Killer’s confession ‘false’

A CONVICTED murderer who has spent 25 years in jail is Britain’s longest serving victim of a miscarriage of justice, campaigners claimed yesterday.

Robert Brown, 45, was convicted of the murder of spinster Annie Walsh, 51, in Manchester in 1977.

Now it is alleged he was forced by senior officers of Greater Manchester Police Serious Crime Squad into signing a confession that he bludgeoned the woman to death.

Brown, from Drumchapel, Glasgow, has consistently pleaded his innocence even though he could have been freed on parole 10 years ago if he had admitted the crime.

Supporters claim that during the 32 hours he was held by police in Manchester he was punched, deprived of sleep and denied the services of a lawyer.

They also say vital forensic evidence linking another suspect to the murder scene was withheld from the defence.

The case for Brown’s innocence will be made in tonight’s BBC Scotland Frontline Scotland programme.

Both Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four and human rights QC Baroness Helena Kennedy, say they have serious doubts about his conviction.

Later this month the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) will decide whether Brown should be allowed to appeal against the conviction, which hinged entirely on his confession.

The authenticity of that confession by Brown, a drifter aged only 19 in 1977, has been challenged by Professor Coulthard.

Professor Coulthard’s report, commissioned by the CCRC to analyse the disputed statement and police officers’ interview notes, casts serious doubt on the confession.

In the programme he says: “Police procedure at the time was that you would interview a suspect and get a clear version of the events and then you would ask the suspect to dictate, in his own words, a monologue version of those events.

“If it is a real monologue statement the sequence of information will have a coherence and the language in which its is made will all be of a similar kind.”

The professor said that when people tell the same story on different occasions they actually use slightly different phrasing. Crucially, the professor said he discovered two examples of exactly the same wording in police notes and Brown’s statement which he described as “very suspicious.”

He added: “What we can say about this is either the interview record was made up on the basis of the statement, or perhaps the interview record was used to create questions on the basis of which the statement was produced.”