Post Office robberies claim was a sham, say police.

At around this time last year (March 2020) I was in regular contact with Jane Metcalfe, a relative newcomer to the innocence claim of convicted murderer, Robin Garbutt (read more here), writes Neil Wilby.

She was, however, widely recognised as the campaign leader at that point and had done remarkably well in raising the profile of the case: Appearing at miscarriage of justice conferences and lectures; networking effectively; and persuading a large number of press and broadcast outlets to publicise the latest challenge to the conviction, via the Criminal Case Review Commission (read more here).

A third application to the criminal justice watchdog was submitted by Garbutt’s legal team on 5th December, 2019. The previous two applications had been rejected after review, but without investigation. A helpful ‘How it Works’ guide is published on the CCRC website (read here).

The contact with Jane ended after a series of pertinent questions, regarding the presentation of facts by the campaigners, were raised and went unanswered. It would be true to say that she panicked when realising, belatedly, that the investigation into the merits of the claims by Robin Garbutt, concerning the brutal slaying of his wife, Diana, was neutral and a search for the truth.

There was also considerable concern from this quarter that ‘Poor Robin’ was being painted as the victim, not Diana and her close family. For whom the campaigners appear to have little regard.

Robin Garbutt speaks frequently to Jane Metcalfe from HMP Frankland. She is also very close to his mother, Joyce Brook, whom she accompanies on prison visits.

Following the publication of the first article on this website, which covered the lead-up to, and the aftermath of, the killing in the living quarters of Melsonby Post Office, in 2010, the response was surprising, to say the least. Led by the same Jane Metcalfe, who had been so gushing in her praise of this journalist, a smear campaign was organised and executed by a number of figures prominent in the miscarriage of justice community. It sought not to question the facts and evidence, so carefully researched and presented in the first and subsequent articles, but amounted to nothing more than an ad hominem attack (read more here).

The campaigners pointed to articles on The Justice Gap website and in the Private Eye magazine saying they were were serious publications and their journalists were credible. The clear, and intended, inference being that Neil Wilby didn’t meet either threshold.

In the event, the error-riddled pieces by The Gap and The Eye were both publicly slaughtered – and led to the publication of one of the most widely shared and read articles on this website, ‘Blind in one Eye‘ (read here).

In June, 2020, Jane teamed up with criminologist, Dr Sandra Lean, to launch an ill-fated, and short-lived, podcast series with the unfortunate title of ‘Truthseekers‘. Metcalfe had already been proved to have lied on more than one occasion, previously. Not least with her ludicrous, and oft-repeated claim, that ‘Robin Garbutt had only ever told the truth’.

It was established at his murder trial in 2011, beyond any doubt, that he had lied to the police and then lied to the court. Most crucially, about an alleged armed robbery that had taken place at the time of the murder. Garbutt blamed the robbers. The jury didn’t believe him. Neither did the trial judge (he described the robbery story as ‘ludicrous’), or three court of appeal judges in 2012. Nor did the CCRC in 2015 or 2017.

The podcast was not just a car crash, it was a motorway pile-up. A transcript was commissioned and an article subsequently published on this website (see here). It was a devastating take down of the woeful interviewing by Dr Lean, lacking one single interrogative feature, and the glib, tailored narrative of Jane Metcalfe.

One of a number of claims made that did not appear adjacent to the facts of the Garbutt conviction included a startling new one, never previously aired on social media, in the press or as part of TV interviews. It was said that, prior to Robin and Diana Garbutt taking over the post office and village shop in 2003, there had been two previous armed robberies at the premises.

A number of enquiries were made locally regarding this revelation, including a retired senior police officer who was brought up in the village and whom, in fact, bought his first car from Nixon’s garage on the opposite side of the road to the post office. He was baffled by the claim and was sure he would know if such events had occurred.

A number of other locals were spoken to, they had no recollection of such dramatic events, either.

Enquiries with the local press also drew a blank. No such robberies had resulted in any newspaper stories.

For absolute certainty, two freedom of information requests followed: One to Post Office Ltd (read in full here) and a second to North Yorkshire Police (read in full here). Both have now confirmed that they have no records of the robberies alleged by Jane Metcalfe.

The only possible conclusion is that the truth has been decorated, yet again, by Team Garbutt. The motive for which is unclear, beyond the bolstering of public support for what appears, taken at its face, to be yet another futile CCRC application.

Since the murder trial, there has been considerable doubt about a claimed robbery at the shop in Melsonby in March, 2009, almost exactly a year before the murder. Garbutt says two armed men entered the shop and stole over £13,000 in cash and stock.

Post Office Ltd say in their freedom of information disclosure that no restitution was made by them. North Yorkshire Police gave up their investigation into the alleged 2009 robbery after only a few days. The Garbutt campaigners have stated publicly that there was scepticism amongst NYP officers, about the alleged robbery in 2010, almost from the moment they arrived on the murder scene.

An innocence claim grounded in lies is a most unfortunate juxtaposition and one that may cause even more battening down of hatches amongst their wider supporters, including, of course, Private Eye and The Justice Gap.

Another podcast featuring the Garbutt case, and with Jane Metcalfe at its centre, presented and produced by Nick Wallis of Post Office trials fame, may now have to be shelved. Nick did not respond when asked to confirm the present status of the project. He was also asked about the likely impact of the defects in the Post Office’s Horizon software, about which he has written so much, on the Garbutt innocence claim.

The campaigning members of the Garbutt family, sister Sallie Wood and brother-in-law Mark Stilborn, were contacted for comment, particularly in relation to the present composition and leadership of their campaign team. As have their lawyers, Martin Rackstraw of Russell-Cooke Solicitors and Jim Sturman QC.

The Garbutt campaign is also heavily backed by another well known QC, Glyn Maddocks. He is a friend of Jane Metcalfe and has steadfastly refused to comment previously on concerns regarding her integrity.

Another friend of Jane, and strong supporter of the innocence claim, is Kevin McMahon, co-founder of the well known campaigning group, United Against Injustice. He has also refused to reply to previous articles, in which both he and UAI are name-checked. Metcalfe was a speaker at their annual conference in 2019. Kevin also refuses to respond to those same concerns.

When last contacted, on 19th March 2021, a CCRC spokesperson said: “I can confirm that the [Garbutt application] is with a Case Review Manager and is under active review. No decision has yet been reached on the case”. No likely date was given as to when a decision whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal will be made.

Page last updated on Friday 19th March, 2021 at 1305hrs

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

Photo credits: Northern Echo

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 2015-2021. 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, 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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