Guildford suspect 'sang like canary': No need to fabricate evidence, defence claims

PATRICK ARMSTRONG, one of the Guildford Four whose convictions for the 1974 IRA bombings were quashed in 1989, 'sang like a canary' to the police after his arrest and trial, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Edmund Lawson QC, outlining the case on behalf of the three former Surrey detectives accused of manufacturing notes of interviews in which Mr Armstrong confessed, said the defence would prove he admitted the bombings: 'He was falling over himself to volunteer information.'

Although the Crown claimed the sole issue in the trial was whether the detectives lied and it did not matter whether Mr Armstrong confessed, Mr Lawson said there was no reason for the detectives to fabricate evidence if the admissions had been made. 'Why fabricate the truth,' he said. Mr Lawson had been allowed by Mr Justice MacPherson to make a preliminary statement after the opening by prosecution counsel. Today, the prosecution will begin calling witnesses.

Thomas Style, 59, a former detective chief inspector, John Donaldson, 57, a former detective sergeant, and Vernon Attwell, 52, a former detective constable, deny conspiring to pervert the course of justice by manufacturing handwritten interview notes.

The prosecution says rough, typewritten notes discovered in Surrey police archives, undermine the claim by the detectives that the handwritten notes were contemporaneously made.

Mr Lawson said that in addition to signed statements made by Mr Armstrong following the disputed interviews, he had repeated his confessions to three senior Metropolitan Police officers, whose credibility was unchallenged. The defence also had access to internal police documents, never made public, which supported the contention he had freely confessed.

Several weeks after Mr Armstrong's arrest, he told Royal Ulster Constabulary detectives about robberies committed in Belfast for the IRA. They were mentioned in the disputed confessions and had not been previously reported to police, although they were later confirmed to the RUC by victims. Mr Armstrong had also provided the names of 10 IRA members.

Mr Lawson said that while Mr Armstrong was prepared to make public statements and submissions to Sir John May in his inquiry (into the Guildford and Woolwich bombing cases) he would not give evidence.

Earlier, Julian Bevan QC, for the prosecution, said the Crown could not contend that Mr Armstrong had not confessed, but the inference that could be drawn was that he did not provide the information in a manner reflected by the notes which the detectives said were contemporaneous.

It did not matter whether he was guilty or whether he had confessed; the crucial question was whether the notes were contemporaneous. 'Police officers have no licence to lie or to cheat, whatever the case, whatever the crime and that includes murder.'