'Killer' policeman breached bail condition

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The Independent Online

A judge released a senior police officer accused of murder on bail despite feeling it was a "very borderline decision", it was revealed today.

Judge John Bevan QC told Garry Weddell, 47, he would go "straight back into custody" if he breached any of his bail conditions, according to court transcripts made public for the first time.

Just over three months later, magistrates found Weddell had breached one of these conditions - but allowed him to remain on bail.

Detectives believe Weddell, an inspector with the Metropolitan Police, shot his mother-in-law dead and then killed himself earlier this month.

The Judicial Communications Office published transcripts of five court hearings today following an outcry over the fact that Weddell was released while awaiting trial for such a serious offence.

Weddell's wife, Sandra, 44, a London-born nurse, was found strangled at their family home in Lancot Avenue, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on 31 January last year.

He was charged with her murder six months later and was due to stand trial at Luton Crown Court in May.

Judge Bevan twice refused Weddell bail before releasing him on July 27 after the policeman's barrister brother put up a £200,000 bond.

The judge told him at the time: "It is a very borderline decision that I have granted you bail at all, and you understand that if you breach any of these conditions, then you will be straight back into custody."

He noted that the prosecution had a "circumstantial case of reasonable strength", but also that Weddell was "undoubtedly a professional man with strong roots".

On November 2 the police officer was brought before Woking Magistrates' Court after allegedly breaching two of his bail conditions.

Weddell was accused of speaking to a prosecution witness he was banned from contacting - his children's guardian - and of going to a pub in Bedfordshire when he was prohibited from entering the county.

The magistrates found that the second breach was proved, but allowed him to remain on bail because it was "so minor", the transcripts show.

The bodies of Weddell and his mother-in-law, Traute Maxfield, 70, were found on 12 January.

Police believe Weddell shot Mrs Maxfield, a retired carer and widow, at her home in Gustard Wood, Hertfordshire.

He then appears to have committed suicide at Broomhills shooting club, about 10 miles away in Markyate.

The prosecution opposed bail being granted at every stage.

At the first hearing before Judge Bevan, at Luton Crown Court on July 3, counsel for the Crown argued that Weddell could abscond or interfere with witnesses.

The prosecutor also told the judge of fears the policeman could harm himself.

When he was interviewed by police, Weddell was found with the cable from a TV aerial hidden in his sock and told officers: "I just wanted to go to sleep", the court heard.

The Crown's case was that Weddell killed his wife in order to "retain control" because his "comfortable" life with his family was threatened when she decided to leave him.

The judge refused bail, noting: "As long as there is a prospect that if I were to grant him bail he might do something to himself, then where would we be?

"I mean, the question only needs to be asked at this stage in the light of, 'what on earth was the judge doing... granting this man bail where he appears to have taken steps to try to end his life?"'

After this hearing a psychiatrist interviewed Weddell. He found no evidence of psychotic disorder and ruled he was not a suicide risk.

The accused policeman told the expert he had only intended to use the TV aerial wire to make a ball to "occupy himself".

At the 27 July hearing, at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Bevan granted Weddell bail on eight "stringent" conditions.

These included the £200,000 surety put up by his brother, Geoffrey Weddell; surrendering his passport; living with his brother in Woking, Surrey; not contacting any of his children without their consent; and only entering Bedfordshire to attend court or for approved meetings with his children.

It emerged after a Cambridge Crown Court hearing this week that Weddell's brother may be ordered to pay back his £200,000 bail bond.

An inquest into the deaths of Weddell, his wife and Mrs Maxfield was opened by Bedford and Luton Coroner David Morris on Tuesday.

A full hearing will be held in Dunstable on 18 March.

Conservative MP Mike Penning, in whose Hemel Hempstead constituency Weddell's body was found, called for a change in the law to make bail more difficult in such serious cases.

Mr Penning told BBC Radio 4's World At One that the judge's decision not to remand Weddell in custody was clearly "very marginal".

And he added: "The way the bail laws work in this country is that the judge must be minded to give bail, rather than hold you on remand.

"That law needs to be changed in serious cases like this, and the judge must remand (in custody) unless the judge can find very exceptional circumstances - which I can't think of at this moment - to release you, so you can't harm anybody else, you can't harm witnesses and you can't harm yourself."