Call for inquiry after 'ice-cream war' convictions quashed

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The Independent Online

Two men jailed for life in 1984 for murdering a family in the Glasgow "ice-cream wars" had their convictions quashed yesterday after crucial police evidence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Thomas "T C" Campbell, 51, and Joseph Steele, 42, were found guilty of killing six members of the Doyle family, including an 18-month-old, in an arson attack. But in what has become one of the most controversial miscarriages of justice cases in Scottish legal history, the two men succeeded yesterday in overturning their convictions after a 20-year campaign.

The Court of Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that evidence given by four police officers at the men's trial, in which they testified that Mr Campbell had confessed to the murders, was unreliable. Supporters of the two men are now calling for an independent inquiry.

The murder of the Doyle family took place against a background of a battle for control of the city's ice-cream business. The turf war was said to be connected to a lucrative trade in distributing drugs and stolen goods in the East End of Glasgow.

One ice-cream van driver, Andrew "Fat Boy" Doyle, refused to be intimidated into giving up his route. In February 1984, two shots were fired through the windscreen of his van while he was trading from it.

In the early hours of 16 April 1984, arsonists set fire to Doyles' tenement flat in Bankend Street, Ruchazie. Within minutes, Christine Doyle Halleron, 25, her 18-month-old son Mark, James Doyle Snr, 53, and his sons James Jnr, 23, Andrew, 18, and Anthony, 14, were dead.

It sparked a national outcry and, with pressure mounting on police to find those responsible, Mr Campbell and Mr Steele were arrested and charged within a month.

During their 27-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow four police officers testified that Mr Campbell had said: "I only wanted the van windows shot up. The fire at Fat Boy's was only meant to be a frightener which went too far." Three officers also testified against Mr Steele.

As soon as they were behind bars the two men began a high-profile campaign to prove their innocence. Mr Campbell has gone on several hunger strikes and Mr Steele has escaped from prison several times and on one occasion he glued himself to the gates of Buckingham Palace to highlight his case.

The pair were released on bail in late 1996 pending an appeal. The case came to court after a witness who gave crucial evidence at the trial, William Love, said he had lied under police pressure. But in February 1998 the men's appeal was rejected and they were returned to prison.

In 2001 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which considers alleged miscarriages of justice, sent the case back to the appeal court.

The crucial police evidence was dismissed after Brian Clifford, a cognitive psychologist from the University of East London, gave evidence at the Court of Appeal hearing in Edinburgh last month. He told the court that he considered it "very improbable" that four police officers who detained Mr Campbell would have identical recall of his statement, which was written in their notebooks.

In Mr Steele's case, where three officers noted down his statement at a police station after speaking to the accused, Professor Clifford said it would be "an extremely unlikely occurrence" for all three to write down exactly the same thing.

In quashing the men's conviction Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk, said: "The evidence of Professor Clifford is of such significance that the verdicts of the jury, having been returned in ignorance of it, must be regarded as miscarriages of justice."

A third man involved in this appeal, Thomas Gray, 50,who was jailed for 14 years for attempted murder, had his conviction upheld.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Campbell said: "It has been a living nightmare for us all and now half the battle is over but we have still no justice for the Doyle family. I don't expect any justice from the investigating police."

His solicitor, Aamer Anwar, added: "It was a malicious prosecution by Strathclyde Police. At the heart of this case was allegations of police corruption, officers of the law who conspired for nearly 20 years to keep these men behind bars. We demand a full independent inquiry into Strathclyde Police, into the allegations of corruption.

The Scottish Executive said it was too early to say whether a public inquiry would be held.