Nina Lakhani: So what went so very wrong in the Sam Hallam case?


Related Topics

When Hallam came to trial in 2005, the case against him had seemed weak. There was neither forensic evidence nor CCTV footage linking him to the attack on Essayas Kassahun and his friend, Louis Colley.

The prosecution had just two material witnesses. The first, Phoebe Henville, told the court she'd seen Sam Hallam among the group that carried out the attack, but changed her story several times to police and in court. She did not know Hallam, but had heard 'rumours' that a 'Sam' was involved. She claimed he was one of the killers after coincidently bumping into him in the street.

The second witness, Bilel Khelfa, told the police that he had seen Hallam standing over Kassahun, wielding a baseball bat with a screw protruding from its end. But he retracted this in court, saying he named Hallam only because Henville told him he was involved.

The prosecution also claimed that Hallam had concocted a false alibi. After his arrest, Hallam told police that he had been playing football with a friend, Timmy Harrington. But Harrington said he hadn't seen Hallam at all that week.

In court, Harrington was much less sure - his memory was poor because he smoked a lot of cannabis. A photo retrieved off Hallam’s phone by Thames Valley Police show they were together a day after the attack.

Hallam’s mobile phone was never interrogated by the Met, to figure out who he had called or when, and which phone mast he was nearest at the time of the attack.

Together with Bullabeck Ringbiong - against whom the evidence was much stronger - Hallam was convicted and sentenced to life.

Thames Valley officer interviewed several new witnesses on behalf of the CCRC who had come forward to say Mr Hallam was not involved.

Their investigation turned up an important new line of inquiry: that the ‘Sam’ mentioned by the witnesses was another Sam, not Mr Hallam, whose identity was ‘called in’ by a local man. This lead was never followed up and the message was never disclosed to Hallam’s lawyers.

The ‘statement of reasons’ by the three CCRC commissioners, explaining their decision to refer the case to the Court of Appeal, included trenchant criticisms of the Met inquiry.

It was a “poor-quality investigation”, while the record-keeping, was “just a disaster”, they said. DCI Mick Broster, the senior investigating officer, was heading 14 other major inquiries at the same time, most of them homicides. “There was simply no control over this investigation,' said one commissioner, “not because of dishonesty, but poor management and staff shortages.”

Since 1997 the CCRC has referred 500 cases to the Court of Appeal. Around two thirds have been upheld, in that convictions have been quashed or sentences reduced. This includes overturning more than 70 murder convictions. If, as expected, Sam Hallam’s conviction is quashed today, he will make him one youngest victims of such a serious miscarriage of justice. The youngster has lost eight years of his precious life, and his father to suicide, meanwhile Essayas Kassahun’s family must be wondering whether his killers will ever be bought to justice.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A woman runs down the street  

Should wolf-whistling be reported to the Police? If you're Poppy Smart, then yes

Jane Merrick

Voices in Danger: How can we prevent journalists from being sexually assaulted in conflict zones?

Heather Blake
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?