Stung by that defeat, the police renewed their efforts to find Jack Royal’s assassin and in early 1992 they thought they’d made some headway. Forensic tests carried out on a shotgun found at the home of a local con left scratches on the cartridges similar to scratches on cartridges retrieved from the Royal’s. Not similar enough to be definitive by any means, but similar enough to be very interesting. Mark Dixon, at whose house the shotgun was found, was a friend of Kevin Thompson’s and would eventually be convicted of the Presto armed robbery that Adams and Thompson were arrested for. At one point, the police visited him in prison to question him about the Royal murder. Dixon denied any knowledge and the police investigation into the Dixon connection was buried.
A few weeks after Hepple’s acquittal, on 6th April 1992, a gang broke into the the home of an elderly couple in County Durham. Henry and Mary Thomas were both in their seventies, and both were tied up as the gang stole valuable antiques from their home. Henry Thomas suffered a heart attack whilst bound.
In contrast to Northumbria Police’s dilatory and ineffective investigations into Jack Royal’s murder, Durham Police seemed to be a paragon of swift and effective justice. Within hours, they had caught Kevin Thompson in the act of inventorying the Thomas’ stolen belongings at the home he shared with new girlfriend Nicola Henderson. The Vauxhall Cavalier (with fake plates) that the gang had used for the robbery was parked outside, and, just for good measure, one of the Thomas’ neighbours had given police a description which even Thompson had to admit matched him perfectly. He was charged with robbery and facing the very real prospect of ten to fifteen years in jail.
That same day officers from Newcastle police created a memo that read “D/Insp Sharp, DC Mackle recommence full time enquiry. Thompson quickly identified and converted to assist the cause.”; the cause being the investigation into Jack Royal’s murder.
On April 10th 1992, DI Kenneth Dixon and Kevin Thompson’s then solicitor Karen Graham discussed a lighter sentence for Thompson in return for him naming his accomplices in the Thomas robbery, a deal that detectives refused to make. By another curious coincidental twist Karen Graham was the older sister of Andrew Adams’ ex, the one who walked out on Adams leading to Kevin Thompson moving in.
But the following day Thompson asked Graham if she knew that detectives wanted to speak to him about the Royal murder, something Thompson indicated he was happy to do. Accordingly, DI Sharp and DC Mackle turned up at Thompson’s house a couple of days later to discuss it, as planned.
And so, exactly a month after the raid on the Thomas’ house, Andrew Adams was roused from sleep in the early hours by a call. By phone a police officer told Adams that his house was surrounded by armed police and that he should surrender. He did, as seemed prudent, and was arrested for the murder of Jack Royal.
One month later two police officers visited the judge who would be presiding over Kevin Thompson’s trial. DI Ian Sharp of Northumbria Police and DI Ian Scott from Durham Police told him that Thompson was providing valuable assistance in the matter of the Jack Royal murder. Scott later went on to become head of Durham CID where he was a proponent of PDP – Potentially Dangerous People – surveillance, where people not convicted of any crime would be subject to heightened covert surveillance.
The trial went very well for Kevin Thompson. Despite being positively identified at the scene and having the car used during the crime parked outside his house, the prosecution dropped the robbery charge and Thompson instead pleaded guilty to the much lesser charge of handling stolen goods. As a result, he avoided the ten to fifteen stretch that would have been the sentence for armed robbery and walked free that same day with a suspended sentence.
On 8th April 1993, after being in custody for a year, Andrew Adams met his new barristers for the first time. Adams’ legal team – James Chadwin QC and Patrick Cosgrove – soon learned that John Hands, co-accused with Adams, was planning to explore some of the evidence that Chadwin and Cosgrove had earlier used to acquit Walter Hepple. The barristers told Adams they would have to step down. The possibility of this happening had been identified early on, but Adams’ solicitor John Foley had insisted they take the case. And so, thirteen days before going on trial for murder, Adams had no barrister.
Preparations did not improve. Seemingly minor errors would turn out to be extremely damaging. Reportedly Foley wrote down the wrong timings when setting out Adams’ alibi, meaning that the prosecution were able to accuse him of changing his story when this error was corrected. It was starting to look as though Andrew Adams’ experience at trial would be nothing like as rewarding as his former friend Kevin Thompson’s.
A couple of days before his trial, on 19th April 1993, Adams met his second set of barristers, Andrew Menary and Robert Fordham) for the first time. At this time Fordham was not even a QC, and only became one on the first day of the trial, April 21st. Given the short time that they had had to prepare for a three year old murder case with three defendants, they requested a four-week adjournment to properly prepare Adams’ defence. The judge gave them five days.
It’s important to remember that although they had separate representation at this point, John Hands was essentially facing the same charges as Adams purely on the basis of what Kevin Thompson told police, and the fact that the police stop placed the two of them together on the night of the murder. The third co-defendant implicated by Kevin Thompson was Catherine Thompson (no relation). Adams’ girlfriend at the time of Jack Royal’s murder, she was sister to the late David Thompson and according to the prosecution, it was she who supplied the motive.
At trial, it was clear that there was no case against the three without Kevin Thompson’s testimony. There is not and has never been any physical evidence in support of Thompson’s testimony. Instead the defence wheeled out some of Kevin Thompson’s cronies to provide largely irrelevant testimony, none of which related to the crime itself.
Thompson’s story was that Adams had asked him to drive him, plus John Hands, to Whickham “to chin a bloke who had been cheeky to Cath[erine Thompson]”. Thompson agreed to meet them at the Denton Hotel at 10pm. When they did, he asked them to come back half an hour later, and asked if he could borrow money for petrol (Adams gave him £5). The three of them left in Adams’ car and went to collect Thompson’s blue Ford Escort. Both cars then drove back to a petrol station where Thompson used the £5 to put petrol in his car. From there, they went to Adams’ house to collect a dark-coloured holdall and a petrol can, and then to a car park where the stolen white Montego was waiting.
From there, Thompson says, Adams drove the Montego with Hands in the passenger seat past him and away. They were gone for “ten or twenty minutes”. Upon their return he saw them drive past and into the car park. Moments later they came jogging over to Thompson’s Escort. They had with them the holdall and petrol can.
“Did you chin the bloke?” Thompson asked. Adams took a sawn-off, single-barrelled shotgun from the holdall.
“I blew his fucking head off.”
Thompson drove the car [the account is unclear at this point, but we presume he means his Escort] to another car park where Adams and Hands burnt some overalls. At Adams’ request Thompson agreed to hide the shotgun in a shed at his home, but then said he would hide it in a bin behind the flats where his mother lived. He then drove Adams home. Where Adams’ Renault is at this point is also not clear.
Thompson then said that Adams’ visited him at work the next day. He said the Montego had been stolen from a hotel car park by “a lad called ‘Owla’”, that it had contained computer equipment, and that Adams had set up a false alibi involving his friends Neil Graham and Brian Duffy.
A few days after this helpfully divulgent episode, Thompson says that he retrieved the shotgun. Adams and Hands smashed the gun up. The trigger mechanism went in one bag, the rest in another, and the cartridge which had been in the breech was burnt.
That was the whole of his testimony. Thompson did not claim that he saw Adams pull the trigger (and neither has anyone else); all we have is Thompson’s account of Adams’ braggadocio.
In terms of corroboration, Thompson’s friend Kevin Briggs established the motive by telling a story where Catherine said to Adams, “If you loved us you’d sort him [Royal] out.” with Adams responding, “do you want us to go and shoot him?” His girlfriend replied, “go on then” and Adams said, “alright, I will”. This batonage, being, apparently, enough to turn Adams into a killer. Briggs also clamed that he was the one who showed Adams how to fire the shotgun, using a phone box as target practice.
Briggs’ girlfriend Jane McBeth also said that she had seen Adams with the shotgun, when he had apparently and for reasons unknown demonstrated to her that the serial number had been filed off. And the defence also found an ex of Adams’ who testified that Adams once said to her that he and Hands had done “the worst possible thing” – which according to the defence was an admission of the murder of Jack Royal.
Police Constables Howstan and Robotham were also called to testify that at 10:47pm and 10:53pm on the night of the murder, they performed a number plate check on the police computer system (quite why they needed to check the same car twice within a few minutes is not a matter of public record). The prosecution claimed that this chimed perfectly with Thompson’s recollection that he had seen a police Astra GTE while he was filling his car with petrol using the money loaned from Adams.
Another friend and workmate of Thompson’s claimed to have seen Adams and another man talking to Thompson in the Denton on the night of the murder, and that Thompson had later shown him a shotgun in a green nylon sports bag, although he admitted that he did not see Adams near the bag when Adams visited Thompson at work that same day.
Neil Graham – named by Thompson as being one false alibi witness that Adams had colluded with – was called as a prosecution witness. He revealed that Adams had been with him at Neil Duffy’s house at some point that evening, but had left, at some point, and was gone for a time, but he wasn’t sure for how long, but that they had returned, “later”, in testimony that surely kept the gallery captivated with its overwhelming detail.
And the last prosecution witness was a Home Office pathologist, a Dr Sunter. Thompson claimed that Adams told him, “There was blood everywhere. The blood was all the way up the wall on the side of the porch.” The role of this eminent pathologist was to testify that yes, after Jack Royal had been shot in the face, through a window, at near point blank range, with a shotgun, there was blood on the wall.
In his evidence Adams denied any knowledge or involvement. He did admit to having a shotgun for a few days at his house, but it was Thompson’s. He also admitted shooting the gun but that it had been Thompson’s friend Briggs, an ex-soldier, who had wanted to shoot it.
As for the night of the murder, yes, he and Hands had driven into Newcastle city centre with the intention of getting some food, but had changed their minds. This was at about 10:30pm. He corroborated the constables’ story about being stopped at 10:53pm. He said they got back to Duffy’s just after 11pm. They left between midnight and half past, called at Adams’ house to collect some keys, and was stopped again by police on his way to Newcastle airport (where his family had premises).
The defence called David Clarke, who had been a member of Thompson’s gang for the Thomas robbery. He said that in 1991 Thompson had told him he would like to shoot Adams, and “that it wouldn’t be the first time he had shot someone”. Clarke claimed that Thompson said that he and a friend had been paid to do the Royal murder and had carried out their contract. Clarke admitted that, at his own trial two months earlier, he hadn’t mentioned this particular detail but had sought to discredit Thompson by other means.
Adams’ father William was called to testify that Adams had 24-hour access to their business premises at Newcastle airport, as Adams himself had claimed. His father said that the premises would have given him absolute privacy in which he could have destroyed the shotgun if he had so chosen. Strangely, he was also asked to testify about the amount of time it would take to destroy a shotgun with a stone mallet, presumably on the grounds that it was difficult to find a professional shotgun destroyer who specialised in using a stone mallet for shotgun destruction purposes at short notice and could act as an expert witness to the fact.
The defence brought up the soft sentence that Thompson got for the Thomas robbery. Thompson denied that he made a deal with police, and said under oath that the visit from Sharp and Mackie ‘came out of the blue’ and that he had no knowledge that it would happen beforehand.
Thompson claimed that he helped police with the Adams case purely as a matter of conscience, although interestingly Thompson’s conscience had remained unpricked whilst Walter Hepple stood trial for the same crime.
On 18th May 1993 the jury acquitted Hands and Catherine Thompson, but found Adams guilty. Logically this should have been impossible because of the nature of Thompson’s testimony – either you believed his story and all three were guilty or you didn’t and all three were innocent. Without Catherine Thompson there was no motive, and the police stops proved that Hands and Adams were together around the time of the murder. What was it that set Adams apart from the other two?
Shortly after the trial, three jurors contacted Adams’ family and said that the jury had been influenced by one particular juror who claimed to know Adams personally and possessed personal character information about him that had not come up in court. Adams’ team would later argue that this juror played a large part in convincing everyone else of Adams’ guilt, referring to Adams as a ‘bad lad’ and insinuating that he was connected to the local drugs trade. They argued that this was highly prejudicial, as the evidence against Hands was virtually identical but he was acquitted. The damage was done; Adams was in jail.
Four years into his sentence, Adams launched an appeal against his conviction on five grounds:
- That the jury had been prejudiced
- Misdirection from the judge regarding the strength of Thompson’s evidence
- Failure of the police to disclose details of their interview with Mark Dixon
- The manner in which Thompson became an informer was irregular and unrecorded
- Adams’ conviction was inconsistent with the acquittal of Hands
The appeal was denied.
By this time Adams’ mother, who was seriously ill with cancer, was no longer strong enough to visit him in prison. After weeks of negotiating with prison authorities, they eventually relented and allowed him, under guard, to visit his mum in hospital. When Adams arrived she was in a coma, surrounded by family and friends. Suddenly armed police – ‘about twenty’, Adams thought – converged on him. They claimed that he’d used his mum’s illness as a pretext for an escape attempt, and immediately took him back to prison. She died that night.
In June of that year, Adams submitted his application form to the CCRC.
Established by Section 8 of the Criminal Appeal Act of 1995, it is the only body with the authority to send a case back to the Court of Appeals in its jurisdiction and currently refers around 30-40 cases a year back to them. The CCRC has been critically and perpetually underfunded since its inception and the waiting time to have a decision made about a review is months if not years; ‘8 months for an applicant in custody and 13 months for an applicant at liberty’ were the quoted statistics. At the time that these statistics were published, Eddie Gilfoyle had been waiting four and a half years for his investigation (contrast this with the speedy 10-month wait that Ched Evans experienced, leading to accusations that the CCRC were playing to the gallery and cherry-picking cases that were in the public eye).
Between 2009/10 and 2014/15 the CCRC’s funding was cut by 30%. The number of full time Case Review Managers fell to 34 by the end of the 2013/14 financial year, against a figure of 50 which was the number estimated they would need to be both timely and effective. Whilst the cuts in funding and fall in staff were happening, the amount of work that the CCRC ramped up spectacularly, seeing a 74% increase in cases between 2010/11 and 2012/13 alone.
In 2005 – September 27th 2005 to be exact, at which point Adams had been in prison for over thirteen years – the CCRC concluded their investigation and submitted their Statement of Reasons for a Reference to the Court of Appeal, which would eventually lead to Adams’ release in 2007. This snappily-titled document set out all the reasons that the CCRC thought that the Court of Appeals should look anew at Adams’ case and ultimately Lord Justice Gage, Mr Justice Silber and Mr Justice Treacy considered the five grounds raised by the CCRC.
The first point was described as ‘Incompetent defence representation depriving the appellant of a fair trial’. Originally, it was alleged (and appears elsewhere on the Internet in articles written before the successful appeal) that the prosecution withheld various pieces of important evidence from the defence. We now know that this is not true.
In the aftermath of what can only be described as a pig’s ear of an investigation into the crimes carried out by Peter Sutcliffe, aka The Yorkshire Ripper, it was realised that when evidence was collected it needed to be properly catalogued and referenced in order to make it more easily searchable. The resultant database was known as HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System), since replaced by the more refined HOLMES 2. What we now know is that much of the paperwork previously thought hidden by the police and prosecution was actually uploaded to HOLMES, where the defence had full access. Crucially, the defence did not view all of the data relating to either the Adams case or the previous Hepple case.
In British law, simply having incompetent representation is not in itself grounds for an appeal. The test, established by R v Day, is to show that a) the incompetence led to identifiable errors or irregularities in the trial, and b) those errors or irregularities which made the verdict unsafe.
The incompetence argued for by Adams was that they did not present to the jury material which might have changed the outcome. In this sense, the unused evidence may be considered fresh evidence and as argued in R v Hakala:
“However the safety of the appellant’s conviction is examined, the essential question, and ultimately the only question for this court, is whether, in the light of fresh evidence, the convictions are unsafe.”
As the Court of Appeal ruling shows, the CCRC were extremely critical of the performance of Adams’ original defence team. They described seven areas in which their preparation was flawed, and where they failed to examine and use critical information available to them on HOLMES.
In the first instance was the decision to use the team who had previously defended Walter Hepple in the case of Jack Royal’s murder. While on the one hand it could be argued that they knew the material better than someone coming to the case cold, arguing that the previous trial outcome was wrong was an obvious course of action to Hands’ team, and one they chose to take. This strategy would have taken Adams and Hands into the trial, represented separately, with Hands’ team arguing that Adams’ team had previously been incompetent (an option obviously not open to Adams) and Adams’ team having no such alternative strategy.
In terms of material not viewed/used at trial, the CCRC prepared a list of significant documents which included: a meeting on 9/4/92 between Durham Police (investigating the Consett robbery) and Northumberland Police (investigating the Royal murder); a supposedly ‘missing’ interview of Kevin Thompson by Durham Police on the same day; and a 26/4/92 interview with Kevin Thompson by the same force, which had not been mentioned in witness statements.
There was also a document discussing an (unrecorded) interview with Kevin Thompson and Northumberland Police which took place on 14th April 1992. It was the following day that Kevin Thompson gave a witness statement saying that Adams had murdered Royal, omitting any detail stating that he personally might have been involved. As the Court of Appeal makes clear, given that Thompson in that statement testified to being an accomplice to the Royal murder it is strange that DI Sharp and DC Mackle make no effort to record any detail about their discussion with Thompson in their notebooks.
Much was made of the failure to properly interrogate the police about the timings of their stops and PNC checks on Adams’ car. Thompson claimed that while he was using the £5 that Adams had given him to put petrol in his car, Adams was “trolling up and down West Road” in order to get stopped by the Police and thus give him an alibi. That anyone found this believable is simply astonishing: the idea that Adams would drive up and down the same road, on the off-chance that there would be police present, and that they would notice him, and that they would decide to pull him over, and that they would decide to do something that involved an external timestamp (like the PNC check), just to prove that he was there at that time is simply unbelievable and hardly precludes him from being elsewhere at some other point in the evening. Surely Adams would not want to be a suspect at all? Why would he automatically think that he needed an alibi?
HOLMES had this to say about the evening:
“190390 stopped by PC Robothom (Traffic) on behalf of DC Perkins, Newcastle West CID. No offences were disclosed. Vehicle had been seen in vicinity of Bobby Shaftoe [a nearby pub] when two stolen vehicles were sighted.”
This would actually appear to support Adams’s case, because being the the vicinity of the Bobby Shaftoe would suggest that they were on their way back to Duffy’s house. And when interviewed by the CCRC, DC Perkins said that he had “shouted up” for Hands’ car to be stopped, whereas previously Robothom had claimed that he pulled the car over for speeding. If Adams had been speeding, it might seriously puncture his alibi-building, as he couldn’t predict how long he’d be held responding to a speeding ticket.
Adams’ defence team highlighted what they considered to be an inconsistency between Thompson’s evidence and the police checks. Thompson claimed he saw Adams and the police Astra, driving along West Road. After he had finished filling up with petrol and was pulling out of the garage, he saw Adams coming back again after the police checks had taken. While that’s perfectly possible, it would mean that it had taken Thompson 13 minutes to put £5 worth of petrol in his car.
In his evidence to the Court of Appeal, PC Howstan said he had pulled Adams over because they were on the lookout for a stolen car. However, there was no mention of this in the evidence he gave in 1992, and in fact it was two years after the incident that Howstan and Robothom recorded their statements about the evening’s events. Neither constable was questioned under cross-examination, but if the original trial team had been aware of the conflict between Thompson’s evidence, Howstan’s witness statement and Robothom’s evidence, they would have understood the need to investigate the potential inconsistency further – or at the very least, demonstrate it to a jury.
On the night of Royal’s murder John O’Brien was working as a security guard at the Gibside Arms in Whickham. From his office, he could see the solitary entrance/exit to the St Mary’s Green car park. His evidence was that on that night he saw the white Montego enter, leave, and enter again the car park, within a couple of minutes and at some speed. Within seconds of the second entrance, he heard two loud bangs from the direction that the Montego had been travelling, with the inference being that those noises were the Montego in the act of being set on fire.
O’Brien was never called as a witness, but his statement was read out. The CCRC criticised this decision because O’Brien’s testimony states that he saw no cars leave the car pak, whereas Thompson states that they drove out together after setting fire to the Montego.
Although the St Mary’s Green car park officially has only one entrance and exit, locally it’s known that two exist. The footpath from Coalway Drive to South View Terrace is wide enough to accommodate a vehicle – it’s wide enough for two or three vehicles if the grass verge is taken into account – and was said locally to be used as an escape route by those stealing cars from the car park. This footpath is closer to where the Montego was found than the official exit that Thompson said they drove out of.
Christopher Williams and Michael Hession both lived in houses overlooking the car park. Both, they said, saw the Montego just after it had been set ablaze. Neither of them saw anyone near the car, or saw anyone walking in the direction that Thompson’s evidence said they should have walked to get back to his car after setting fire to the Montego. That would suggest that whoever started the fire left by the alternative route, along the footpath in the direction of South View Terrace. Whilst Hession’s statement was read, Williams’ statement wasn’t and neither were called to give evidence.
Whilst Hession and Williams did not see anyone that night, others did. One witness, Paul Walton, reported seeing a large burgundy saloon near to where the Montego was burnt out, which was not there the next morning. Another, Yvonne Hogarth, said that she saw a very similar car travelling at high speed along South View Terrace at 23:50, as did Morris Birdsall who also lived on South View Terrace. Ten minutes prior to that Jean Hayden had seen three men acting suspiciously along the footpath getaway route.
When police put out an appeal for assistance in finding the burgundy car, an anonymous caller spoke to PC Tyrie in March 1990 to say that he had seen the car driving along the footpath on the night, at the time in question. He described it as “flying down the lane [the footpath] and onto South View Terrace”. He thought there were two men in it, not three as Jean Hayden had reported.
The footpath from the car park does not stop at South View Terrace. If you travel along the footpath until you get to the intersection you can turn left onto South View Terrace, or you can cross over the road where the footpath continues. A few metres further up, a branch of the footpath forks off to the left. After only a few steps it connects to a road called Mount View, which runs vaguely parallel to South View Terrace. In 1990 Walter Hepple lived on Mount View.
Whilst taken alone these points were hardly incontrovertible evidence, the Court of Appeal found that together they formed a coherent alternative narrative to that put forward by Thompson:
“Taking the evidence as a whole we see no reason why the evidence should not have been placed by the defence before the jury and every reason why it should have been. In our judgement the reason for it not being used was almost certainly that in addition to not examining the HOLMES database, in the time available to them for pre-trial preparation, Mr Fordham and Mr Menary simply failed to appreciate the significance of the evidence and the argument that could have been mounted in respect of it.”
The CCRC’s document made mention of other areas, which the Court of Appeal did not find compelling arguments. These included:
- The failure to even interview Beverley Yeadon, the eyewitness who identified Hepple as the Montego driver, before deciding against calling her as a witness.
- The failure to investigate the Catherine Thompson’s two brothers, George and Martin, who obviously had the same motive as their sister. Of the two George appeared a possible suspect, the CCRC argued; after Jack Royal’s acquittal at his second trial, George attacked (and was subsequently convicted of assaulting) Jack’s son Paul.
- Linked to that was an informant’s tip that Hepple had been the getaway driver for George Thompson. The informant, who had been used at Hepple’s trial, had said that Hepple’s father told him how George Thompson and his son were involved.
- A filling station cashier recalled, after seeing corroborative till receipts, that Martin Thompson had purchased a small amount of diesel which he put into a petrol can on the afternoon of Jack Royal’s murder. Martin Thompson did not deny the transaction, but claimed that he had borrowed the can from Hepple. There were no records of any subsequent investigations into either George or Martin Thompson.
- The judge made five factual errors in his summing up, which the CCRC argued could have affected the jury’s deliberations.
- Evidence that one of the jurors thought that another juror had personal knowledge of the defendants, especially Adams, and thought him connected to drugs in some way.
The Court of Appeal made little of these points, but did find that the points discussed above when taken together made for a compelling case. However, their judgement was phrased in a significant way:
“We are not to be taken as finding that if there had been no such failures [in the defence’s conduct] the appellant would inevitably have been found acquitted. We are however satisfied for the reasons given that the verdict is unsafe. The appeal will be allowed and the conviction quashed.”
Despite Adams being cleared, Justice Secretary Jack Straw refuses Adams’ claims for compensation for the years he’d spent in jail, arguing that there had been no miscarriage of justice. He refused Adams’s claim on two counts:
- Unused material held by the prosecution and available to the defence to view cannot be ‘new or newly discovered
- A ‘miscarriage of justice’ occurs only where someone is eventually found to be ‘clearly innocent’.
Because the appeal ruling merely found him ‘not guilty’ as opposed to ‘innocent’, the Justice Secretary was able to say that Andrew Adams was not a victim of a ‘miscarriage of justice’ within the meaning of section 133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which entitles victims to state compensation.
“Today, three Court of Appeal judges dismissed Mr Adams’s challenge to Jack Straw’s decision that he was not entitled to compensation for a miscarriage of justice. Giving the main ruling, Lord Justice Dyson, sitting in London with Lord Justices Waller and Lloyd
(a) did agree that the murder conviction of Andrew Adams was quashed because of ‘new or newly discovered facts’, namely three pieces of evidence that came from the unused material in the possession of the prosecution but which his original defence team failed to discover and deploy at his trial; but
(b) did not agree that it was beyond a reasonable doubt that Andrew Adams suffered a ‘miscarriage of justice’, because (a) the new or newly discovered facts do not show that he was innocent (para 43); and (b) the errors of the barristers in his 1993 trial did not cause something to go seriously wrong with the trial process (para 62)
Andrew Adams is asking the Court of Appeal to give him permission to appeal their ruling to the Supreme Court. He is bitterly disappointed at a ruling which seems to him to defy common sense.”
– Press release from Hickman & Rose, Adams’ solicitors
“I am shocked and angry that the judges have agreed with Jack Straw that things didn’t go ‘seriously wrong’ in my original trial and first appeal.
This ruling defies common sense, because if what happened to me is not a ‘miscarriage of justice’ then it means the Justice Secretary can refuse compensation to almost everyone whose conviction is overturned on a second appeal.
I do hope that I get the chance to convince the Supreme Court that I have in fact been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.”
– Statement from Andrew Adams
On 28th May 2010 the Supreme Court agreed to hear Adams’ case, “later this year”.
On 15th February 2011, Adams’s solicitors Hickman & Rose took his case to the Supreme Court.
In total the court heard three cases. In 1979 Raymond McCartney and Eammon McDermott were convicted of the murder of an RUC officer and a businessman two years earlier. The evidence against them were their own confessions, which they always maintained were obtained ‘under duress’. Like Adams they had been repeatedly denied compensation, with the Ministry of Justice also claiming that they had not proven themselves to be innocent.
By a majority of five to four, the Supreme Court held that a miscarriage of justice had occurred “when a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that the evidence against a defendant has been so undermined that no conviction could possibly be based upon it”. Upon this definition, they ruled that McCartney and McDermott had suffered a miscarriage of justice and that they should be awarded compensation. Given that they had been beaten until they confessed, it seems unbelievable that they had been convicted in the first instance, let alone denied compensation.
However, the Supreme Court said that in Adams’ case, a “reasonable jury might or might not have convicted the defendant”. In a statement, Adams said, “I am particularly disappointed by the rejection of my arguments on the presumption of innocence. I will now pursue those arguments in the European Court of Human Rights, because I believe that all decisions by the state based on my acquittal must respect the presumption of innocence, which this new test does not do.” On November 4th, Adams submitted his application to the ECHR.
On 12th November 2013, twenty-one years and seven months after being arrested, the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights found against Adams. In their ruling they stated that they were “satisfied that the refusal of compensation did not demonstrate a lack of respect for the presumption of innocence which the applicant enjoys in respect of the criminal charge of which he was acquitted.”
With that ruling, Adams’ last hope was extinguished. Although the state had kept him in jail for 14 years, it had failed to prove that it had a good reason for doing so or that it had any evidence which suggested Adams was guilty. Their entire case was based on the word of Kevin Thompson, a man who had clearly profited from Adams being convicted, and who – as the judge said in his summing up – was as much as part of Jack Royal’s murder as whoever pulled the trigger. Thompson never faced any charges for the role that he freely admits he played in the murder.
For his part, Adams was conclusively unable to prove his innocence, but in this country that isn’t supposed to matter – the burden of proof lies with the state in proving Adams’ guilt. Beyond a retrial, there seems little prospect that Adams will get the chance to clear his name and there seems little appetite for that to happen.