Key 'witness' was not called to give evidence: Although not in court during the trial of two policemen, the spotlight fell on Winston Silcott. Will Bennett reports

THE KEY figure in the month-long trial of Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin and Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle was not in court. Winston Silcott was not called to give evidence.

Despite warnings to the jury from the prosecution and the defence that they must not speculate on whether Silcott had murdered Constable Keith Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm riot, it was sometimes difficult to tell whether it was he or the defendants on trial.

The defence produced 14 hitherto undisclosed witness statements claiming that Silcott played a leading role in PC Blakelock's murder. One said: 'Silcott was carrying a knife with a blade about two feet long. He was cutting the police officer.'

Det Ch Supt Melvin and Det Insp Dingle did not give evidence. Apart from them only Silcott was present at the interview at Paddington Green police station, west London, on 12 October 1985, which led to the case. Only he could challenge their version of what was said.

Yet on the first day of the trial David Calvert-Smith, for the prosecution, told the jury that Silcott, cleared on appeal of the killing of PC Blakelock but still in prison for another murder, would not be giving evidence.

He said evidence from the scientists who had used the ESDA (Electrostatic Deposition/Detection Analysis) technique to allege that the detectives had altered the notes of the interview was sufficient.

Richard Ferguson QC, for Det Insp Dingle, accused the prosecution of not calling Silcott for 'tactical reasons'. He claimed that Silcott would either refuse to answer questions or that he would prove an 'unsatisfactory and unreliable witness'.

Increasingly there was an air of unreality about the proceedings. The case hinged entirely on highly technical evidence about ESDA, a technique which so far has proved more effective at getting convictions overturned than it has at securing them.

The technique, which enables experts to find out whether notes have been altered, has been crucial in several important miscarriage of justice cases such as the Birmingham Six and the three Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers jailed for a sectarian murder in Ulster.

It was developed in 1979 by Doug Foster and Bob Freeman, two research assistants at the London College of Printing, who came across it while trying to develop a new form of printing. But, despite having become well established over the last 15 years, ESDA has failed to convince juries to convict detectives in a series of police corruption trials.

Tom Davis, a lecturer and handwriting specialist at the University of Birmingham, said: 'The problem is not with ESDA itself, which is solid and as accurate as a photocopier, but with what is deduced from the fact that the indentation is there.'

Det Ch Supt Melvin, the most senior police officer to have faced a trial such as this, was always bullish about his prospects of acquittal. A detective of the old school, he treated the case with the determined, combative approach he brought to his own investigations.

He joined the police in 1960 and built up a formidable reputation with a string of commendations. He headed the inquiry which resulted in the serial killer Kenneth Erskine, known as the Stockwell Strangler, being sent to prison.

He was a natural choice to take over the Blakelock case, the largest murder inquiry in the history of the Metropolitan Police and one of the most sensitive, both because of the brutality of the killing and because junior officers believed that they had been poorly led during the riot.

Det Insp Dingle, who took the notes during the crucial interview with Silcott, spent 32 years in the police before retiring.

But as doubts grew about the convictions for the Blakelock murder they were investigated and Det Ch Supt Melvin was suspended in September 1991 when the convictions were referred back to the Court of Appeal. In 1992 criminal charges were brought against both men.

News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker