Officers criticised for interviews on prostitute killing

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POLICE officers were not 'searching for the truth' when they interviewed three men over the murder of a Cardiff prostitute, the Court of Appeal was told yesterday.

Michael Mansfield QC, for Stephen Miller, told the court the police had bullied Miller until he confessed to the murder. 'The officers built up a pattern of questioning in order to mentally strip down this appellant and put in place the scenarios they had in mind themselves,' he said.

'It was not a search for the truth, or even to get an explanation. It went well beyond that. Their single objective was to ensure, as far as they could, and by any means they could, short of physical violence, a concurrence between Miller's account and the one they were relying on.'

Miller, 26, Yusuf Abdullahi, 30, and Tony Paris, 35, were convicted of the murder of Lynette White in November 1990. Two other defendants, John Actie and his cousin Ronnie, were acquitted.

Ms White was murdered in her 'punters' room' at Butetown, Cardiff on 14 February 1988. She had been stabbed more than 50 times, her left breast had been almost severed and her throat was cut through to the spine. She had put up a struggle: fingerprints, clothing fibres, blood from a rare group and a man's handprint in blood were found. None of this pointed to the convicted men.

Mr Mansfield said the trial judge was wrong to admit the evidence of Miller's police interviews, contained in 19 tape recordings, because it was tainted by officers' 'oppressive' conduct. 'The nature and manner of the interviews were nothing short of bullying and aggression.'

He said Miller's questioning began on 7 December 1988 and continued for many hours over four days. Several officers 'misrepresented and misled' Miller about the evidence they had, in relation to his alibi and to statements by Angela Psalia and Leanne Vilday, two prostitute friends of Ms White.

Mr Mansfield described the evidence of the two prostitutes as so 'shot through' with inconsistencies and lies that it was almost no evidence at all. 'Their evidence was full of lies at all stages - to the police, at the committal hearing and at the trial.'

Although several witnesses supported Miller's alibi, officers told him his alibi had been destroyed. None of his witnesses gave evidence at the trial and three new witnesses were only disclosed to the defence several months ago.

Two months after the murder, police had built up a picture of a sexually-motivated attack, with the main suspect being a white man, who had been seen with an injured hand and wearing blood- stained clothes near Ms White's flat. The police immediately issued photofits.

Mr Mansfield said the police asked witness 'X', a white man, to provide a blood sample. Although it matched bloodstains on Ms White's jeans, this was never disclosed to the defence.

Although more than 100 fingerprints were found, none belonged to the convicted men. Ms Vilday had said she had seen Ms White trying to escape by climbing out of the window, but there were no fingerprints near there.

The hearing continues today.