Who did kill the Doyles?

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LORD KINCRAIG turned to the jury of 10 women and five men at Glasgow High Court. He looked grim as he spelled out just what they would have to believe if the men accused of what was then Scotland’s worst multiple murder were to go free.

The judge warned that if Tommy ‘TC’ Campbell and Joe Steele were telling the truth, then the jury would have to accept that "not one or two or four but a large number of detectives have deliberately come here to perjure themselves, to build up a false case against an accused person". It would mean there had been a conspiracy by officers of the "most sinister and serious kind... to saddle the accused wrongly with the crimes of murder and attempted murder, and a murder of a horrendous nature".

Last week, 20 years after Campbell and Steele were sentenced to life in prison for the murders of six members of the Doyle family during Glasgow’s notorious Ice Cream Wars, the Court of Appeal ruled that both men had been wrongly convicted. The implication was clear: the jury should have believed the men.

Now the words of Lord Kincraig - who clearly found the allegations of police corruption hard to accept - have come back to haunt Strathclyde Police. Campbell’s lawyer Aamer Anwar points to Kincraig’s summing up at the end of the original trial as a compelling reason why there should now be a public inquiry. He argues that the case is no longer only about Campbell and Steele, and what has now been ruled one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in Scottish legal history, but that it could be just the tip of an iceberg. To have confidence in the system, the public must be sure the same methods were not used to wrongly convict scores of others.

Campbell, 51, is now calling for a fresh murder inquiry to bring those who were responsible for the murder of the Doyle family to justice. However, the reaction from the Crown Office suggests that even though he and Steele are now deemed to be innocent, this is unlikely to happen. "Our position remains there are no new lines of inquiry in this case and there are no new suspects," a spokeswoman said.

Campbell and Steele were cleared after evidence from psychologists cast doubt on testimony given by police officers concerning incriminating statements said to have been made by both defendants. Four officers reported Campbell as saying: "I only wanted the van windows shot up. The fire at Fat Boy’s [a member of the Doyle family] was only meant to be a frightener which went too far."

Campbell denied making that statement and Steele also denied saying to four detectives in a police car that "I’m no’ the one that lit the match" and telling them earlier: "I thought you would have been here before now."

The officers’ recollections of what was said - known as ‘verbals’ - were nearly identical. But the psychologists said studies showed people did not remember even such short sentences word for word. This was enough for the appeal court judges to decide the jury would have viewed the police’s evidence in a different light and the convictions were unsafe.

It is a sign of changing times: in 1984 the defence’s claims that the police had manufactured statements was regarded as outrageous and unbelievable to most.

Some 20 years later Campbell has not finished making extraordinary allegations. In an interview with Scotland on Sunday last week, he claimed to have been given evidence during his long campaign to prove his innocence suggesting the man behind the murders was the notorious Glasgow gangster Tam ‘The Licensee’ McGraw, who was arrested but released during the original inquiry.

Furthermore, Campbell believes the gangster has been behind repeated attempts to kill him since his release from prison pending appeal, in an attempt to shut him up.

The two men were once on friendly terms, but Campbell said that while serving his life sentence he began to suspect McGraw was "making moves against me to make sure I stayed in jail" by hampering attempts by friends in Glasgow to find evidence to clear him.

"Then it became clear why he was doing it. If our conviction stood, there could be no investigation into him or anything he had done," said Campbell. He has claimed that two men who seriously injured him with knives and golf clubs in a vicious fight following his release on bail pending the appeal were McGraw and a since murdered henchman called Billy McPhee.

"What McGraw was angry about is I’m grassing him for the Doyle fire. If he had buried me before the appeal then the conviction would have stood because I wouldn’t have been there to defend myself," Campbell said.

He is now waiting for the next assassination attempt in an effort to stop him giving evidence to any new investigation or public inquiry. "It’s just usual to me. It’s just daily life," he said. "There was a point in time I had to avoid cars trying to cut me off on the pavement and people with knives. One time I went into a hardware store, bought an axe and when I came out they all ran away. There have been people with firearms and there’s been me dodging through gardens to get away. It was twice a week.

"The police said they were ‘obliged to tell me’ that contracts have been taken up and my life is in danger and that danger is active and imminent. To tell you the truth, I don’t f***ing care. I won’t let people threaten me or intimidate me. I’ll just do what I think is right."

On Friday last week, Campbell and his lawyer visited the headquarters of Strathclyde Police. They handed in a letter calling for a new investigation in light of the appeal court ruling, and lodged an official complaint.

"The police need to do an investigation so I can give them the information I have and let them do the work," Campbell said, although he admits that while he suspects McGraw’s involvement in the fire, "at the end of the day, I’m not a witness to it".

"I can only say to the police I’ve found out information from this source and that source," Campbell said.

His information includes claims that McGraw associates bought a can of petrol from a garage shortly before the fire. Campbell said the witnesses told him they had given this information to police during the original investigation but had been ignored.

However, it is understood that police are highly unlikely to view information that had been discarded at the time as new evidence that would warrant the re-opening of the case.

And claims from Campbell - notorious for extreme violence as the leader of the infamous Gaucho Razor Gang in Glasgow - about someone he clearly hates may simply be put down to an underworld feud.

The reality is the true identity of the people who murdered the Doyles will almost certainly never be known. Only suspicions remain.

Joe Steele, 42, twice escaped from prison during his sentence to mount protests claiming his innocence, gluing himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace on one occasion.

But he has maintained a low profile since the conviction was quashed and now simply wants to get on with life. His lawyer John Carroll said: "He’s lost some of the best years of his life and is wanting to spend time with his family. He has asked in the past for an inquiry but now he has won his appeal he has, in a sense, had that inquiry."

Carroll dismissed any talk of who might have been responsible for the murders. "Suspicion is no good. It was suspicion and tittle-tattle that put them in jail in the first place," he said. "From Steele’s point of view it really is a matter for the police to look into and the police have already stated they are not looking for any suspects."

Both Steele and Campbell are believed to be in line for substantial compensation payouts, possibly of more than 1m each.

Strathclyde Police have remained tight-lipped in the aftermath of the appeal court ruling. A spokeswoman said the force was waiting to examine the written judgment made in the case. She confirmed the force had accepted the letter from Campbell’s lawyer, and added: "We will examine its contents."

Anwar is also writing to First Minister Jack McConnell and Lord Advocate Colin Boyd to call for an inquiry, and his demand is already backed by several opposition politicians.

His letter to police called for an immediate apology, claimed there was a "whispering campaign" against Campbell and said charges should be brought against anyone believed to have perverted the course of justice.

Anwar believes there could be many other people who have been jailed on the strength of police statements that would be discredited by the psychologists whose evidence cleared Campbell and Rae.

His letter to Strathclyde’s Chief Constable Willie Rae states: "Whilst Strathclyde Police will be concerned at opening the ‘floodgates’, we would respectfully submit your concern should not be one of avoiding compensation claims by tens if not hundreds."

Anwar said the whole affair showed there was a need for an independent body to investigate complaints against the police. "It’s not acceptable for police forces to investigate themselves. An independent body is being introduced in England and there’s one existing in Northern Ireland, but in Scotland we don’t have one," he said. "Right up until three weeks ago the police were still fighting this and the Crown Office were still fighting this.

"The vast majority of officers within the police do a good job and a very difficult job. But when issues like this arise it is an indictment of the police force that they close ranks and feel it is not in their interest to carry out an impartial investigation. That is damaging to public confidence."

Eminent defence lawyer Joe Beltrami, who represented a relative of Campbell who was among those picked up by police then released during the inquiry, and represented Campbell in previous cases including serious assault, said he always found it hard to believe the hardman had blurted out a damaging admission.

"I felt there was a shortage of evidence. There was no forensic evidence, none at all. The case really depended in the main on the statement [allegedly] made by Campbell to the police," he said.

"When I heard he was supposed to have made a damaging comment I was a bit taken aback because he had been through the courts umpteen times before and wasn’t the sort of person to say anything at all to the police. I was astonished he said anything."

He also found Campbell’s and Steele’s persistent and strenuous denials convincing. "I was disturbed when Campbell was convicted and from the very beginning I was rooting for him," Beltrami said. "And people very often protest their innocence after conviction, but this normally finishes in a fortnight or three weeks, it doesn’t go on for 20 years."

Crime writer Reg McKay, who wrote a book with Campbell called Indictment: Trial By Fire about the case, is another long-standing supporter of the two men’s claims they had nothing to do with the fire that massacred the Doyles.

However, he is uncompromising about their criminal past. He described Steele as a "lowlife crook who would rob your granny’s meter". And as the leader of the Gaucho Razor Gang, Campbell was involved in "mindless violence, fighting for territory" in the Carntyne area of Glasgow.

"He was a vicious, vicious cruel man. He developed a reputation for just standing there in a fight, doing the business, taking out five, six, seven people while being hacked to bits. An arm might be hanging useless but he would just keep going.

"He’s been gutted numerous times. He knows what it means to be holding your intestines in while someone is trying to cut your throat."

With such backgrounds, is it possible that police officers believed the men were guilty and were tempted to secure a conviction by whatever means necessary? Appeal court judges decided that in this case there was sufficient doubt about the officers’ testimony that the convictions should be quashed.

Amid all the doubt, the only certainty is that the controversy will continue.