Ex-officer adds weight to Birmingham Six claims

Click to follow
The Independent Online
COMPELLING new evidence that police assaulted the Birmingham Six while in custody and later lied about the attacks in court has been obtained by the Independent on Sunday.

The dossier of information, which has never been made public before, includes a sworn statement from a former policeman who reported that officers bragged to him about beating the men accused of the Birmingham pub bombings shortly before they denied on oath that violence had been used to obtain confessions. One policeman told how he put a gun to the heads of several of the arrested and pulled the trigger.

The Home Office has had the evidence since 1989, yet no police officer has been charged with using violence against the Six and key witnesses such as the former police officer have never been questioned. The Six are demanding an independent public inquiry.

Their convictions for the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, in which 21 people died and 162 were injured, were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991 on scientific grounds. No evidence was introduced about the core of the Six's complaint; that the bogus confessions that had led to their convictions had been the result of alleged police intimidation and violence.

The dossier was sent to David Waddington, then Home Secretary, in December 1989 by Gareth Peirce, the solicitor for five of the men. It includes about 100 pieces of evidence and about 25 witness statements.

One of the key documents is a statement by Joe King, 59, from Blackburn, who as a detective constable with Lancashire CID, provided security for the prosecution team at the trial of the Six in 1975. During the case he played cards with two members of the West Midlands police force who were waiting to give evidence.

In his statement he said: 'I recollect him (one of the police officers) describing at least one of the defendants being taken into a room and being taken to a window accompanied by a suggestion that he could be thrown out. I recollect him saying that he held a gun to the heads of more than one of the defendants; he said it was an unloaded gun and that he had pulled the trigger. I remember him gleefully relating terror on the faces (I am sure it was in the plural) when he did this.'

Speaking publicly for the first time about the incident, he said yesterday: 'They were gloating about how they had treated the Six. They were boasting about how they had given them a going over. They were all going to back one another up (in court).

'At the time it didn't seem to matter too much because we thought these people had murdered 21 people - we thought we were crusaders and were on the side of the angels.'

At the trial all the officers involved said that the confessions were made voluntarily and spontaneously.

During the successful 1991 appeal, Graham Boal, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, asked why, if the Six were right about the beatings they received from the West Midlands police, no one from the nearby Lancashire force had come forward. Mr King's statement provides proof that some Lancashire officers had spoken out - a fact the DPP should have known.

Ms Peirce said about the dossier: 'This is clear evidence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Had this evidence been available it would have stopped the trial.'

Commenting on Mr King's statement, she said: 'It's compelling and its direct and its from an impeccable source. This is the clearest example of a police confession.'

Other pieces of evidence and statements in the files include:

A prison officer who claims the Six showed clear signs of having been beaten when they first arrived at Winson Green jail in Birmingham. Inmates at the prison gave similar evidence.

Evidence from a police log which contradicts the times given for the interrogations.

Witnesses and evidence about the conditions and treatment at Morecambe police station, where five of the Six were being held. This includes conflicting reports about the time of the interrogations - a vital aspect of the men's defence.

An ambulance driver was called out to Morecambe police station, but was told he would not be needed. The five were the only people in custody at the station.

The controversy surrounding the Birmingham Six is expected to be re-kindled on Thursday with the publication of Cruel Fate, (Poolbeg Press) by Hugh Callaghan with Sally Mulready, the first autobiography by a member of the Birmingham Six.

Mr Callaghan said: 'We want people to know there is a lot of evidence still undisclosed. We want people to know what happened.'

The Six and their lawyers waited to release the material until the trial of three former West Midlands detectives was completed. They were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice on the narrow issue of the timing of interview notes. The trial collapsed in October last year when the judge ruled they would not get a fair hearing because of all the publicity.

(Photograph omitted)