There was a major error in the evidence both before trial and during it about Steel's whereabouts at the time of the murder. The evidence was accepted without question by the police, the lawyers - and most importantly by the judge who pressed its truth upon the jury. Yet it was completely wrong.
The story emerged from the evidence of Steel's workmate Eddie Hannon. He said that Steel left in time for him to have been able to see Carol Wilkinson on her way to work. Hannon said that Steel arrived back when the cop cars were driving around the estate - and he knew that Mrs Best's daughter in law ( Carol) had been attacked because he had seen her crying and talking about it. He said that he and Steel then went back to the gardens offices to have a morning break - and ask their boss what they should do because Mrs Best was so upset and they were working in her garden..
But this timing cannot be true.A look at the police evidence makes this very clear indeed.
Carol Wilkinson was found at 9 25 - and she was taken to hospital as soon as possible because she was still alive. No one was too concerned in these early stages about identifying her.
Carol was identified because her workmates missed her - and had heard that a girl had been attacked just down the lane from the bakery. They took a van to go to the Ravenscliffe estate - to ask Carol common law husband/ fiancee Kevin Best if Carol was alright. Kevin then went to the scene of crime - possibly identifying some of her possession that remained there - but going on to the hospital wher she had been taken.
As a result of this the police went to Carol's home , Mrs Wilkinson's house - then to Carol's sister's house - which was just across the road from where Hannon was working.
Mrs Best's evidence shows that this happened at about a quarter to one - or even later. Carol's step-father was picked up from his work after one o'clock - and the family were taken to the hospital to identify her at arounf 2 o'clock.
It's clear from this that Hannon got his two breaks mixed up. Steel arrived back at Delius at around 12:45 - not 10:15.
There are various theoretical reasons that would explain this timing and still allow time for Steel to have committed the crime - but they are unlikely - even unsustainable.
6. The foremanís evidence.
There is some evidence from the foreman in charge of Steel and Hannon that supports the idea that Steel's visit to his home was after the coffee break - i.e. when Carol was already in the hospital.
7. Where did this error originate?
Although the most important person who swallowed Hannon's story is the trial judge, the first people to believe it were the police.
We can deduce, from elsewhere, that the police team in 1979 had not read the statements from the 1977 investigation well enough. That is the initial reason for this ghastly error. But the main reason why the police believed Hannon is that they wanted to believe him - because they were simply looking for evidence against Steel. Hannon's story put Steel right in the frame - whilst providing an alibi for Hannon.
Because of this stupid error, the jury was seriously mis-led. The judge told them that Steel "did not get back to Delius Avenue until about a quarter to ten... by which time, do you remember, the expression was that the cop cars were about.. No doubt they were because by now that unfortunate girl had been discovered."
The evidence in his possession at the time of this statement makes it clear that the cops cars cannot have been around the estate until much later - possibly by even two hours.
We might reflect that perhaps Steel was telling the truth of the matter when he told James Hobson: "that afternoon, we were working in the garden near her whatís it, her mother in lawís house. All the police were about and I knew then."
Identification by clothing
Exactly how Eddie Hannon was wrong
Summary of this section
Click HERE to see the map of the estate.