Inmate studied his way to freedom

Kevin Callan used neurology to clear himself of murder conviction. Heather Mills reports
A truck driver who spent every spare moment of his prison life studying the human brain to prove he had not killed his girlfriend's disabled child, walked free yesterday after the Court of Appeal cleared him of murder.

Kevin Callan has spent the past four years in jail, convicted of shaking four-year-old Amanda Allman to death. In fact her fatal brain injuries were caused by falls - she suffered severe cerebral palsy.

Mr Callan, 36, had been convicted largely on the evidence of Dr Geoffrey Garrett, a retired Home Office pathologist, who said the child must have been violently shaken because there was no sign of external injuries - such as a fracture - to indicate trauma. But after combing pages of medical textbooks and corresponding with the world's leading neurosurgeon's, four experts yesterday supported what Mr Callan had always maintained - that Amanda had died as a result of falls.

Formally clearing Mr Callan, Lord Justice Swinton Thomas, paid tribute to him and his solicitor, Campbell Malone, for their "tireless" research.

"It is a matter of regret to this court that he (Callan) was convicted in the first place." And in this latest miscarriage of justice, the judge expressed concern that no expert in neurology had been called at the original trial.

The judge had heard criticism of Dr Garrett's performance in the witness box and the manner in which he had conducted the post-mortem examination.

Michael Green, professor of forensic pathology at Sheffield University, said in a report: "His absolute dogmatism in his view that death was due to shaking and not to anything else would be difficult to justify." He added that a failure to preserve the brain had been "inexcusable and impossible to justify", and a failure to take samples was against good pathological and forensic practice. "There are regrettable numerous breaches of protocol," said Professor Green.

The toll of imprisonment evident on his strained and pale face, Mr Callan emerged from the court into the arms of his mother and father. He said: "I am, of course, very relieved to be once again a free man. I have been in prison for four years convicted of the murder of a child I love and it has been a devastating experience for myself and my family."

Although now separated from Amanda's mother, Lesley Allman has always believed in Mr Callan's innocence. She gave evidence at his trial describing his unfailing patience and love for Amanda and her other child.

Yesterday Richard Henriques QC, for the Crown, which did not contest the appeal, told the court that because of her disability, Amanda injured herself with "unfortunate regularity". She could only walk a few steps. On the day she died in April 1991, Amanda had fallen down some stairs, and off her slide.

Mr Callan had not initially been too concerned about the falls because they were commonplace, but later when Amanda was lying on the floor and started vomiting, he tried to resuscitate her, but she never regained consciousness.

Michael Mansfield QC, for Mr Callan, said that based on the pathologist's evidence, police arrested Mr Callan and subjected him to forceful and severe questioning. He said it was a "sad reflection" it took Mr Callan himself to seek out the expert witnesses who got to the truth, and "salutary".

In top security Wakefield prison, Mr Callan, who left school without an O-level, read every book he could lay his hands on dealing with head injuries and neuro-surgery.

He corresponded with experts in the UK and abroad, and later Dr Phillip Wrightson, of New Zealand, and Home Office consultant neuro-pathologist Dr Helen Whitwell, provided defence lawyers with reports challenging Dr Garrett's conclusions.

The Crown Prosecution Service then brought in its own experts who confirmed that the girl must have died from her earlier falls.Mr Callan said he owed his freedom to those experts who bothered to answer his letters from jail.