Murder beside motorway struck fear into women: Freed man tells family 'to go back to the police for truth'. Ian MacKinnon reports

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The Independent Online
THE triumphant tone in the coverage of the jailing in 1989 of 'swaggering bully' Eddie Browning for 25 years reflected how the murder of Marie Wilks, seven months pregnant, touched a raw nerve.

The ferocity of the assault six years ago on Mrs Wilks, 22, stabbed in the neck and beaten, was shocking enough. But the image of her stranded on the hard-shoulder of the M50 struck fear into female motorists around the country.

Yet, perhaps the most poignant image to lodge in the public mind was that of her sister, Georgina, 11, clutching Mrs Wilks's son, 13 months, as they wandered along the road trying to find her.

The killing, on 18 June 1988, as she travelled to her home at Warndon, Hereford and Worcester, after visiting her husband, Adrian, at a Territorial Army camp, led to a huge murder hunt involving almost every force in England and Wales and extensive inquiries in Scotland. Seven days later Eddie Browning, 41, was arrested after a colleague saw a police photo-fit picture.

Mr Browning resembled the picture, had a history of violence, owned a butterfly knife and had driven from his home in Cwmparc, Rhondda, to Scotland in his silver Renault 25 after a row with his wife on the evening of the murder.

At his trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1989, the jury rejected Mr Browning's assertion that he was innocent and had used the M4, Severn Bridge and M5, not the M50.

The prosecution had no forensic science evidence to link Mr Browning with the murder and attempted to prove by way of a video tape that he had not crossed the Severn Bridge at the time he should have done.

This featured in his first unsuccessful appeal. But it was the revelation in 1992 that investigating officers had not revealed another video tape which led to an inquiry by the Police Complaints Authority and the reopening of the case by the Home Office.

Yesterday's reserved judgment by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, and Mr Justices Garland and Curtis, hinged on the fact that the prosecution withheld evidence relating to an off-duty officer, Inspector Peter Clarke.

The officer had seen a silver-grey Renault car pull on to the hard shoulder of the east-bound carriageway of the M50.

To help him remember the car and its registration, he was subjected to hypnosis and video-taped. He believed it to be a silver-grey Renault, C856HPK or C856HFK, with chrome bumpers.

But this conflicted with the evidence that Mr Browning's silver-grey Renault 25, registration C754VAD, had plastic bumpers, and was not revealed to the court.

This failure was held to be a 'material irregularity' which might have cast considerable doubt on Insp Clarke's evidence in the jury's mind.

Taken with another piece of withheld evidence relating to the car's registration, it was ruled that it could not be certain the jury would have reached the same conclusion had all the facts been presented. An internal disciplinary tribunal examining the conduct of Superintendent Anthony Stanley and a retired officer in handling the case will now proceed.

Mr Browning said he could prove his innocence and urged Mrs Wilks's family to approach West Mercia police, who 'have lied to them. They must get the truth from them'.

(Photograph omitted)

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