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

 

Share
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

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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
King Abdullah made Saudi Arabia prosperous but had absolute disregard for what liberal Westerners would view as basic human rights  

The media cannot ignore tricky questions when someone dies - but it must stick to the facts

Will Gore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us