Team

The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire has now apologised for the role that the members of the team which caused the miscarriage of justice.

 

The complete wording of the letter to Steel dated 18th August 2003 reads as follows:

" Dear Mr. Steel, West Yorkshire Police regrets the role that former members took, which led to this misjustice. Errors were made, lessons have been learned and have since been addressed through the introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. I offer you my personal apology, on behalf of the Force and welcome your offer to support us with any future enquiry into this matter."

The former members are the team which conducted the investigation against Steel. The team was led by D.I. Norman Mould.

The leading officers on the team were:

Detective Chief Inspector Derek Mitchell.

Detective Inspector James Morgan

Chief Superintendent James Hobson.

Detective Sergeant Ray Falconer

 

The initial interest in Steel was raised by Steelís mother-in-law, Vera Smith.

Two officers went to see her on 19th April 1979. They were

Detective Inspector Norman Mould.

Detective Sergeant Ray Falconer.

It was the first time they had worked together. Norman Mould was a experienced murder detective. He had been on the original investigation of the case in 1977.

Raymond Falconer was, at that time, from the burglary squad at Manningham. This was not a murder team and Manningham is on the other side of Bradford.

The actions which led to Steel being falsely convicted began when Steelís mother-in-law Vera Smith claimed that Steel had done the murder.

D.S. Falconer took a statement from her. She also handed him a woolly jumper, one of two which she had bought her daughter. She said that Steel had been wearing the other jumper of the pair on the day of the murder and that she had been surprised to see him reading a newspaper. She said that she had later found this jumper with a tear in one of the sleeves. She said that Steel had been wearing a black donkey jacket in that period but later she had not seen it. None of these items proved to be connected with the murder of Carol Wilkinson

But Vera Smith also handed a "fish " key ring to D.S. Falconer, telling him that Steel had given it to her daughter Michelle. The key ring was later taken to teenage youths, Brian Best, Neil Best, Terry Best and Paul Wilkinson.

D.S. Falconer interviewed Paul Wilkinson, the victimís brother. Wilkinson said it had belonged to the victim, his sister, Carol Wilkinson. He handed D.S. Falconer the brown handbag which he said it had been on.

The victim had not had this bag with her on the day of the murder. In fact it was at the family home which she had left 18 months before.

D.S. Falconer also took a statement from Brian Best, the brother of Kevin Best, the victimís common law husband. Brian Best identified the key ring as belonging to the victim.

Ray Falconer took similar statements from both Neil and Terry Best.

At that time Brian Best was 19, Neil Best was 17, Paul Wilkinson was 17 and Terry Best was 11 years old.

The police team had access to the report prepared on the case in 1977 and the original statements. There was no mention of any key ring in that documentation.

Also on Thursday 19th April the police interviewed Kevin Best, Carol Wilkinson's common law husband. He knew nothing of a fish key ring. On the 24th April he gave a statement to D.C. Sutcliffe in which he said he could not recall ever seeing a key ring of that nature in Carolís possession.

Prior to moving in with Kevin Best, Carol had lived with her sister Wendy. Wendy told the police had never seen such a key ring.

The victimís mother gave the police a statement, but there was no mention of a keyring in it. No doubt she was asked to identify the key ring, because it was the only link the police had in any way established Ė and if her reply had been positive, it would have been included in the statement. The same would apply to her husband Mr. George Wilkinson. He gave a statement during the original investigation of 1977, but none is available from 1979. However, he confirmed in a statement to Steelís solicitor in 1995 that he knew nothing of such a key ring.

Identification in murder cases is an important area of evidence. Identity parades are conducted under strict rules. The suspect must be lined up with a number of other persons of similar size and appearance. The reliability of the person making the identification is also important.

Identification of objects such as the key ring in this case is equally important. However, in this case, the key ring was identified by it simply being held up in front of four youths. Their evidence was relied upon by this team when that of more mature, better witnesses such as the man the victim lived with, was ignored. Such methods of identification are adequate for identifying items stolen in a burglary Ė and are commonly used. The officer who took the statements from the four youths was a member of the burglary squad.

The West Yorkshire police have never offered an explanation as to why this form of identification was used instead the key ring being mixed up with others similar to it.

Furthermore, the police have never explained how they came to think that the key ring might prove a connection with the crime.

The police team had access to the report prepared on the case in 1977 and the original statements. There was no mention of any key ring in that documentation.

On 14th May 1979 D.S. Falconer arrested Steel. He later reported that Steel replied "Iíve been expecting this."

Steel went through six interviews before being charged. The first interview with Steel was conducted by D.I. Mould with D.S. Falconer taking notes. It took two hours. During this interview Falconer took the key ring out of his pocket. Steel was asked if he recognised it. He said he did not think so.

The second interview was conducted by D.I. Mould with Chief Inspector Mitchell, lasting 73 minutess

The third interview was 35 minutes with D.I. Morgan.

The key interview of 110 minutes took place on 26th May. It was conducted by D.S. Raymond Falconer with Detective Constable Paul Dixon taking notes. It is during this interview that Steel was supposed to have made a confession to having done the murder.

During this interview, D.S. Ray Falconer stated repeatedly that Steel did not have an alibi. This was because Steelís workmate Eddie Hannon had told the police that Steel had been away from his place of work in the morning of the murder Ė at the time of the murder.

In fact earlier in that day an interview with Steel by D.I. James Morgan had revealed that the police team had already undermined Hannonís statement Ė for it was a fact that the events Hannon had described had happened much later than he had told the police.

The significant section of D.I. Morganís statement from an interview with Steel was:

MORGAN: Iíve spoken to Eddy Hannon at great length and heís not a very bright lad is he.

STEEL: No, heís a bit slow.

MORGAN: He will not shake from the story he has told us all along

STEEL: Well, heís a truthful lad.

MORGAN: He will not change his story even when we can show him quite positively that the account he is giving of what he did that morning actually took place in the afternoon.

Detective Sergeant Raymond Falconer does not appear to have learned about this before he interviewed Steel later that day. He said he took down Steelís confession, writing it himself at Steelís dictation. This included a detailed account of the route the victim had taken on the morning of the murder Ė an account that was later disputed.

The conduct of D.S. Falconer became an issue at Steelís trial. It was put to him that he had manhandled Steel, taking him by the collar. Falconer denied this. It was put to him that Steel had been thrown to the floor. Falconer denied this. He claimed that Steel had shown so sign of strain, and that he was remarkably calm and perfectly normal. He denied that he had shouted at Steel. He admitted that he had later seen Steel alone in his cell, but denied he had told Steel that he was "a pillock" for retracting his confession. He claimed he had merely been giving Steel a cigarette.

In the letter of apology sent to Steel in 2003 Ė after a police re-investigation of the case following on from Steelís conviction being quashed Ė Colin Cramphorn, the Chief Constable, made specific reference to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act when referring to the error made in the investigation.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act introduced tape recordings into interviews such as that conducted by D.S. Falconer when Steel supposedly confessed.

At Steelís appeal in 2003, the judges quashed Steelís conviction, saying :

"The essential question left to the jury.. was whether Steelís confession was voluntary or true, or whether, as he said, it been produced as a result of the circumstances of his detention and interviews and had been put into his mouth by police insistence and suggestions. On that issue the jury did not have the benefit of the new psychological evidence as to Mr. Steelís vulnerable personality."

The Appeal judges then went on to detail Steelís complaints against the style of interviewing used by the team conducting this investigation. They pointed out that Steel claimed he had been shouted at, that D.S. Falconer had called him "an animal", that he had been taken by the collar, pushed to the floor and struck on the back of the head. They accepted that Steel had received no refreshment on the first day he was interviewed Ė although the first interview finished at 11:20pm.


The conduct of this West Yorkshire investigative team which charged Steel with the murder of Carol Wilkinson might be judged by an incident which occurred just prioor to the Court of Appeal sitting.

When the Criminal Case Review Commission reviewed the case, they asked for certain documents which had apparently been omitted from the original case, as sent to the Defence solicitor. The CCRC did not receive those documents. After the case was referred to the Court of Appeal, Steelís solicitor used the Court of Appealís powers to demand the documents. At first he was told they were "drying out", but they were eventually shown to him in 2002. He discovered in those files the original report prepared by D.I. Mould in 1977 when the case was put into the "unsolved" files.

On close examination of the report, it was discovered that the sections of the report from 1977 which concerned the route - that the police had then thought the victim had taken - had been taken out of the report. This was one of the key factual areas which was later in great dispute in the case. The West Yorkshire police had effectively denied the Court of Appeal access to the report by editing it.

We do not know who took the pages from that report. But we know that Detective Inspector Mould wrote it and therefore he knew what was in it. And we know that Detective Sergeant Falconer wrote down the version that Steel was supposed to have given on the route and that he must have read the 1977 report.

D.I. Mould had retired and died before Steelís solicitor had legal powers to demand this report, which was an internal police document. D.S. Raymond Falconer retired from the force at about the same time.


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