Timeform analyst challenged 'expert'

The jury in the race-fixing trial at the Old Bailey yesterday learned that the conclusions of an Australian expert witness summoned by the prosecution had been disputed by Jim McGrath, the Channel 4 and Timeform analyst, in a meeting with police. In what the detective leading the investigation, Mark Manning, described "an oversight", notes of this animated exchange were never volunteered to the defence.

Kieren Fallon, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams are accused of having ridden 27 horses with the intention of protecting bets laid by Miles Rodgers, one of three other men also accused of conspiracy to defraud customers of the online betting exchange, Betfair. All the defendants deny the charges.

McGrath met four police officers in March last year, and gave them his opinions of the relevant races. George Carter-Stephenson QC, representing Lynch, said that McGrath had disagreed with the evidence of Ray Murrihy, the Australian steward who analysed the races for the prosecution. Asked by Carter-Stephenson whether the meeting had been hostile, Manning preferred to describe it as an "uncomfortable" experience for McGrath.

He declined to accept that McGrath had been approached as an expert witness, though Carter-Stephenson described Timeform as "the racing bible" and noted that McGrath had been appointed an independent director of the British Horseracing Board. "I've no reason to denigrate Mr McGrath's standing in the racing community," Manning said. "I'm genuinely not sure whether he's deemed to be an expert."

Eventually Manning took a statement from McGrath with reference to two matters: the form of the horses involved, and whether they might qualify as "informed" lay bets. Carter-Stephenson suggested that the police had also sought his expertise with regard to the rides, but Manning rejected this – even when shown a transcript of a telephone conversation, the day after the meeting, in which McGrath told him: "Ultimately I feel because my opinions don't tally with yours ... you now only want two things from me." Manning insisted that he had never been asked for evidence with regard to the rides. Though Murrihy's evidence had all been taped, no recording had been made of the meeting with McGrath.

Manning added that no written instructions had been given, and nobody had obtained a copy of the notes McGrath brought to the meeting. Manning's own notes were placed among "thousands of other documents" and had never been disclosed, as required, to the defence. "I agree that's unfortunate," he said. The defence discovered their existence only after insisting on access to the transcript of his telephone conversation with McGrath, which they were initially advised was "not disclosable".

The failure to disclose the notes, in Manning's view, was "clearly an oversight". Carter-Stephenson retorted: "An unfortunate oversight, when the witness is in conflict with your Australian expert."

Asked whether he knew what a race-reader was, Manning said: "Not really." Referring to the transcript, Carter-Stephenson then quoted him as telling McGrath: "For over a year, on and off, we've been trying to find a race-reader to assist in this investigation."

Earlier he had shown Manning documents in support of Rodgers's explanation for his possession of Lynch's bank details. Interviewed after his arrest, Rodgers said that Lynch had given him the information when asking him to find a remortgage broker. Manning admitted that he had never bothered to investigate these claims.

The case continues.