WHY IS LEWIS JOHNSTON'S NOTEBOOK SO IMPORTANT IN PROVING GEORGE BEATTIE INNOCENT?
Peter Hill interviewed Lewis Johnston in 1995 - when Johnston first produced his notebook. When the Scottish Office asked Johnston to give the notebook up, he said he had destroyed it. in 2009 the Crown Office, prompted by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission, took a statement from Johnston about his notebook. The Court of Appeal was told of this in 2008, but they did not wish to know anything further.
Nothing has been done since.
The Johnston notebook is the best record of the crucial interrogations of George Beattie on the night of Wednesday 11th and the morning of Thursday 12th July 1973.
But it never appeared at the trial. When asked about a notebook, Johnston told the court that his partner Sergeant Mortimer's book was an accurate record of what was said during the key Beattie interrogations. The truth is that Johnston's notebook was by far the best evidence of Beattie's interrogation - far better than Mortimer's. Mortimer's notebook contains a hastily scribbled note of some 164 words. Most of it was simply an aide-memoire by Mortimer to himself of what important points he should remember to get clear. Johnston's notes, by contrast, were ten times longer than Mortimer's and far more detailed.
Johnston's boss in this case, Detective Superintendent William Muncie, knew that it is a principle of all democratic systems of justice that best evidence should be produced in court. He broke that rule when he sent Mortimer's notebook to the prosecuting authorities instead of Johnston's. Johnston's notebook was clearly the "best evidence". This is one more demonstration of Muncie's intention that the case against Beattie should be "fixed".
During Beattie's interrogations, Mortimer said that when Beattie mentioned various items associated with the crime, he went to the outer office and found such items which he brought back into the interrogation room and showed to Beattie. The notebook shows that the recording officer, Johnston, saw no such items. It also shows that at that time of night Johnston did not even see any of the officers who had the keys to the productions office where the items were kept.
When Beattie was supposed to have shown the officers around key points of the murder scene, Johnston was handcuffed to Beattie. Yet, according to his notebook he heard nothing of a key conversation his boss Detective Inspector William Gold later claimed had taken place. According to the prosecution's witnesses at the trial, this was the occasion when Beattie had seriously incriminated himself. Yet the recording officer took no note of this important evidence. Two very senior detectives - Superintendent Muncie and Inspector Gold - told the court that Beattie gave a damning description of the knife that was the supposed murder weapon. The recording officer did not hear this conversation - even though he was handcuffed to Beattie at the time! .
The supposed murder weapon was a knife that had been found at the scene of crime. In 1994 a suppressed report came to light that proved it had had no blood on it and cannot have been the murder weapon. But when Beattie was taken to the scene of crime, no one on the squad knew this because the report had not been typed up. Detective Inspector Gold claimed that Beattie said the knife " had a wooden handle with a funny hook on the end." It was an accurate description. And it was the final evidence in the case against Beattie. Very few people knew about the 'hook' on the handle of the knife because no one had seen it since it from the ground the day after the murder, five days before.
With this damning description the case against Beattie was complete. He might have heard that a knife had been found - but could he possibly describe the 'hook' on the handle - unless he was the murderer? Beattie's lawyers realised that this was a key piece of evidence that they would have to address and somehow explain away during the trial.
Johnston saw no productions at the Carluke police station - yet the jury was told that various items were brought into the interrogation room to be identified by Beattie. Johnston's notebook shows that he did not know that Beattie had been taken through the scene of the crime by Sergeant John Adam and D.C. George Waddell on the previous evening. He had not seen the statements concerning this trip - Detective Inspector Gold was keeping those statements from his officers at the time.
Johnston did not know that Gold knew that many members of the public had been using the path through the scene of crime for three days. The notebook shows that both Johnston and his partner Mortimer had had only a brief visit to the scene of crime and had been given a brief account of what had been found.
Johnston's notebook also reveals that there was an edition of the Glasgow "Daily Record" in the interrogation room. It was the Tuesday edition - which had a large picture of the scene of crime, taken from the air, with an X marking the position of the body. Yet this was later claimed to be "special knowledge".
Johnston's notebook also reveals that there was yet another witness that the police later covered-up. This was a plain clothes officer, short and squat, whose name is not recorded. This man was in the car with Beattie after the first two interrogations - and when Beattie was being taken to the cells in Lanark. This was the period when Beattie was alleged to have mentioned the knife for the first time.
Perhaps worst - Beattie was said to have pointed out the place at the scene of crime where the knife was found. Johnston did not know that when the knife was taken from the ground a soil sample was also taken. When Johnston recorded the scene when Beattie pointed to the spot there was no hole where the soil sample had been taken, only a slit where the knife had been. The only inference we can take from this is that another knife had been stuck in a similar area of the scene - and Beattie led to that spot. In other words, Beattie was duped - and even officers such as Johnston was duped.
It seems that after the initial inquiries in 1994, the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police was asked to take steps to recover the notebook. When Johnston was approached, he said he had taken legal advice and had burned all his documents and memorabilia in a bonfire in woods near to his home. A senior official from the Crown Office subsequently interviewed Johnston - who insisted he had destroyed all his notebooks and that he had not taken copies of them. So, it seems that Johnston destroyed his notebooks on the advice of his solicitor! The Scottish Office is not revealing the name of this solicitor who seems to have conspired with Johnston to pervert the course of justice. The Scottish Office has still not made any further inquiries about this notebook - even though they know that there are two witnesses to it - and a copy of it made by a third party - not by Johnston!
What's more - they seem to care only about how this notebook compares with that of Johnston's partner on the Beattie case - D.S. Dougie Mortimer. They do not care to look at how the details prove that the senior officers on the inquiry were lying and conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
So - after four years of argument about Johnston's notebook, we are still no further:
We must ask:
Why was Johnston's notebook not produced at the trial?
Why was it never mentioned in the twenty-two years from 1973 to 1995 - when I discovered it?
Why, when they heard about it, did the Scottish Office take no steps to recover it?
When Johnston later said he had destroyed this notebook, why did the Scottish Office not take any legal action against him for obstructing justice?
Why does the Scottish Office not reveal the name of the solicitor whose advice prompted Johnston to burn the notebook?
- Peter Hill
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