A nest of vipers?

An eminent criminologist said to me recently, “The miscarriage of justice community is a nest of vipers” writes Neil Wilby, an investigative journalist and justice campaigner.

This followed publication of another article on this website (read here), concerning a hotly-disputed innocence claim, that chronicled a campaign of abuse against, and undermining of, that same journalist by a number of those associated with convicted murderer, Robin Garbutt.

His reporting, based on hundreds of hours of research, years of relevant experience and an enviable network of policing and criminal justice contacts, came to two well-reasoned conclusions: Firstly, that the Garbutt conviction was very unlikely to be overturned by either the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) or the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal and, secondly, the innocence campaign was dishonestly grounded.

A large part of that false grounding has, for the past year or so, been down to the public utterances of a 57 year old special needs adviser, Jane Metcalfe, who works in York’s widely-known agricultural college at Askham Bryan. Making herself highly visible at conferences, and networking at other justice campaigning events, Jane has polished up a slick narrative designed to suck in the gullible and those too busy, or lazy, to actually acquaint themselves with either the facts of the case, or the hurdles to be overcome, before it could even be referred back to the court of appeal.

The only common ground between investigator and campaigners is that the investigation following the brutal murder, carried out by North Yorkshire Police, was yet another in a long line of catastrophes involving that force (read here). But the divergence comes at the point where those same campaigners simply cannot accept that a mistake-riddled police investigation does not necessarily mean that a miscarriage of justice follows.

In a recent, but quite extraordinary, exchange on the Twitter social media platform it appears that there may have been another significant divergence: Only this time within the Garbutt campaign team.

Following a recent encounter between Leeds man, Jon Butler, a former College acquaintance of Jane Metcalfe, and Mark Stilborn, Robin Garbutt’s brother-in-law, it has emerged that the ‘Robin Garbutt Official’ campaign is looking to put distance between it and what they now say is ‘an independent campaign’ run by Miss Metcalfe.

This follows a six month period during which Jane’s honesty and integrity has repeatedly come under scrutiny – and been found seriously wanting. The culmination of the Metcalfe exposé came in an interview with disgraced criminologist, Dr Sandra Lean in early June, 2020. Both got absolutely shredded in this excoriating piece elsewhere on this website (read here).

The professionals attached to the campaign should be horrified. They include Martin Rackstraw of London solicitors, Russell-Cooke, and leading criminal barrister Jim Sturman QC. Another QC (honorary), Glyn Maddocks, is also attached to the campaign, but it is unclear what specific role he undertakes apart from offering a sympathetic ear to Jane Metcalfe and providing sensational comment to an unquestioning press (read more here).

Her only visible response to questions about the case, and her approach to it, appears to be a persistent smear campaign against the journalist making perfectly legitimate enquiries. There is simply no answer to any questions that challenge the myths around which the campaign, official, independent or otherwise, is built.

Mark Stilborn’s recent statement concerning Jane’s position in the Garbutt campaigning hierarchy actually poses more questions than it answers. At first blush, it has the appearance of being a ploy to avoid the Garbutt family being tarred with the same brush and, unless the decision was taken only days before the meeting with Jon Butler, it seems to be absent of the necessary ring of truth.

For example, Jane says she had the full endorsement of the Garbutt family at the outset of her ill-fated interview with Dr Lean in early June: “Hi Sandra. thanks very much for having us.  Robin and the family are really chuffed about the whole thing, it’s great.  We feel really very honoured, so it’s great.  So thank you for wanting Robin’s story on here“. Although there was an awkward moment when Jane was asked by Dr Lean why it was she who stood up at conferences making presentations on the case. Jane’s response is worth noting: She was chosen because Sallie Wood, Robin Garbutt’s sister and Mark Stilborn’s wife, ‘would be a gibbering idiot’.

Sandra Lean’s ‘Truthseeker‘ series lasted just two more episodes after its disastrous start with the Robin Garbutt case and the negative publicity that followed. Notably vociferous in other causes, she has steadfastly refused to answer any questions as to why she allowed herself to be so completely duped by Jane Metcalfe.

More recently, in late August, Jane posted on the Robin Garbutt page on Facebook:

This did not give the appearance that the Metcalfe campaign was ‘independent’ of Robin Garbutt Official. Especially, as the Private Eye articles came about largely through her efforts. A fact acknowledged by the family.

Much more publicly, of course, and showing very much a united front, Mark, Sallie and Jane appeared on network television broadcasts promoting the innocence claim. Viewed objectively, they did more harm to the campaign than good. But the capacity for Mark and Jane, in particular, to put there foot in it, as it were, is seemingly boundless. The ITV Calendar version can be watched in full at this link here.

That followed an appearance outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London where Sallie is pictured with her arm around Jane. All looking very much part of the same Garbutt team:

So, is Mark Stilborn telling the truth about the campaign undertaken by Jane Metcalfe: That it is and always has been done independently of Sallie, himself and Robin Garbutt Official? Until he has provided a response to this article, you decide.

In the meantime, the Criminal Case Review Commission continue to ponder over a third application from the Robin Garbutt legal team for a referral to back to the Court of Appeal. It was submitted on 5th December, 2019 (read more here). Mark is very confident, he told Jon Butler, that this time they have the new evidence and/or argument and they will succeed. He is, however, not prepared to say how or why, but alluded obliquely to the Post Office Horizon scandal and a possible impact on the Garbutt innocence claim.

No mention has been made elsewhere of this bombshell revelation, particularly during what was billed as a warts and all ‘Dr Truthseeker’ podcast.

Despite two previously failed CCRC applications handled by the same lawyers, Mark and Sallie assert that they maintain complete confidence in their legal team: “This time the CCRC has everything” they say. Which begs the question – what did they have in the first two applications?

The Garbutt family were approached comment and given right to reply. They did not acknowledge the communication or provide a substantive response.

Page last updated: Monday 28th September, 2020 at 1255 hours

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Photo credit: Alan de Witt, C& A Wild Images; Robin Garbutt Official

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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