'Ice-cream war' case murderers freed by court

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The Independent Online

Two men jailed for killing six members of one family in Scotland's vicious "ice-cream wars" were freed yesterday after 17 years behind bars. The case of Thomas "TC" Campbell and Joe Steele was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

They were jailed for life in 1984 for murdering six members of the Doyle family, including an 18-month old child, by setting fire to their tenement flat in Ruchazie, Glasgow. The convictions ended a turf war between rival gangs trying to capture the ice-cream van business in the city's east end, which the court heard was linked to a trade distributing drugs around housing schemes.

Campbell and Steel have always protested their innocence, and staged a high-profile campaign, Campbell staging hunger strikes and Steele a series of jailbreaks. In 1996 they won the right to an appeal after a witness who gave crucial evidence against them confessed he had lied. Although both men were allowed out of prison on bail pending that appeal, they were sent back in February 1998 when the three judges ruled against them.

Despite an attempt to challenge that decision, the Secretary of State for Scotland turned down their plea for freedom in December 1998, prompting their lawyer, John Carroll, to apply to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Yesterday both men were granted interim liberation by Lord Justice-Clerk Lord Gill, sitting with Lord MacLean and Lady Paton, and their legal team was given eight weeks to prepare their appeal.

The men emerged from court smiling and punching the air. Campbell said: "It's definitely about time. Everybody knows we are innocent. My daughter will have her daddy home for the first time in years. Freedom at this time of the year means even more so." Steele said: "It's the best day of my life."