Prints `doubt' on Carl killing

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The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent.

A senior prosecutor involved in the trial of the men jailed 16 years ago for the murder of the newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater has urged the Home Secretary to re-open the case because vital fingerprint evidence was never disclosed.

Michael Chance, who has since left the director of public prosecutions office, has written to Michael Howard, outlining his "concern" that the discovery of unidentified fingerprints on Carl's bicycle was not revealed at the trial. He has urged Mr Howard to rethink his provisional decision in December not to refer the men's case back to the Court of Appeal.

In letters to be disclosed on the BBC's Rough Justice programme tonight, he calls the non-disclosure of prints - not belonging to any of the convicted men - as a "disturbing error" and said "this of itself militates towards the Home Secretary now giving further consideration".

Although Mr Howard has yet to reach a final decision, he looks set to reject Mr Chance's concerns. A letter from Timothy Kirkhope, a Home Office minister, says "there was no reason to connect marks on Carl's bike with the crime".

The men's lawyers believe the prints could have been left by the intruders at the farm, who threw it into a pig sty. The prints only came to light in 1994 as part of the Merseyside police inquiry into the case.

Michael Hickey, 33, his cousin Vincent Hickey, 41, and James Robinson, 61, have always protested their innocence since they were convicted in February 1979 of shooting dead the 13-year-old newspaper boy. Carl was killed when he stumbled across a burglary at Yew Tree farm, near Stourbridge.

The men were convicted largely on the evidence of Patrick Molloy, who was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. He died in prison in 1981, claiming he had been forced into making a false confession.

t Rough Justice: Who Killed Carl Bridgewater?; BBC1; 9.30pm.