4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2010
I must first admit to an interest. Being connected to the area by marriage and knowing of the Carl Bridgewater case, I got to hear some local gossip and passed it on to Paul Foot. By then, in 1996, the train of events that led to the release of three men who had served over 15 years in jail for a murder they clearly did not commit was happily already in full swing and he did not need to pursue it.
To recap very briefly, a 13-year-old newspaper boy was shot dead at Yew Tree Farm near Wordsley in Staffordshire in September 1978, almost certainly after stumbling in on a burglary. Intense pressure on the police led them to home in on two sets of two Birmingham low-lifes, cousins Michael and Vincent Hickey, Jimmy Robinson and Pat Molloy. All had very long criminal records, though without any history of violence, and their alibis were confused. During interviews, the weak minded Molloy was led into a false confession that effectively damned the rest. It seemed an open and shut case.
As usual, the establishment closed ranks once sentece was imposed. That justice was eventually done owed much to the crusading zeal of journalist Paul Foot, who has since died, as well as Michael Hickey's mother. Piece by piece, he demolishes the prosecution case and established where the four men probably were on the day of the murder with immense skill - incredibly, it may be that the two sets of men did not even know each other before the case.
Foot also marshalls some compelling evidence that the murder was carried out by the initial suspect, Hubert Spencer. He was probably known to Carl and himself served a long term for killing a neighbour, probably for voicing his view that Spencer had done the original murder. This may be incorrect and we may never know, but certainly nobody I know in the area has seriously doubted it for a very long time.
A shameful episode all round and not one that you can feel much better about now, even allowing for the fact that all four men were a bad lot and had committed other crimes worthy of a long spell. Jimmy Robinson died shortly after his release, Michael Hickey is to the best of my knowledge still in a mental institution, driven mad by the way his youth was stolen from him, and the wretched Molloy died in prison. Criminal, absolutely criminal.