Over the years, no force in the United Kingdom matches West Yorkshire Police (WYP) for sub-optimal criminal investigations, and the high profile miscarriages of justice that flow from their routine incompetence, and, in some cases, blatant dishonesty.
The known history dates back to just after their formation, in 1974, with the infamous cases of Stefan Kizsko and Judith Ward, both of whom were callously fitted up for crimes they didn’t commit.
A feature of both the Kizsko and Ward miscarriages of justice, and many others since, is confirmation bias. In other words, starting off an investigation with a pre-formed concept that a suspect is guilty, and only, it seems, considering evidence which supports that hypothesis.
The case of Ralph Christie is no Stefan Kizsko, that is for sure, but he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, following an eight week jury trial, at Bradford Crown Court, in March 2015. Those court proceedings had been preceded by a WYP investigation, codenamed Operation Laggan, that had stretched as far back as July, 2009. It is strongly argued by Christie that such confirmation bias was present in his own case.
Non-disclosure of key documents to the defence, by the police and prosecution, also features strongly. As it does in every other miscarriage of justice case involving WYP.
Coercion of prosecution witnesses by the police is, regrettably, also present in this troubling case.
Leeds-born Christie was found guilty by the Bradford jury of five counts of fraud by false representation, but NOT GUILTY of fourteen other counts of fraud by false representation, converting criminal property and perverting the course of justice.
On two of the counts, his co-accused, John Jessop, was also cleared and left court without a stain on his character.
All the charges on the indictment concerned investments in land and construction projects that were at various stages of development in Crete, where Christie had settled in 2004 and started his property developing business three years earlier.
Operation Laggan was launched following a complaint made to the police, in early July 2009, by a business associate of Christie, Stephen Thomas, who had, at first, invested in the early Christie projects in Crete, then partnered him in at least one of the later developments. Thomas has always denied being a business partner of Christie, but a notarised document lodged in 2007, in the Public Finance Office at Chania, Crete clearly shows otherwise.
Ralph Christie was, at the time of the Thomas complaint, already known to WYP by way of criminal intelligence passed by him to the police, via his brother Cedric, who was a detective inspector in the same force. That intelligence, it is said, spawned a police operation, codenamed Godstone, that led to the conviction of a number of drug dealers. Two years earlier, Cedric Christie had received a judge’s commendation for his investigative work on Operation Folkestone. That investigation also concerned drug dealing in the same West Yorkshire town of Halifax, from which Ralph Christie had also operated a successful flooring business for many years.
From the outset, it appears that the WYP officers principally involved in Operation Laggan, Detective Constable Charles Skidmore and Detective Inspector Stephen Taylor decided that Ralph Christie was guilty of something – they appeared unsure of what – and, seemingly, only considered material that supported that proposition. Or took actions that were, taken at their face, calculated to damage the reputation of their suspect and encourage other complainants to come forward. Their starting point was that Christie owned no land or property in Crete and that he was operating a multi-million pound Ponzi, or Madoff, scam.
Whether it was a coincidence, or not, within days of the Thomas report to WYP, Greek tax authorities raided the Christie family home in Crete and took away all documents, electronic records. Some of those records related to a trading style called Monte Crete, which was to feature strongly in the Laggan investigation and whose website is still functional today.
After the Greek raid, Christie was called in to have ‘an informal chat‘ with WYP detectives at the end of the same month. It turned out to be rather more intrusive than that.
Christie was exonerated by the tax inspectors in November, 2009. Shortly after that notification, he was interviewed, arrested and bailed by WYP. He remained on bail until the conclusion of his criminal trial in March, 2015.
Laggan was, on any independent view, a grotesque, six-year failure that cost well over £1 million of taxpayer funds. Potential prosecution witnesses were harassed and, in one case, ‘blackmailed‘ by the police according to an email he sent to Christie immediately after, reluctantly, giving a statement. One was summonsed to give evidence by deposition at Calderdale Magistrates Court. Another was threatened with a charge of perverting the course of justice if he didn’t give evidence against Christie. There is an email trail between DI Taylor and the witness, a well respected, successful Halifax businessman, that clearly spells this out. The witness stood his ground and there was no prosecution.
The witness, whose evidence eventually resulted in Christie being sent to prison, had to be formally summoned to court following an application by the Crown. He appeared as neither defence nor prosecution witness.
In March 2014, the ex-wife of Stephen Thomas, Jane, was issued with an undated harassment warning by Sergeant 6215 James Firth, on behalf of DI Taylor, after she presented the latter with a comprehensive bundle of documents, evidence that set out alleged criminal offences against Thomas. Those allegations have never been the subject of investigation by WYP. It appears, to the independent reviewer, that it did not, and does not, fit the police agenda.
The entire Laggan investigation will be the subject of a forensic dissemination in a separate article to this one.
A further article will look at the role of Ralph’s brother, Cedric. Who turned from his biggest supporter – including via TV, radio, press interviews and a website substantially devoted to the case – to assisting the police in procuring complainants against his elder brother. After contact from Cedric Christie in 2014, some key defence witnesses migrated away from that position. Those actions had a profound effect on the outcome of the trial.
From the date of Ralph Christie’s first police interview in July 2009, it took almost three years for WYP, and the Crown Prosecution Service, to take the case before magistrates’ court in April 2012, where there were three charges. The most serious involving 300,000 euros, of which 85,000 was resting in a bank account, frozen following a request by WYP to Interpol, in October, 2009. This freezing of bank accounts, assets, took place before Christie was arrested, or charged. A matter that was not before the jury at the Bradford trial. Relevant documents were not disclosed to defence counsel, until the last week of the trial.
Another three years later, in January 2015, and, largely, after the intervention of his younger brother, Christie was facing nineteen charges at Crown Court. The court heard that the offences were committed between March 2007 and May 2009.
In between the magistrates’ and crown court appearances, in October 2013, Ralph Christie had been exonerated in a Greek trial covering much the same matters that were tried in Bradford. A certified translation of the court’s judgment can be found here:
The main prosecution witness was the same Stephen Thomas, who had complained to WYP in 2009. He did not give evidence in the Greek trial. Neither did the second prosecution witness, Susan Watt. Thomas was not produced by the prosecution at the Bradford trial, either. Watt did give evidence there but, from the press seats at least, was an unimpressive witness. She admitted in the witness box that she had provided a glowing reference for Christie in order to encourage investors, later claiming that it was false when she wrote it.
The genesis of the Greek criminal trial was a civil claim made by Thomas against Christie. The proceedings were changed to criminal, by the Greek authorities, after they received a seventy-three paragraph letter from the Head of Advocacy, CPS Central Fraud Unit in London, David Levy. That letter, dated 11th February, 2011, believed to have been drafted by DC Skidmore, and signed off ‘blind’ by Mr Levy, now stands discredited. It contained a large number of errors, misrepresentations and in some paragraphs, falsehoods. Inadvertent, or otherwise.
A civil trial between Christie and Thomas, in which the former seeks to recover substantial property assets in Crete from Thomas, is listed to be heard in Chania in March 2019.
As a category C prisoner, Ralph Christie served a total of 34 months in five different UK prisons: HMP Leeds, Doncaster, Hatfield Lakes, Lindholme, Sudbury. It would be true to say that, in spite of being a model inmate, well-liked by the majority of prison staff, Christie was constantly messed around by the authorities for no apparent reason. Other than routinely protesting his innocence.
He had previously served eight months in a Greek jail which counted towards the sentence.
In April, 2018, three months after his release from prison, on licence, Christie was back at Bradford Crown Court for a final Proceeds of Crime Act (commonly known as POCA) hearing. It was before the same judge who presided over the criminal trial, HHJ Durham Hall. The police were claiming over £1.6 million, the judge made an order for £480,000, plus interest. The part of the section 16 POCA application to recover funds connected to the charge that led to him being jailed, rather than a suspended sentence, was dismissed by the judge. This concerned an investment made by a blue chip company that at the time of the criminal trial was valued at £1.1 million.
The four remaining counts that comprised the POCA award against him are still the subject of bitter dispute, with Christie maintaining, staunchly, that those convictions are unsafe. He has, whilst in prison and since his release, compiled a detailed timeline connected to a substantial archive of information, and documents, that certainly add force to that view.
Upon his release from jail, Ralph Christie instructed Peters and Peters, solicitors, of Fetter Lane, London to prepare an application and statement of grounds for the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC).
The first hurdle to overcome is that the Bradford conviction has never been tested before the Court of Appeal. It requires ‘exceptional’ circumstances for the CCRC to allow an appeal application to be filed with them if the case has not already been rejected by the law lords.
The second is one of time, CCRC cases are now taking as long as six years before any referral to the Court of Appeal.
The third is that only a very small proportion of cases considered by the CCRC actually make it to the appellate court, where the threshold for overturning convictions from the lower courts is very high indeed. A separate article will cover, in detail, the grounds for the Christie appeal.
This is a story that is set to run for a considerable time yet and, in the meantime, Ralph Christie seeks to resume his home life in Crete and re-build business relationships upon which his earlier success on the island was founded.
“I am determined to correct the wrongs done to me by the criminal justice system in the UK. I have never been convicted of any offences here in Greece, in what I now regard as my home country“.
Page last updated: Wednesday 3rd October, 2018 at 0945 hrs
Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.
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.
For a journalist to pursue her, or his, craft productively, one of the most important tools in their workbox is the ability to make effective requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000.
Public authorities are obliged to consider requests, make searches within their own records and then decide, if the information is held by them, whether, and in what form, disclosure can be made ‘to the wider world‘, not just the journalist, or member of the public, making the request.
There are a number of exemptions upon which a public authority can rely, under the Act, to avoid disclosing information. Two of the most common being personal information (section 40) and over cost (section 12).
If a requester is not satisfied with the response of the public authority, the first step is to ask for another officer to consider the request afresh. That process is called an ‘internal review’. Very often, the outcome is the same after review and the only remaining recourse is by way of a complaint to the statutory regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). This will involve considerable delay, and the general quality of caseworking is widely regarded as below the expected standard. Their ‘investigations’ are carried out under a veil of secrecy and, in my own extensive experience as an information rights practitioner, too often the ICO simply accept whatever the public authority tells them, however implausible their submissions may seem.
Another exemption that has become ever more frequent over past few years is section 14 of the Act, vexatious or repeated requests. The oft-quoted test case concerned a democracy campaigner, Alan Dransfield, and Devon County Council, and ended before the court of appeal in 2015 (a subsequent permission appeal was refused by the Supreme Court).
The decision by the higher court, in effect, gave public authorities greater licence to avoid answering unwelcome information requests, and dismiss them as ‘vexatious‘. Once labelled as such, a requester can subsequently encounter great difficulty in having his, or her, requests considered by that public body, irrespective of merit and public interest arguments.
It is true to say that the ICO, having spent a very considerable amount of public funds pursuing the Dransfield case through three court tiers (the First Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal being the other two), adopted the appellate court finding, in their favour, with particular relish. The support for public authorities, in this way, has bordered on the ludicrous in some cases in my own professional knowledge.
However, very recently the tide may well have turned back in favour of requesters, and the information rights ‘watchdog’ put back on its leash.
Two First Tier Tribunal appeals, decided within two months of one another, both resulted in ICO Decision Notices, upholding section 14 exemptions, being overturned (the legal terminology is ‘disturbed’).
The first, Paul Arnold -v- ICO and Department of Business and Energy (EA/2018/0061) was heard before Judge Stephen Cragg QC  and two lay panel members in July 2018.
The second, Roger Good -v- ICO and Sedgemoor District Council (EA/2017/0228) was heard before Judge Brian Kennedy QC  and, by a quirk of fate, the same two lay panel members as heard the Arnold appeal.
In the Arnold appeal the key parts of the judgment are set out here:
 In this case we are of the view that the Commissioner has wrongly labelled the Appellant’s request of 22 June 2016 as vexatious. We should say first of all that it may well be that the Appellant has been overly persistent over the years, that it may well be that continuing to try to persuade the Department to take action is now futile, and it is certainly the case that there have been occasions when the Appellant has used aggressive and abusive language to which officials should not be subjected.
 Additionally, we accept that it is right to look at the current request in the context of the almost 20 years of correspondence and contact (including a number of FOIA requests) which the Appellant has generated.
 But we do remind ourselves that we have to take all the circumstances surrounding the request into account, and that having done so we have to find that it is the request (and not the requester) that is vexatious.
 We should emphasise that our decision is based on the particular nature and circumstances of this request. Our decision does not mean that the Department would be necessarily be unsuccessful in relying on s14 FOIA if further requests are made by the Appellant in pursuing the issues which are important to him. As the case-law set out above demonstrates, the decision on each FOIA request has to take all the circumstances in relation to that particular request into account, when considering whether it is vexatious.
In the Good appeal these are identified as the key passages in Judge Kennedy’s findings:
 The Tribunal was provided with correspondence sent to the Commissioner, in which the Council laid out it’s reasoning as to why it considered the request to be vexatious. In it the Council confirmed that it had not sought clarification about the scope of the request, nor conducted any investigations into whether it was a repeat request. It explained that the Appellant had previously been warned that further requests for information would be considered vexatious, and the request itself appeared to be a ‘fishing’ expedition designed to damage the Council.
 A letter from the public authority dated 7 July 2017 was effectively a pre-warning that any further request would be regarded as vexatious and pre-empted the necessary assessment of the request.
 The Tribunal notes that there was no attempt by the Council to establish whether this was actually a repeat request. Page 96 of the Bundle before us demonstrates there was no reasoning to establish this is a repeat request. In fact, on the evidence before us, the Tribunal believes that the subject request is a fresh request.
 We do not concur with the Commissioner’s assertion that this request has no value. In fact we find it is a request that has value and on a specific subject which, on the evidence before us, has not been the subject of a previous request.
 The Tribunal accepts the request has value because the subject is correspondence relating to a specific planning application. We have heard the Appellants personally explain the detail and we are persuaded there is value to this request. He refers to information provided by the LGO to the Appellant at page 581 of the Bundle before us, which appears to reveal that specific instructions to delay the process of investigating the breach of planning control leading ultimately to the grant of permission were given by a planning officer at the Council. It appears this information was not supplied by LGO with the letter that is at page 130 of the Bundle before us. The Council did not provide it to the Appellant. It may provide information that would support a complaint, justify litigation or even end the need for further requests from the Appellant, or others in the circumstances of this subject matter.
 It is in the public interest that any possible fault on the part of the public authority in dealing with this planning issue is fully explored. Even though the decision in Dransfield suggests that an authority does not need to consider every part of a request in certain circumstances, we find that this case is not such as would fall into that category. On the evidence before us we do not accept that the request was “manifestly unreasonable”.
It should be noted that First Tier Tribunal judgments are not binding authorities, but the fact that, in these particular cases, the two judges were widely experienced, very highly rated QC’s will, no doubt, raise eyebrows at the ICO, and in public authorities up and down the country.
Journalists, seen as very much ‘the enemy‘ in my own specialist field of challenging policing bodies, can also take heart from these judgments – and live in hope that a more balanced view will be taken by the watchdog when assessing complaints against public authorities that have simply resorted to a ‘vexatious‘ label as a means to avoid deeper scrutiny of malpractice and wasteful use of public funds.
The only public body to label me ‘vexatious‘ – the joint Civil Disclosure Unit of North Yorkshire Police and its Police Commissioner – face me at a Tribunal hearing early next next year. On advice from my barrister, I was quietly confident of overturning the ICO’s Decision Notice before these latest Tribunal findings. Now that confidence has grown further.
I defeated the same Civil Disclosure Unit at a Tribunal hearing in September, 2017 (EA/2017/0076). But that concerned a section 40 exemption, not section 14. Heard before David Farrer QC and two lay panel members at Barnsley Magistrates Court, Elizabeth Kelsey of counsel represented the ICO and Alex Ustych appeared for the North Yorkshire Police Commissioner (NYPCC).
I have also succeeded against NYPCC in a county court claim over data protection breaches.
Page last updated Wednesday 24th September, 2018 at 2120hrs
 Stephen Cragg QC. Doughty Street Chambers bio: https://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/barristers/profile/stephen-cragg-qc
 Brian Kennedy QC. 4 KBW Chambers bio: http://www.4kbw.co.uk/members/brian-kennedy-qc/
Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.
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.
This is an update to a piece I first wrote in 2013 for the uPSD police whistleblower website.
A condensed version also featured on the widely acclaimed Justice Gap website in 2014, during the period when I assisted fellow journalist and justice campaigner, Jon Robins, in research for his book about the appalling Tony Stock miscarriage of justice. One of a number of common threads being outrageous misconduct by the notorious Leeds City Police.
The story of David Oluwale is a compelling one with many twists, turns and surprising links to other people, and places, that have formed the subjects of some of my other investigations into police misconduct. But Oluwale is best known as one of the biggest stains on the history of the grand old city of Leeds and a significant, indelible black mark on the police service in Yorkshire – and beyond.
Oluwale’s death in 1969 was the first known incident of racist policing allegedly leading to the death of a black person. It is also the only time in contemporary British history that police officers involved in brutality that directly, or indirectly, led to the death of a suspect have received criminal sentences.
Oluwale, whose nickname locally was “Uggy”, cut a familiar figure in the city centre in the 1960s. A black man, short (5′ 5″) in stature, shuffling around Kirkgate Market, close to where the ‘new’ Millgarth Police Station stood.
Regular drinkers at nearby The Market Tavern – a legendary pub known locally as ‘The Madhouse’ – knew him as a solitary person, lost in his daydreams and his usual pint of popular local brew, Tetley’s mild. At night, he buried himself in shop doorways, steering clear of the places favoured by most other city street dwellers.
When his bruised and beaten body was pulled from the River Aire by frogman PC Ian Hastie and two Gipton police station officers, PC’s Albert Sedman and Steve Hall, on 4th May 1969, he had not been missed and no questions had been asked concerning his disappearance.
Even questions that should have been asked by Superintendent Michael Wilson and Chief Inspector Len Bradley, who attended the scene by the river at Knostrop, were brushed over. Particularly about the bruises on Oluwale’s head and arms. No photographs were taken of the body and clothes which should have been retained for forensic purposes were incinerated. It is reported that PC Hall, to his credit, wanted CID called in but was overruled by Wilson.
The only mourners at the pauper’s grave, in which nine others were buried alongside David Oluwale, were the undertakers who had stuffed his coffin with discarded telephone directories and the gravediggers who would also assist in the exhumation of his body two years later.
Another Leeds police officer to emerge with credit was PC Dave Stanton (later invalided out of the force as a detective sergeant). He would stop on his rounds and check if Oluwale was okay, then try to direct him to shelter. I’ve met Dave Stanton through his campaigning for injured on duty police pensioners – and spoken to him on the phone a number of times – but he didn’t tell me of his kindness to a man rejected by virtually everyone else in Leeds. His modesty was not lost on me – and strengthened my faith in good coppers who don’t stop helping others, both during service and long after retirement.
Oluwale, a Yoruban by origin and educated at a Christian grammar school, was almost 20 years old when he came from Nigeria in August 1949, stowing away on a cargo ship, the Temple Bar, carrying groundnuts from Lagos to Kingston-upon-Hull. At least two others had stowed away with Oluwale on that same voyage.
Another vessel, the MV Apapa, also left the port of Lagos that day in 1949 with, amongst it’s official passengers, the first ever Nigerian national football team to visit these shores. Who played, incredibly, throughout their tour of England, barefooted.
David left behind his doting mother, Alice, and a work-scarce, poverty-stricken British colony in the hope of a better future in the ‘Mother Country’. Instead, half of his 20 years in England was spent on the secure ward of a mental hospital and he soon became familiar with the inside of the notorious Armley prison. Starting with his capture after docking at Hull, following which he was sentenced to 28 days in jail.
The long-serving magistrate at the old Hull police court, Mr J H Tarbitten JP, told Oluwale that he “would have been better off staying home (in Nigeria) digging groundnuts“.
After his release from Northallerton jail, where he had ended the short sentence, he made his way back to Leeds and a new life in the city hoping, eventually, to study engineering. He got a job, after short spells working for local tailors, at West Yorkshire Foundries in Clarence Road, Hunslet, just south of the river in which he was to later perish. At work, he was noted for reading “educated” newspapers such as The Times. Some reports say that, after a short time, he married a Sheffield woman, Gladys, and they had two children.
In 1953, Oluwale was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer following what was believed to be an incident over the price of a cup of tea in a city centre hotel. He subsequently served a 28-day jail sentence. In prison it was reported he suffered from hallucinations, possibly because of damage sustained from a blow from a police truncheon during arrest. He was then labelled schizophrenic and transferred to the Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Menston near Otley (now called High Royds Hospital), where he spent the next eight years.
Whilst at Menston he was treated with a variety of medical techniques, including the ‘liquid cosh’ Largactil, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Hospital records were destroyed in a flood, but staff working at the institution have said that ECT left Oluwale confused and disorientated for much of the time, and he was often found asleep under radiators.
After his release Oluwale was unable to hold down a job and a permanent residence, and soon became homeless. The relationship with Gladys had broken down and friends reported that he was a shadow of his former self, and had lost all his trademark ‘Yankee’ swagger. As a black man in a still overtly-racist Britain, his choices of lodging and employment were also limited. During this time he regularly moved between London, Sheffield and Leeds but always gravitated back to his adopted home city.
But he soon found himself in regular trouble with the Leeds police again, and accused them of harassing him. In late 1965 he was returned to High Royds Hospital, where he spent another mind-numbing two years in the asylum.
Following his release, he was once again forced to live on the street. He was the only homeless black man in the entire city and it raises the wider context of Oluwale’s story, and that of the city of Leeds, as virtually all immigrants (including Irish) at the time faced a slammed door when searching for accommodation or hostel sanctuary, and a “colour bar” in various pubs around Leeds.
Another Nigerian stowaway, John Otse, who was only 12 years old when he left his homeland, knew Oluwale through good times and bad. He was very fond of ‘Yankee’, a nickname given to Oluwale because of his passion for Western movies, his swaggering walk and trousers with his trademark twin pockets to the rear. Otse remembers him as a sharp dresser who frequented the fashionable Mecca Locarno ballroom, managed at the time by none other than Jimmy Savile. Who, quite apart from his infamy as a rapist and child abuser, was known to tie up clubbers in the Mecca boilerhouse and subject ‘miscreants’ in his dance hall to punishment beatings. There are, however, no records or verbal accounts of Oluwale being such a victim.
David Oluwale was frustrated with his life in Leeds, his menial jobs and shabby lodgings. “He talked of going to night school to improve his writing, but he was more interested in partying.” says Otse. He just didn’t submit to the subservient role then expected of black people. He hated being pushed around and over-reacted to situations where others might have walked away. That chippiness and impatience for success did also, undoubtedly, contribute to Oluwale’s own difficulties.
His friend, Otse, lost touch with Oluwale when he was first sent to High Royds and that was, undoubtedly, a brutalising experience. He did not receive a single visitor there in ten years of incarceration. When Otse next saw Oluwale in Leeds he was in a sad way. “He’d started to disintegrate. Even his English had deteriorated. He tried hard to look decent but struggled to keep himself clean.”
Otse tried, but failed, to get Oluwale back on his feet. Most of his other West African friends had disowned him. “The blame should rest squarely on us as well, because we didn’t do what we should have done for him, all living in a foreign country,” Otse says, candidly if a little harshly, of the city’s small Nigerian community. “If we had only got ourselves together we could have been able to save Oluwale’s life.”
In 1968, to add to Oluwale’s thoroughly miserable existence, he became the target of a sustained and violent campaign of physical and mental cruelty. His principal tormenters were two officers based at Millgarth police station, housing some of the worst of the ‘punch first, ask questions later’ Leeds City Police. Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and ruthless ‘hardman’ Sergeant Kenneth Kitching took perverse pleasure in making Oluwale’s life a misery. Once the doors of Leeds bars and clubs were shut (the front ones at least) they went looking for him, tormenting and humiliating him.
After one particular incident in September 1968, during which Ellerker alleged David had bitten him, the Inspector promised to get revenge. The two out-of-control police officers forced him to bow down in front of them and then banged his head on the pavement. They called this his ‘penance’. Kitching was also seen urinating on Oluwale in the doorway of a Headrow shop called the Bridal House, as Ellerker shone his torch on him. The witness was another Millgarth police officer, Cyril Batty. The police persecutors even once assaulted him by kicking him repeatedly in the genitals and then drove him to the city limits and dumped him at Middleton Woods at 3.30am, joking afterwards that he would ‘feel at home in the jungle’.
At the subsequent criminal trial of Ellerker and Kitching, PC Batty said he didn’t report what he had seen on The Headrow ‘in order to protect his career’. Which is as good a commentary as you will get on the warped values of the officers at the heart of the Leeds City Police.
Another experienced officer, radio operator PC Ken Bennett, with almost 20 years service, and Sgt Dougie Carter were other Millgarth men who knew of the abusive treatment of Oluwale and chose to remain silent. Sadly, that type of tribalism, and mis-placed loyalty, still exists in the Leeds Division of West Yorkshire Police today.
A few weeks before his death, Oluwale had told his probation officer that he wanted to return to Nigeria. The police harassment had almost broken him. In the early hours of 18th April 1969, just a week after the very last time he was released from a prison cell, he was beaten with truncheons in the doorway of John Peters Furniture store in Lands Lane, Leeds (now a Miss Selfridge outlet). The store was just off The Headrow, then Leeds’ main shopping thoroughfare. Oluwale fled for his life down Lands Lane towards Leeds Bridge screaming and holding the back of his head.
A local petty criminal later came forward to say that he had been on the parapet of the ornate, green-painted Leeds Bridge and saw two uniformed police officers “silver buttons and cap and helmet badges clearly visible” inflict a terrible beating on a smaller, dark man and then kick him into the river after they had smashed him unconscious. The witness added: “I recall saying to myself ‘jump in and swim for it’, as the blows rained down on him, but he just took it all before going down.”
Another witness, a Leeds City Transport bus conductor, told the police inquiry that he had seen, from a distance, two police officers chasing someone towards the same section of the River Aire from which David’s body was pulled two weeks later. George Merrion, a local postman, had seen a police vehicle parked on an alleyway off Call Lane facing the river at the material time.
In 1970 a young Leeds City Police cadet Gavin Galvin, reported first to ‘old hand’ SOCO officer Detective Sergeant Jock McLeod and then a senior officer, believed to be Inspector John Puddefoot (a former British Colonial Police officer in Rhodesia who received a BEM for gallantry whilst serving with South Wales Police), that he’d heard police station gossip from colleagues about the horrendous treatment Kitching and Ellerker had meted out to Oluwale.
This report may have been prompted by perverting the course of justice charges that were ongoing against Ellerker. This was ‘The Big Red scandal’ and concerned the death of an elderly woman, Minnie Wein, struck by the drunk driver of an unmarked police car on a pedestrian crossing near the Skyrack pub in Headingley. Ellerker was later found guilty, sentenced to nine months in prison and dismissed from Leeds City Police. The driver was alleged to be Superintendent Derek Holmes.
An enquiry was launched following the Oluwale intelligence provided by Galvin and McLeod, carried out by the Metropolitan Police, and sufficient evidence was gathered to prompt manslaughter, perjury and grevious bodily harm (GBH) charges being brought against Kitching and Ellerker.
During the Scotland Yard enquiry, led by dour, dogged, determined Detective Chief Superintendent John Perkins and his more affable ‘bagman’ Detective Sergeant Basil Haddrell, and at the subsequent trial in November 1971, a catalogue of sustained physical abuse came to light, mostly carried out by Kitching and Ellerker.
The meticulous ‘Polly’ Perkins was obsessive in his pursuit for justice and was the first person in authority, even though he never knew David Oluwale, who related to him as a person, rather than a problem, in the city of Leeds. It was Perkins’ investigations that revealed Kitching and Ellerker had taken special interest in Oluwale and asked colleagues to let them personally handle incidents relating to him. They specifically targeted him in the early hours of the morning, when there was nobody about and he could usually be found sleeping in shop doorways.
Kitching, in his first interview with the Scotland Yard detectives, made comments such as: ‘I have put him out of doorways and kicked his behind’, ‘tickled him with my boot’, ‘never hit him really hard’, ‘kicked him gently’, ‘just a slap’, ‘booted his backside out of it’, and described David Oluwale as ‘a wild animal, not a human being’. He never denied being rough with Oluwale.
Ellerker, already convicted of perverting the course of justice on what he claimed was rumour and hearsay, refused to co-operate with the Perkins inquiry. He also conveniently lost his duty book covering the night when Oluwale was believed to have ended up in the river.
The enquiry also found that racist terms were used on paperwork relating to Oluwale, such as scribbling “wog” in the space reserved for nationality on charge sheets. However, despite this, the trial made no mention of racism and was centred around police brutality.
Several trial witnesses described Oluwale as a dangerous man, and the trial judge said: “I would have thought that had been established a thousand times. It is accepted on all hands that he was dirty, filthy, violent vagrant“.
However, this extraordinary and partial pronouncement is contrary to the statements of witnesses collected during the earlier enquiry, who described Oluwale as unassuming – and even cheerful. One of these witnesses was Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Tony Harney who gave a heartfelt account completely at odds with the picture painted by the police and prosecutors.
However, their statements were not featured in the trial. It was later alleged that Judge Hinchliffe was a member of the same Masonic Lodge as Ellerker and that the judge, a short stocky septuganarian, had also been seen as a passenger alighting from the car that had killed the old lady outside the pub in Headingley on Christmas Eve, 1969. It was suggested that Hinchliffe was swiftly removed from the scene by another police car and continued his journey to Castle Grove Masonic Hall at Far Headingley.
Coincidentally, Mr Justice Hinchliffe had tried Tony Stock in the same Leeds Assizes courtroom seventeen months earlier. By a another curious coincidence, Harry Ognall was a junior defence counsel at both trials, appearing behind the legendary Gilbert Gray QC, for Kitching.
Ellerker and Kitching were jailed for a series of assaults on Oluwale at the old Leeds Assizes, but found not guilty of manslaughter at the direction of Judge Hinchcliffe, who concluded that there was no evidence to place them at the alleged scene of the crime, by the river at Warehouse Hill. Ellerker was sentenced to three years in prison, and Kitching received 27 months. Throughout the trial, Judge Hinchliffe, the most powerful judge on the North-Eastern circuit at the time, could neither conceal his distate for the victim or his disappointment that two serving police officers were up before him.
Those two officers, the heavy-drinking Ellerker and Kitching, maintained an arrogant attitude throughout Court proceedings on the premise that Oluwale was a vagrant and they were entitled to move him on using whatever force they deemed necessary.
One of the prosecuting counsel, Donald Herrod, wrote afterwards that the other police witnesses gave a sorry impression, that the full truth was not being told and that there was a scarcely-concealed conspiracy to protect the two officers on trial. He singled out Sgt Frank Atkinson as ‘a thoroughly unimpressive witness’ and PC Keith Seager as ‘reluctant throughout’. Seager was the third officer often seen with the other two assaulting Oluwale and the driver on the ‘trips’ when Oluwale was deliberately dumped far from Leeds city centre.
Beyond that appalling disposition before and at Court, neither Ellerker nor Kitchen admitted to making the racist alterations to the charge sheets and, at a subsequent internal police inquiry, no other officer admitted any knowledge of the those deeply offensive amendments . Kitching, who worked in a cloth warehouse in Leeds after his release from prison, is now dead and Ellerker, represented by Basil Wigoder QC and his junior, Arthur Myerson, has consistently refused to comment to anyone publicly on his role in the hounding of David Oluwale.
At the time of the Oluwale tragedy, there were several other scandals involving Leeds City Police which almost led to the Home Secretary of the day, Reginald Maudling, taking over the running of the force. It merged three years later with Bradford Police and West Yorkshire Constabulary (which had come into being after the four ‘Borough’ forces had merged with Wakefield City and West Riding in 1968) to become West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police. The word Metropolitan was dropped from the force’s title in 1986.
Apart from Oluwale’s savage death, the committing of at least two armed robberies by firearms crackshot DCI Roy Caisley was, probably, the worst of the other crimes committed by what came to be regarded as a ‘bandit’ police force. Caisley was arrested by a subordinate and close colleague DC John Stockwell whose brother, Dave, was a star rugby league player of that era and played for the famous Bradford Northern team.
A highly visible nobody in life, Oluwale entered popular culture in the city soon after the trial. His name was chanted enthusiastically at Leeds United’s football ground at Elland Road during that team’s heydays. To the tune of Michael Row The Boat Ashore, the Kop heartily sang: ‘TheRiver Aire is chilly and deep, Ol-u-wale. Never trust the Leeds police. Ol-u-wale‘
The darling of that same Kop for a decade before had been the black South African, skilful and fleet-footed winger, Albert Johannesen. The first black player to play at the highest level of English football. The Johanneson adulation and the antipathy towards the hated local police were probably equal in the motivation of the overt support of Oluwale. There was also a widely held sense amongst the ordinary people of Leeds of deep embarrassment that such indignities, and violence, could have been inflicted on a vulnerable man by two of their policemen, on the most well known of their own city streets. They knew the police had gone too far, that they had acted illegitimately and targeted a small, helpless, unwell man with no means of defending himself .
Yet there was very little soul-searching amongst the Leeds police in the aftermath of the Oluwale case. It was easy to blame Oluwale’s fate entirely on ‘two rotten apples’ within the police. But social services also failed Oluwale, shunting him from one department to another. After his long incarceration, High Royds mental hospital released him into the community with scant thought as to how he might cope (a few months after being discharged he bit a park-keeper’s finger, but instead of being returned to hospital was jailed for malicious wounding).
An interesting footnote to the sense of outrage surrounding Judge Hinchliffe’s partiality at the trial of Ellerker and Kitching was the role his son-in-law, Judge David Savill QC, played many years later in the fate of the homeless in Leeds. He spent much of his retirement as a successful fundraiser for The Friends of Leeds and, as twice a former Recorder of Leeds, gave the charity welcome gravitas. He was also a passionate champion for those who often could not speak up for themselves – and went on to become a patron of the Church Housing Trust, another charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and resettlement of homeless people.
These activities were an incredible contribution by Judge Savill to the city of Leeds and seen by some as atonement for the Oluwale affair. Interestingly, both Donald Herrod (see above) and David Savill were members of the same barristers’ chambers in Leeds. Judge Savill latterly as Head of Chambers. He sadly passed away in 2011 and was the subject of a fitting Yorkshire Postobituary. Herrod, after taking silk and unsuccessfully defending disgraced architect John Poulson three years after the Oluwale trial, also went on to became a highly respected circuit judge. As did, Harry Ognall and Arthur Myerson.
John Cobb QC who had successfully prosecuted Ellerker and Kitching, also led for the Crown against Poulson.
Although Oluwale’s story caused a national scandal at the time (thanks in part to the radio play ‘Smiling David‘ written by Jeremy Sandford, it had been all but forgotten until police paperwork detailing the case was declassified under the Thirty Year Rule. This was used by Kester Aspden to write the book Nationality:Wog, The Hounding of David Oluwale, published in 2007, which returned the story to the public eye. It won the crime writer’s Golden Dagger award the following year.
A Memorial Garden in Leeds is planned on the likely site of David Olulwale’s death near Leeds Bridge. The David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) is working on the land on Water Lane, in the city centre. There is presently a hold up with the lease for the necessary land, ASDA plc having gone cold on DOMA after previously being very enthusiastic.
Among those of a younger generation to become fascinated by the case is Mahalia France. She was born in 1976, years after Oluwale’s bloated body was dragged from the river near the sewerage works at Knostrop after being spotted by a group of boys which included Wayne Batley and Martin Thorpe, but as a young girl growing up in the Chapeltown area of Leeds remembers the name being in the background. “Remember Oluwale,” was one bit of graffiti scrawled near the Hayfield Hotel. Ms France is now involved in the memorial campaign as a fundraiser and her hope for a life-affirming urban garden is on the cusp of being realised. “He didn’t ask for much, only a place to live. And who doesn’t deserve that as a human being?” she says.
John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who has also pledged his support to the campaign, wants to secure that memory as a warning of where racial hatred leads. “It’s important to show how sorry we are that this happened within our own culture,” he said.
Author and former Leeds University crime lecturer Kester Aspden’s book was adapted by Oladipo Agboluaje into a stage play. It was first performed in Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in February 2009 and starred Daniel Francis (pictured below), and theatre critics described it as ‘a richly emotional play which proves its point without coming across like it has a point to prove’.
Agboluaje, whose work is known for its anarchic spirit and subversive humour, said at the time of the play’s first production: “The aim of this adaptation is to discover the man buried beneath the pile of official records. My intention is to paint a human story putting David at its centre. To say that David was an angel whose name has been sullied is incorrect. He was a person, which makes it easy to empathise with his story.”
A link to the DOMA website can be found by clicking here. It is a cause well worth supporting as homelessness is still an issue in Leeds, as in most other major cities in the UK, and a high police priority, according to the Leeds City NPT website, is to deal with vagrancy.
A recent Yorkshire Evening Post story also helped raised the profile of the fundraising and memorial project. read more here.
Another David Oluwale tragedy must never be allowed to happen. In Leeds or in any other town or city within our shores.
This is a piece I first wrote for the uPSD website three years ago. It has been updated with some recent developments, particularly relating to the ex-PC Danny Major miscarriage of justice case, in which I have been closely involved:
On the gravestone that marks the burial place of Charlotte Kiszko, and her son Stefan (pictured above), the inscription is carved on the blackened Pennine rock: “A loving wife and a very devoted mother“. That is an understatement of monumental proportions. No one could possibly have been more steadfast than German-born Charlotte, who campaigned tirelessly – and ultimately successfully – for sixteen long years to prove the innocence of her son. Much in the way that the relatives, and friends, of the many who perished in the Hillsborough Disaster have fought relentlessly for justice – and the parents of Danny Major who have battled for so long to clear their own son’s name.
Stefan Kiszko was convicted, after a diabolical West Yorkshire Police investigation, of the murder of 11-year-old Rochdale girl, Lesley Molseed, in 1975. She had been stabbed to death on Rishworth Moor, close to the Lancashire-Yorkshire border. The killer had ejaculated on her underclothes.
The murder probe, and subsequent brutal, and relentless, three day interrogation of Kiszko, was led by Detective Sergeant John Akeroyd and his boss, Detective Chief Inspector, Dick Holland, both of whom were commended at the subsequent trial. As was the senior investigating officer, Chief Superintendent Jack Dibb. Holland and Dibb were later to be charged with perverting the course of justice, but the trial was halted after Dibb passed away in 1995. Holland, and a forensic scientist charged along with the two police officers, Ronald Outteridge, were set to blame Dibb for any evidential shortcomings. Holland died in 2007.
The repeated request to have Charlotte present whilst he was being questioned was refused and, crucially, the police did not caution the grossly immature Stefan Kiszko until long after they had decided he was the prime – and indeed only – suspect. He ultimately “confessed” after being told he could go home to his mother if he did so.
Holland waslater to achieve notoriety in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, after which he was demoted following an internal inquiry. He was also one of the senior investigators on another of the greatest miscarriages of justices of modern times, Judith Ward, wrongly convicted of the M62 IRA coach bomb murders, after a similarly brutalising interrogation. When he retired in 1988, Holland viewed the convictions of both Stefan Kiszko and of Judith Ward as being “among his finest hours during his 35 years in the police force”.
It is over 40 years since Stefan, an Inland Revenue clerk with the mental and emotional age of a 12-year-old, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court by a jury directed by Judge Sir Hugh Park; and 20 years since he died, like his father, of a heart attack, after an all too brief taste of freedom. He was just 41 years of age, mentally and physically broken. His beloved mother, of Slovenian descent, died a few months later. Charlotte had buried her husband, Ukrainian-born Ivan Kiszko, in a Halifax cemetery after he dropped dead at Stefan’s feet in 1970 following a heart attack.
Stefan suffered from XYY syndrome, a condition in which the human male has an extra Y chromosome. Such men are normal except for – sometimes slight – growth irregularities and minor behavioural abnormalities. One of Stefan’s “behavioural abnormalities” was jotting down the registration numbers of a car if he had been annoyed by the driver. This led, in part, to his wrongful conviction as he had, at some point prior to the murder, unwittingly jotted down the number of a car seen near the scene of the crime. It was argued by the prosecution, at the murder trial, that only someone at the scene could have known the number of this car.
Also, as a symptom of his condition, Stefan Kiszko would have been physically incapable of the sex crime of which he was convicted. A crucial fact which was never disclosed to his defence team at the time of the trial.
David Waddington, who persuaded this totally innocent man to plead guilty to manslaughter, went on to become Home Secretary and now sits in the House of Lords as Baron Waddington. Stefan Kiszko’s defence team, led by Waddington, made significant mistakes at trial. Firstly, they did not seek an adjournment when the Crown delivered thousands of pages of additional unused material on the first morning of the trial. Secondly, in court, Waddington maintained the inconsistent defence of diminished responsibility, which the Kiszko family had never authorised.
Prosecuting counsel, Peter Taylor QC, later became Lord Chief Justice and, of course, is eternally (and now posthumously) famous as the luminary leading the Departmental Inquiry into the Hillsborough Disaster, just over 4 weeks after the football stadium tragedy which cost 95 lives. Tony Bland was the 96th victim. He died in March, 2003 after spending the intervening period in a brain-damaged, vegetative state.
After a month in the notorious Armley Jail, following his conviction, Stefan Kiszko was transferred to the Category A Wakefield Prison and immediately placed on Rule 43 to protect him from other inmates as, at least in the eyes of the law, he was now a convicted sex offender. Or, in prison parlance, a ‘nonce’.
Stefan’s mother launched an appeal, but it was dismissed on 25th May 1978, when Lord Justice Bridge said “We can find no grounds whatsoever to condemn the jury’s verdict of murder as in any way unsafe or unsatisfactory. The appeal is dismissed”.
Charlotte Kiszko never gave up the fight to clear her son’s name, despite being roundly ignored and then airily dismissed by many politicians, including successive Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher, and by a legal system designed to stonewall justice campaigners. Thatcher’s role in the police cover-up after both the Battle of Orgreave and Hillsborough Disaster has now unravelled in spectacular fashion. She set out to protect her political militia at all costs.
In 1984, Charlotte contacted JUSTICE, the UK human rights organisation which, at the time, investigated many miscarriages of justice. Three years later, she made her first contact with solicitor Campbell Malone, who agreed to take a look at the case when it seemed almost certain that Charlotte’s son would never be released.
Meeting Malone (pictured above right) was the turning point for Mrs Kiszko and two years later, working with barrister Philip Clegg (Waddington’s junior at the trial) a petition was presented to the Home Office. By an astonishing quirk of fate, Waddington replaced Douglas Hurd as Home Secretary on the very same day, 26th October 1989. It took Waddington a further sixteen months to refer the matter back to West Yorkshire Police for re-investigation. Detective Superintendent Trevor Wilkinson quickly established that there were glaring errors in the prosecution case, particularly relating to the medical evidence. Key witnesses against Stefan also retracted their original statements saying that they had lied for “a laugh”and other witnesses were located through private investigator, Peter Jackson, who discovered that Stefan strong alibis at the time of the original trial.
On 17 February 1992, a fresh appeal against Stefan Kiszko’s conviction was heard by three judges, Lord Chief Justice Lane, Mr. Justice Rose and Mr. Justice Potts. Present at the hearing were Franz Muller QC and William Boyce for the Crown, who were there to argue that Stefan Kiszko was guilty of murder and, therefore, must remain in prison custody. The inimitable Stephen Sedley QC and Jim Gregory were defence counsel, who asserted Kiszko was innocent. However, Muller and Boyce did not put up any counter argument after hearing the new evidence from Sedley and Gregory, and immediately accepted its validity.
Despite the overwhelming, and obvious, evidence that Kiszko was innocent, West Yorkshire Police and Ronald Outteridge, the original forensic scientist, refused to apologise to Kiszko for his wrongful conviction. In 1991, Outteridge became angry when questioned by journalists about his role in the trial.
Neither did David Waddington, Sheila Buckley, her daughter Maxine Buckley, Pamela Hind, Debbie Brown and Catherine Burke, whose perjured evidence helped convict Kiszko; or prosecution barrister, Peter Taylor, offer any apology, or express one word of regret, for what had happened. All refused to comment when Kiszko was released. West Yorkshire Police even tried to justify the position they took in 1975 whilst accepting, and admitting, they were wrong.
Fifteen years after Stefan was vindicated and released, justice was finally done for the victim’s family. Ronald Castree, a comic-book dealer from Oldham (pictured above), was eventually caught after he gave a DNA sample in connection with what is understood to have been a serious sexual assault in 2005. No action was taken over that complaint, but the body sample provided a match with semen found on Lesley Molseed’s underwear. The sexually deviant Castree was alleged to have lured 11-year-old Lesley into his taxi before sexually assaulting her, stabbing her 12 times and dumping her body high on the moors above Ripponden, near Halifax.
Despite DNA evidence that established there was a billion-to-one chance that Castree was not the killer, he continued to protest his innocence after he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court. Liverpool-based Mr Justice Openshaw (also twice Recorder of Preston) told him: “You kept quiet whilst an entirely innocent man was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced for this murder. He served 16 years before his conviction was fully set aside, living only a couple of years after his release before he died.”
Justice campaigners continue to protest Ronald Castree’s innocence saying he was the second person fitted up for Lesley Molseed’s murder by West Yorkshire Police. But I have, so far, not been given sight of any materials that support their campaign.
Could a case as shocking as the Stefan Kiszko fiasco happen today? I say, emphatically, yes because you have the same West Yorkshire Police force completely enamoured with its own sense of invincibility. The man who helped to prove Stefan’s innocence, and who acted as his mother’s staunch ally, believed at the time that there was just as much danger of ignoring equally egregious miscarriages of justice. “In the current climate more miscarriages will take place,” said Campbell Malone. “It is nonsense to suggest miscarriages of justice are less likely to happen now. We are more at risk – the climate is just as bad as it was in the 1970s when you had all the Irish cases (including Judith Ward featured here). I am profoundly gloomy about the situation.”
Mr Malone accepted that changes in the law through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) had removed some of the dangers. Stefan Kiszko was, for instance, initially questioned without a lawyer and made his confession after being told by West Yorkshire Police detectives that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home. Under PACE both those events would now be unlawful.
The bad news here is that West Yorkshire Police treat PACE with almost complete disdain. In almost every case I examine, that features one of their officers, breaches of PACE are blatant and manifest.
It is hoped, with Danny Major’s case back in the national newspapers, on network television and, possibly, headed back to the Court of Appeal, that it will give people the opportunity to think about the widescale misery that can be caused by concealing the truth about such cases – and remind people that the real perpetrator can be free to carry out other offences. The drive by West Yorkshire Police (and aided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission) to keep their star witness against Danny Major ‘clean’ allowed PC Kevin Liston free licence to go and out and commit a string of sex, drug and violence offences.
Since the Birmingham-based Criminal Case Review Commission opened its doors in 1997, it has received 10,288 applications for cases to be reviewed. Of these, 376 were referred back to the court of appeal and 241 convictions were quashed.
Anecdotally, the CCRC presents a higher evidential hurdle than the Court of Appeal to which it refers those cases it deems have sufficient merit. It is an area of our judicial system which, uPSD believe, requires urgent review.