Has Horizon claim disappeared into the sunset?

In the week that marked the tenth anniversary of the conviction of Robin Garbutt, there have been three noteworthy developments, with a fourth to follow on shortly with the handing down of a Court of Appeal judgment, in a connected matter, on Friday 23rd April, 2021 at the Royal Courts of Justice: The Post Office Horizon software scandal that has led to a large number of former postmasters and postmistresses having convictions quashed.

I was present at all four days of the hearing of those appeals in March, 2021 writes Neil Wilby. Principally to observe what effect, if any, the outcome would have on the murderer’s long standing claim of innocence.

Garbutt was convicted on 19th April, 2021, at Teesside Crown Court, of murdering his postmistress wife, Diana. She was bludgeoned to death as she lay, apparently, sleeping in her bed in the living quarters above Melsonby Village Shop and Post Office in North Yorkshire (read more here).

A depressingly poor investigation by North Yorkshire Police had followed the murder (read more here) but there was still enough probative evidence presented for a jury to return a 10-2 majority verdict.

A miscarriage of justice campaign was formed soon afterwards by two relatives of Garbutt’s, his sister Sallie Wood and brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn, and an unsuccessful appeal was made to the Court of Appeal. Three law lords were emphatic that the conviction was safe.

Three applications have subsequently made to the Criminal Case Review Commission by Garbutt’s legal team. The ones made in 2015 and 2017 were unsuccessful. A third was made in December, 2019 amid a blaze of publicity (read more here). Much of it due to the efforts a later addition to the campaign team, Jane Metcalfe, a close friend of one of Garbutt’s life partners before he met, and later married, Diana.

Regrettably, Jane has been exposed regularly for what might be charitably termed as ‘decorating the truth’, her enthusiasm for winning Robin’s freedom blinding her, seemingly, to the stark reasons why the village shopkeeper remains a guest on the Category A wing of HMP Frankland (read more here).

Earlier this week, the press office at the CCRC confirmed that the third Garbutt application remains ‘under review’ and no decision, provisional or otherwise, has been communicated to the legal team representing Garbutt. They are solicitor, Martin Rackstraw, and Jim Sturman QC. Responsible for all three CCRC applications.

The reason for that enquiry was a post on the ‘Robin Garbutt Official’ website dated 8th April, 2021. It appeared to indicate that there has been some movement in terms of the CCRC making findings on that third application.

The post is attributed to Mark Stilborn, but easily recognised, in any event, by its muddled style and familiar syntax errors.

As is the the apparent failure to take on board the size and nature of both the evidential and legal hurdles that a CCRC applicant faces by way of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1995. A comment that could also safely be applied to Jane Metcalfe and Sallie Wood.

None of them have grasped that, for Garbutt’s conviction to be deemed unsafe, there has to be a reversal of the jury’s verdict, amplified forcefully by the trial judge; the ruling of the Court of Appeal; and the two previous decisions by the CCRC. All of whom found that the story of an armed robber (or robbers) who murdered Diana with a rusty iron bar, some hours before venturing downstairs armed with a gun (but not the piece of rusty metal), emptying the safe and till in the shop, leaving Robin unharmed and immediately free to raise the alarm, beyond belief.

Much of the publicity that accompanied the third CCRC application featured a new ground of appeal upon which the Garbutt campaign team pinned great hope: The aforementioned Horizon software was to blame for cash shortfalls identified during the murder trial by two expert forensic accounting witnesses. It undermines the prosecution case fatally, they say.

Now it doesn’t even rate a mention in the most recent case update, posted by the same campaign leaders who were so vociferous upon the subject just a year ago. To those adjacent to this case, including the author of this piece, that comes as no surprise at all: If robbers emptied the safe of £16,310, a sum that Garbutt told the jury tallied with the shop and post office accounts, it seems inconceivable that he now claims a software glitch has a bearing on his guilt.

The third development comes via a response to a recent freedom of information request. It is reproduced in full here:

“I am writing in response to your email received by Post Office Limited on 23 March, which I am dealing with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”).  
 
In your email you have requested the following information: 
 
Please disclose the following information by way of the Freedom of 
Information Act, 2000. 
 
1. The number of written complaints made by the Sub-Postmistress of 

Melsonby Post Office, and received by POL, where the terms ‘software faults’ 
or ‘Horizon’ or ‘shortfall’ formed part of the text of such complaints.  
 
2. Alternatively, the number of telephone complaints, where POL’s record of 

those complaints includes those same terms mentioned in para 1. above. 
 
3. The relevant period is 1st January, 2009 until 22nd March, 2010. 

 
4. A copy of the ‘Known Error Log’, in issue by Post Office Limited at 31st 

March, 2010. This document, which recorded faults in Fujitsu’s Horizon 
software, has been referred to repeatedly in proceedings at the Court of 
Appeal Criminal this week (commencing 22nd March, 2021). 
 
The difficulties in respect of passage of time, and the consequent possibility 
of data weeding, are recognised. It is hoped that, by keeping the request as 
compact as possible, this may assist the location of the information or in 
establishing that none existed. 
 
Whilst FOIA requests are, generally, to be regarded as applicant and motive 

blind, POL is aware of my journalistic interest in this particular sub-post 
office and its history. I am, of course, grateful to POL for past assistance and 
hope that this request can be fulfilled as efficiently and with the same co-
operation. 
 
Response

Post Office does not differential between complaints, general enquiries or notifications made in writing and those made by telephone by Postmasters.  We confirm that we do have a log covering the period you have identified, however none of the entries match the criteria you have provided. 

Regarding the additional request for a copy of the “Known Error Log” that you sent to us, following our acknowledgement letter, we will respond to this by 26th April.

Information Rights Manager 
Post Office Limited  – Information Rights Team 
20 Finsbury Street 
London EC2Y 9AQ ”

The obvious conclusion drawn from such disclosure is that Melsonby Post Office raised no complaints about cash shortfalls or Horizon software faults. No such faults were raised by Garbutt’s defence team at trial, or at the Court of Appeal, or in their previous two CCRC applications.

That may well be why this ‘new’ ground of application has disappeared into the sunset. Robin’s campaign team has been asked to provide clarification on this point. They have never taken up right of reply, previously. Preferring news outlets with a less searching and more accommodating approach to their claims.

Page last updated: Thursday 22nd April, 2021 at 1655 hours

Photo Credit: York Press

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.

© 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.

Sold down the river

In October, 2020 I wrote a short piece that featured, yet again, the ‘cover-up’ culture that pervades every part of North Yorkshire Police, writes Neil Wilby.

There are over thirty other such articles on this website. It is a rich seam for any curious journalist to mine. That, apparently, excludes those working for the tame local and regional media. Notably, the York Press, BBC Radio York, the Yorkshire Post and the Northern Echo. Their business models seem to exclude these type of investigations, and reporting, in favour of a largely unctuous public relations service to the police. That, of course, is entirely a matter for those publishers and broadcasters – and their readers or listeners. They know them best.

But it is an inalienable factor in why this police force continually fails the public it should serve, particularly in high profile investigations involving loss of life, and then executes cover-up after cover-up, safe in the knowledge that they face little or no meaningful challenge from the mainstream media.

The October article had, at its heart, three bereaved families. All losing family members in two of the rivers that surround York, the Foss and the Ouse. Apart from the deep distress caused by the usual defective NYP investigations into those deaths, two of the families suffered further harm at the hands of a police control room CCTV operator when he made inappropriate, insensitive remarks in the comments section of the York Press page on Facebook. His post was below an article concerning the death of Steven O’Neill, a 29 year old man visiting the city to see his brother, who was stationed at the nearby Imphal Barracks.

As a follow-up to the article, a request for further disclosure, by way of the Freedom of Information Act, was made to NYP on 1st December, 2020. Plainly expressed and uncontroversial:

“In October, 2020 I wrote and published this article:

https://neilwilby.com/2020/10/26/we-investigated-ourselves-and-found-nothing-wrong/

Within it is referenced an incident involving offensive posting on a newspaper website by a NYP Force Control Room operative.

1. Was the operative served with a Police Regulations notice?

2. If so, what were the Standards of Professional Behaviour allegedly breached?

3. If so, in what form did the disposal of such proceedings take?

4. Was the subject operative an authorised contributor to NYP social media account output (i) at the material time (ii) currently?”

It was also carefully framed so that no living person could be identified from it, thus triggering any of the section 40 exemptions under the Act.

As is usual, the request was stonewalled by the police, ignoring their lawful duty to respond within 20 working days, and the right to an Internal Review (a complaint, in effect, under section 45 of the Act) was duly exercised:

“I am writing to request an internal review of North Yorkshire Police’s handling of my FOI request ‘Rivers deaths in York’.

The grounds for complaint are:

1. You have breached section 10 of the Act.

2. You have breached section 17 of the Act.

3. To the extent that, in my respectful submission,

(i) the information is being deliberately withheld by NYP to avoid further reputational damage. I hold an account from one of the bereaved mothers that heavily supports that proposition.

(ii) the information is being deliberately withheld as part of a wider, and long-running, campaign of harassment, conducted by the chief constable and at least one other very senior officer against a journalist following his vocation. A simple reference to other requests made by this applicant to NYP, via the WhatDoTheyKnow website, lend significant weight to that assertion.

All rights of remedy, either by way of section 77 of the Act, or by civil proceedings are, accordingly and herewith, reserved.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r…

It reflected the permanently attritional relationship between journalist and successive chief constables, Tim Madgwick, Dave Jones and Lisa Winward, all of whom have deeply resented the level of scrutiny that an experienced and resourceful investigator brings to their door.

Jones during his ill-starred tenure was defeated twice in court, having wasted over £30,000 of public money on hopelessly misconceived defences of proceedings brought by that same journalist in county court and at information rights tribunal.

The bereaved mother referenced in the complaint is Sharron Scott, the mother of Steven O’Neill.

That review request was acknowledged, and recorded, on 4th January, 2021 by Amie McNairn, a Legal Officer (Civil Disclosure) within North Yorkshire Police.

On 30th January, 2021, having failed to meet the discretionary requirement under section 45 of FOIA, but a statutory requirement under section 39A of the Police Act, to answer that complaint, NYP were informed thus:

“A complaint, by way of Sections 50 and 77 of the Act, is being prepared for submission to the Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO]. They will, no doubt, be in touch with you in due course”.

North Yorkshire Police was belatedly placed in special measures by the ICO last year (read here), after many well-evidenced requests from this quarter to do just that. Dating back to 2016, when very serious concerns were first raised over the routinely lawless approach to their statutory responsibilities. They were addressed more pointedly the following year (read more here).

The same police force that gets into a hot sweat, and rushes to the local press, if a woman drives to meet her sister in Whitby for a fish and chips meal during ‘lockdown’.

On 9th March, 2021, and before the hopelessly ineffective, inefficient Information Commissioner had swung into action, a response to the original request was belatedly provided by Caroline Williams, the Civil Disclosure Team Leader.

“I write in connection with your request for information which was received by North Yorkshire Police on 1st December 2020.  Please accept our apologies for the delay in providing you with a response. 


Decision 
Q1-4. Your request for information has now been considered and I can neither confirm nor deny that any information is held, under Section 40(5)(b) – Personal Information. 

Disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) is to the world, therefore Section 40(5)(b) applies as to either confirm or deny that any information is held would disclose that individuals had, or had not, been subjected to such notices, which itself is personal information and 
therefore exempt under Section 40(5) of the Act. 
 
North Yorkshire Police has determined that in all the circumstances of the case the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of the duty to neither confirm nor deny outweighs the public interest in confirming or denying whether or not information is held. 
 
Pursuant to Section 17(4) of the Act this letter also acts as a refusal notice in relation to the duty to confirm or deny. “

To the wider world there might be mild surprise over the fact that, in a request seeking no personal information that would identify a living person, the police would deploy an exemption that relies on such an application. There might be even more surprise over the public interest test conducted by NYP where not disclosing a disciplinary outcome against an un-named individual, behaving unethically and unprofessionally, trumps the distress caused to bereaved families.

To this journalist the response comes as no surprise at all: The Civil Disclosure Unit has a lengthy track record of pre-formed decisions not to disclose information, with poorly conceived exemptions formulated around such finalisations.

NYP’s disclosure misdemeanours are not limited to freedom of information requests, of course. In one case, an outraged appeal court judge, Lord Chief Justice Thomas, humiliated Dave Jones, over persistent and mendacious failings, in a manner very rarely seen, before or since, in a courtroom. The force’s conduct was described as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘the worst the trial judge, in 50 years as an advocate and senior judge, had ever seen’. Neither Jones, nor the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humber, faced any sanction as a result of the Court of Appeal’s blistering condemnation (read full judgment here). It was head down, hope no-one is looking, particularly the local and regional media, and business as usual.

Very many others complain of similar failings, either via information rights requests (freedom of information or data subject access); in civil proceedings or in criminal trials. As a journalist, court reporter and occasional litigant in person, these are matters upon which close quarter, highly informed commentary can be made.

North Yorkshire Police is, very evidently, a force with a serious culture problem, dating back decades, and it gets worse every year, seemingly, not better. For the simple reason there is no-one that holds them to account.

In the present information request, this is the challenge presented to NYP in the form of a second Internal Review request dated 14th March, 2021 (the first remains unanswered):
 

“I am writing to request a second internal review of North Yorkshire Police’s handling of my Freedom of Information Act request ‘Rivers deaths in York’.

The grounds for complaint are as follows:

1. To almost any independent observer, with a working knowledge of the Act, this has the appearance another pre-formed finalisation by NYP’s hierarchy not to disclose information to this particular journalist, whom has exposed their persistent, mendacious lawlessness and failing after failing in the running of their force. A significant number, it must be said, via FOIA requests. As such, the decision maker(s) has/have breached the fundamental principles of requests being both applicant and motive blind. 

2. More crucially, relying on section 45(b) as an exemption to frustrate disclosure is, in my respectful submission, both wholly misconceived and, very arguably, mischievous.

In so doing, again in my respectful submission, NYP has breached both section 17 and section 77 of the Act.

3. To the extent that;

(i) it is part of the wider, and long-running, campaign of harassment, referred to in the first internal review request against a journalist following his vocation as “social watchdog” (a term coined by Upper Tier Tribunal judge, Nicholas Wikeley). Again, the reviewer is invited to reference other requests made by this applicant to NYP, via the WhatDoTheyKnow website, that lend significant weight to that assertion.

(ii) A number of Code of Ethics breaches are self-evident.

4. The reviewer’s attention is drawn to the fact that, in 2018, I succeeded in First Tier Tribunal proceedings (EA/2017/0076) against the NYP’s Civil Disclosure Unit in a challenge to a section 45(b) exemption. It may not be entirely a coincidence, but it was the very same disclosure officer (Caroline Williams) who signed off the finalisation of that request. 

5. Early in those proceedings it was established, beyond any doubt, that section 45(b) can only be relied upon by a public authority (or police force) if a distinction is made between section 40 (5) (b) (i) and 40 (5) (b) (ii). No such distinction is made here. Guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office is very clear: In all cases, a public authority needs to consider the details of the exemption. In any refusal notice under the Act it is necessary to explain exactly which subsection is engaged, and why.

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio…

6. It should be self-evident to the reviewer that Parts 1. to 3. of the request are, effectively, consecutive and, as such, conjoined by the same narrow issue. Part 4. of the request is, however, a discrete matter and should have been subject to separate analysis by the decision maker. It plainly wasn’t. 

7. Taken together, paras 5. and 6 above strongly support the proposition, advanced at para 1 above, of a pre-formed decision, probably rushed and forced onto the disclosure officer by her superiors, and generic, rather than fact specific, reasoning is attached to it. 

8. Further, and in any event, the disclosure requested is not personal information. The request was carefully framed to circumvent that possibility. Parts 1, 2 and 3 are of the same class routinely posted on the NYP website regarding misconduct outcomes: https://northyorkshire.police.uk/access-…

9. The reviewer is also invited to consider Foster v IC (EA/2013/0176) in assessing whether the ‘neither confirm nor deny’ can sustain.

https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5b35bf872c94e01ed25501a7

10. There is no prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of an unidentified officer in disclosing the requested information There are also no Article 8 Convention rights in issue..

10. The public interest test is deficient insofar as it raises no points of argument specific to the requested disclosure at either at Parts 1,2 and 3 or, separately, point 4. Indeed, the reviewer may well find that no such test was carried out.

11. The presumption at the outset of any such test is to disclose the information, a point not in evidence in this finalisation. Further, it is respectfully submitted that there can be no sustainable points placed in the balance that outweigh the interests of bereaved families knowing the truth and that miscreant officers have been appropriately dealt with in accordance with the applicable statutory framework. The conduct complained of was discreditable conduct, not a matter to be treated so lightly as NYP appear to have done.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r…

The internal review request was acknowledged and recorded by the Civil Disclosure Unit on 16th March, 2021.

This is another case that has Tribunal, and grotesque waste of public funds, written all over it. North Yorkshire Police did not, according to well placed sources, subject their errant control room officer to any meaningful disciplinary process and, having fobbed off Sharron Scott by saying ‘he has been spoken to’ they do not want to admit the fact that due process, an investigation and a published outcome has been subverted.

Eventually, it a point they will have to concede before a judge but, in present circumstances, that may be another three years down the road. By which time, the force will have suffered considerably more reputational damage than dealing with the matter appropriately in the first place and some, if not all, of those responsible for this farrago will, of course, have retired or moved on.

Regrettably, that is the modus operandum of the modern police service, not limited to North Yorkshire, it must be said: Admit nothing and use every means possible, fair or foul, regardless of cost to the public purse, to wear down the challenge. However compelling that may be.

Page last updated at 1045hrs on Wednesday 17th March, 2021.

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.

Photo credit:

© 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.

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.

Review of February, 2021 on neilwilby.com

A fairly busy month saw six articles published on this website. They have contributed to a pleasing and continuing upward trend in visitor numbers and page impressions.

The first, published on 10th February, saw a return to the vexed situation in Oldham, where a group of political agitators cling desperately to a series of mostly shocking and desperate untruths, designed almost solely to smear three senior political figures in the town and the party they represent. The article (read in full here) exclusively revealed that Cllr Sean Fielding, the Leader of Oldham Council, had been cleared by Greater Manchester Police of a series of bizarre allegations made by a retired police officer, a tax inspector and a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester.

The offences cited were very serious and included harassment, malicious communication and misfeasance offences; the evidence behind them almost non-existent – and an insider says the police inspector reviewing the case, unsurprisingly, didn’t deem them worthy of investigation.

There were also a series of other exclusive revelations that left agitator-in-chief, Raja Miah, and his core far-right supporters, reeling.

The next three articles, concerning the deaths of two Huddersfield men following contact with the police, were linked. The first tragedy happened in September, 2016 after Andrew Stephen Hall was detained and restrained at the local police station before being taken to the Royal Infirmary, where he died shortly afterwards (read more here).

Less than four months later, Yassar Yaqub was, controversially, shot dead on a slip road at junction 24 of the M62 Trans-Pennine motorway. Just 2km from the Infirmary and less than 4 months after Andrew’s death. The article covered the announcement by the police watchdog that none of the police officers involved in the killing would face misconduct charges (read more here).

Coincidentally (or otherwise), the announcement by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (formerly the IPCC) came on the very same day as the latest pre-inquest hearing touching the death of Mr Hall. The report from that hearing (read in full here) revealed, exclusively, that arguments over police witness anonymity are set to reach the Supreme Court.

On Friday 26th February, 2021, a police watchdog made its latest in a lengthening series of shocking revelations as to the failings of forces in England and Wales. The report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary finds, emphatically, that racism, either conscious or unconscious, around stop and search remains unaddressed. My informed take on it can be read here.

The month’s publishing ended on a lighter note with the news that the popular policing drama, Line of Duty, is set to return to TV screens soon (read here). A programme that always resonates strongly with me as I spend a considerable portion of my time either dealing with or reviewing the work of the Professional Standards departments (or branches or directorates) of five police forces.

Two other older pieces are worthy of mention. Both recorded high viewing figures last month: ‘Blind in One Eye’ (read here) challenges the sub-optimal reporting by iconic satirical magazine, Private Eye, of the innocence claim of convicted murderer, Robin Garbutt. ‘Dr Truthseeker loses her moral compass’ owes its renewed interest almost entirely to the recent airing of a Channel 5 documentary featuring Dr Sandra Lean as a criminology ‘expert’. She is, or was, ‘Dr Truthseeker’ (read more here).

Page last updated on Thursday 4th March, 2021 at 1045hrs

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

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Picture credit: De Montfort University

© 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.

The two that got away?

In this, the first of a short series reviewing the past year, a second look is taken at two cases of miscreant police officers being shielded by senior management in their respective police forces.

In August, a very powerful story was published on this website. The latest in a lengthy series of exclusives dating back to early 2018.

It was a relentless, excoriating take-down of an organisation that staggers from crisis to crisis, scandal to scandal. It’s title was propitious, given what was to happen within Greater Manchester Police less than four months later: ‘Rotten to its core‘ (read in full here).

Within that piece there were exclusive and sensational revelations about yet another grotesque ‘cover-up’ by GMP. The information was triangulated from a number of very well connected policing and media sources – and confirmed, to a very limited extent, by the force press office.

In short, a serving police officer, attached to an elite unit and who cannot be named for legal reasons, committed very serious criminal offences in the early part of this year and has yet to face any form of justice.

A member of the public caught with significant quantities of Class A drugs about his person, not once but twice, would have appeared at the local magistrates’ court within days of being apprehended. Especially, if there were child safeguarding issues also in play.

Two weeks later, there was a sequel, headlined ‘Even more rotten‘ (read in full here). Another exclusive, it has also received no press coverage elsewhere.

Central to the piece was a letter sent to the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester by Gail Hadfield Grainger, a nationally known justice campaigner. The turgid response from the perennially ineffective Beverley Hughes told little, apart from confirming that ‘a criminal investigation was ongoing’.

Gail’s stake in the case is that the subject officer was a significant part of the police operation, codenamed Shire, that led to the death of her partner, Anthony Grainger. He was also active in the run-up to the public inquiry into the shooting that took place in 2017, reflecting his key role.

The now departed, and disgraced, Ian Hopkins, an unmitigated disaster as a chief constable, was said to be anxious not to give the bereaved Grainger family another stick with which to beat him and the force. Particularly, in the light of the scathing public inquiry report published in July, 2019 (read here).

The revelation that one of Operation Shire‘s key officers was corrupt, and a drug dealer, would have piled on the agony for both GMP and Hopkins. Not at all aided by the further revelation that the predecessor investigation to Shire, Operation Blyth, also had a now-convicted drug dealer in its midst.

It is worth repeating yet again, for emphasis, that the public interest is not served at all well by senior police officers interfering with justice, simply to preserve their own reputation. On the watch of Ian Hopkins it was not, sadly, a rare occurrence. Greatly aided by zero oversight by the Mayor, Andy Burnham and his Deputy Mayor – and the so-called ‘police watchdogs’ who simply sat on their collective hands whilst the country’s second largest police force descended into corrupt chaos.

Will the New Year bring justice for the victims of the corrupt, drug dealing, Greater Manchester detective? For the moment it seems not, but with the police force now in ‘Special Measures‘, as ordered by the Home Secretary, then just maybe a more rigorous scrutiny of this troubling matter can be undertaken.

The second strand to this piece features an article published at the beginning of December detailing another police ‘cover-up’, this time from across the Pennine hills. Great care has been taken not to identify the senior officer, beyond the fact that s/he is serving with one of the Yorkshire forces.

A large enough pool to prevent jigsaw identification, although the officer’s identity within police circles appears widely known, judging from the unprecedented feedback received privately following publication of the article.

There is no criminal offence involved in this particular case, but allegations of an overt racist act that could have far reaching consequences, not only for the employing force but for the wider police service, whose obsession with diversity and inclusion is all consuming. Which spawned the headline ‘Say one thing, do another‘ (read in full here).

Large amongst those two-faced organisations, who routinely discredit themselves by their proximity to such covering up, is the much ridiculed College of Policing (read more here). They had the audacity to take the miscreant officer into their Ryton-on-Dunsmore headquarters for a week, knowing that, at the time, s/he was banned from all other police premises.

This, presumably, to give the appearance that all was well – and throw enquiring journalists, and fellow officers, away from the scent of corruption.

The actions of the subject police force, since the exclusive article was published on this website, give all the appearance of downplaying the incident and desperately wanting it to go away. There has, for example, been no referral of the alleged gross misconduct to the police watchdog. A mandatory requirement in the prevailing circumstances. They, in turn, despite being very aware of what is alleged, have not called in the investigation under their statutory powers.

There has been no intervention from the subject force’s police and crime commissioner, either, despite both s/he and her/his staff being highly aware of this troubling case and its impact on the electorate in the force area.

Once again, the public are ill served by these ‘top brass’ shenanigans and concealing racists in the ranks goes very much against the grain. Not to mention the huge amounts of taxpayer funds wasted on payments to officers on gardening leave or suspension.

But, without a greater public outcry, or a whistleblower prepared to speak out publicly, and with compelling evidence to boot, those same very senior officers will continue to laugh in the face of journalists attempting to hold them to account.

The outrage of decent, genuine officers, past and present, in all three Yorkshire forces, continues unabated. This is the comment of one, a number of others are couched in rather more forthright language: ‘Inevitably, front line morale will be sapped once more by poor judgement of our superiors and lack of recognisable leadership. I don’t want to work with or for a racist’.

Page last updated: Wednesday 30th December, 2020 at 1205 hours

Photo Credits: Independent Office for Police Conduct

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.

© 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

We investigated ourselves and found nothing wrong

During this course of this week, details have emerged of three more sub-optimal North Yorkshire Police investigations. These add to a shocking catalogue over the past 10 years or so (read more here).

Not burglaries or car break-ins, but deaths in two different rivers in the county, 12 years apart. Denying closure for bereaved families over periods far longer than necessary.

This followed hot on the heels of the shocking news that NYP had misled the tame local and regional media by asserting that a promised review into the depressingly poor investigation of the murder of Diana Garbutt, in 2010, never took place (read more here).

In April 2007, John David Clarke died in the River Foss near Towthorpe, by a strange coincidence a village with which convicted murderer Robin Garbutt, former husband of Diana, has strong family connections. No murder investigation appeared to take place at the time.

Pathology suggested that the circumstances were consistent with drowning and found that Mr Clarke had been heavily intoxicated at the time of death.

At the inquest, also in 2007, the coroner ruled that he had died by drowning, with alcohol intoxication a contributing factor. The deceased had an alcohol addiction and was being treated for depression. On open verdict was recorded.

But the police, led by senior investigating officer Lewis Raw, failed to consider the likelihood of a man in such a condition walking well over four miles from York to Haxby – probably taking around two hours to do so – before accidentally, or deliberately, drowning in the river.

Other clues that this was not an accidental death did not appear to be investigated with the necessary rigour:

Messages recovered from Mr Clarke’s mobile phone card SIM card confirmed that the man now convicted of his murder, ex-Tesco worker, David Roustoby, was the last person to see him alive.

His partner, Sharron Houlden, had reported her car stolen to the police two days after the murder, and it was found burned out a short distance away.

According to police reports, Mr Clarke had made a complaint in November 2006, saying Roustoby had allegedly discharged a firearm and threatened to kill him. The latter was arrested, but never charged.

In the end, it took a confession, filmed at a friend’s house in August 2019, for Roustoby to be finally arrested, interviewed, charged and face trial. He thought he had, literally, got away with murder after drugging and then strangling David Clarke with a tie because he thought ‘he was a nonce’.

Police, during a renewed investigation codenamed Operation Jet, found no evidence to suggest that the deceased had such character frailties and prosecutor, Richard Wright QC, told the jury: “Claiming David Clarke was a sex offender was a wicked self-justification of the terrible thing [Roustoby] had done”.

“David Clarke had no convictions of sex offences and no allegations of any type had been made.”

Mr Wright also told them that it was possible Roustoby had not “entirely killed” Mr Clarke when strangling him and the victim was, possibly, still breathing when he was thrown in the river.

When confronted with his video confession, Roustoby claimed that he was trying to impress his friends; that it was all fantasy. He was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 19 years to be served.

Miss Houlden was handed a sentence of two years and eight months imprisonment (less time already spent in custody) after pleading guilty to assisting an offender at an earlier hearing in September, 2020. 

Another curiosity is that Supt Raw was also the senior investigating in the disastrous Garbutt murder probe codenamed Operation Nardoo (read more here). A recent freedom of information request revealed that a promised review of that ‘comedy of errors’ never took place. Moreover, in recent correspondence with the chief constable, it is clear that the force is still refusing to re-open the case and very uncomfortable over the renewed scrutiny.

19 year old Sonny Ferry, brought up in Rutland but working as a building labourer in the city, also died in the River Foss in York in April, 2019. He had been on a night out with friends but became separated from the group in a local nightclub. It later emerged his bank card had been used several times on the day he was found and police knew it was missing when the body was recovered.

Inspector Lee Partridge said, at the time, it was not known whether the teenager’s wallet had been lost or stolen before he fell in the river or was fished out by person(s) unknown.

There were attempts to use Sonny’s bank card at a Tesco supermarket, two petrol stations and two McDonald’s outlets in the city between 04:22 and 06:10 BST on 14 April, although some transactions were declined.

The police did not tell Sonny’s family about the missing wallet until two months later but, by that time it was too late to check relevant CCTV footage in the areas where he had been.

A 45-year-old homeless man was arrested on suspicion of theft, in relation to the missing velcro-strapped wallet, but was released without charge.

His parents, Stephen and Kate Ferry, submitted a formal complaint to NYP after the initial investigation was closed just one day after Sonny’s death.

The perennially disgraced Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was asked to investigate the circumstances leading up to his death.

However, the ‘police watchdog’ said evidence did not suggest the officers breached standards of professional behaviour. A decision that may not sustain before a coroner’s or civil court.

An inquest will now take place on a date yet to be determined.

A third victim of what appears to be sub-optimal NYP contact died in the River Ouse in York city centre less than a week later. Sharron Scott, the mother of the dead man said her 29 year old son Steven O’Neill, who was from The Wirral area of Merseyside, was on a night out with his brother, a soldier based at Imphal Barracks in the Fulford Cross area of the city, when the tragedy occurred.

Ms Scott said she failed to understand how her son ended up in the river because he could not swim. She was dissatisfied with the explanations of the police and made a formal complaint to the IOPC.

North Yorkshire Police said, at the time, they were alerted by CCTV operators to suspicious activity on Kings Staith in the early hours of a Saturday morning. Upon arrival, a man ran off and a short time later entered the water. A rescue operation was mounted but he was dead when his body was recovered from the river. All deaths where there has been police contact are required to be mandatorily referred to the IOPC for what is described as an ‘independent investigation’.

An IOPC investigator subsequently wrote to Ms Scott, to say that the evidence gathered does not suggest officers breached the police service’s Standards of Professional Behaviour. It is unclear as to who gathered what evidence.

He finalised his assessment of the status of officers involved in the incident preceding Steven’s death, after ‘carefully’ examining ‘all evidence’ including bodycam and CCTV footage, radio transmission recordings and witness statements (much more likely to be informal witness accounts than formal statements). Three visits to the scene and an inspection of life saving equipment were also made by the IOPC, they say, although it is not made clear who made these visits and for what specific purpose.

He said: “My assessment of all the evidence gathered to date in the investigation does not suggest the officers involved with Mr Scott may have breached the Police Standards of Professional Behaviour or acted in a manner that would justify disciplinary proceedings.”

Ms Scott said she was “appalled” by the investigator’s conclusions, and was planning to take civil action against North Yorkshire Police if the decision was upheld.

She said she did not believe sufficient care was taken for her son’s safety when he ran along the riverside – or sufficient action was taken by officers to save his life after he had entered the water.

The IOPC claim that CCTV, footage from body worn cameras, witness statements and police radio transmissions were all analysed, suggests that none was seized by the watchdog in the ‘golden hours’ after the death of Steven. They would have viewed, presumably, what the police wanted them to see. Over the years, their record on such analyses, in a number of other similar death following police contact cases, does not, regrettably, bear a great deal of scrutiny.

Neither does the record of the genuinely appalling record, over a long period of time, of the Professional Standards Department of North Yorkshire Police in covering up wrongdoing by their colleagues. Very strongly aided by a complete lack of oversight, or appropriately rigorous scrutiny, by any or all of the disgraced Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, about whom much is written elesewhere on this website; the aforementioned IPCC/IOPC and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary.

In the month following the deaths of Steven and Sonny, NYP was forced to apologise to both families for alarm and distress caused when a CCTV operator posted an “inappropriate, insensitive” comment on the York Press Facebook page about drunks putting themselves in danger close to the rivers in York.

The force says it “wholeheartedly acknowledges” that the comments were made without any regards for families grieving the loss of a loved one.

“The member of staff who made the comments will be dealt with appropriately,” the force said, via their press office. “We apologise for the alarm and distress caused”.

The CCTV operator wrote: “Well, I normally keep my opinions on police matters to myself but I work in the police control room and sit in front of the CCTV screens.

“What doesn’t get reported are the number of drunks that put themselves in these dangers.

“Thursday night shift we responded to four persons too close, dangling legs, trying to climb river ladders or walk across the wall across Ouse bridge.

“One idiot jumped in and managed to climb out. That’s four individuals in danger in just one shift. It’s the person’s (drunken and misguided) choices, not the river’s fault.”

Sharron Scott said the comments were posted after The Press had reported on the death in the Ouse of her son. The link being, of course, that he drowned after running away from police officers, who had been alerted by CCTV operators to suspicious activity in the area of King’s Staith.

Ms Scott said that specific role of CCTV operators in the chain of events which led to Steven’s death had made the comments by one of those operators particularly concerning.

She added that the comment had sparked a series of other derogatory, speculative and prejudiced comments about her son from other people on Facebook, suggesting for example that he was clearly a drug dealer as he came from Merseyside.

“This has been incredibly upsetting and distressing not just for me but also for the wider family who are grieving for Steven, and also for the families of other people who have drowned in York’s rivers,”

The operator’s comment was deleted after a complaint to the police, but the comments by other people which it had prompted had remained.

“I personally would like to see the operator sacked,” said Ms Scott.

Ms Scott has previously made clear that Steven was a hard-working man with no criminal record and she had no inkling of what suspicious activity was referred to by police.

Kate Ferry told the same newspaper: “Speaking with the full support of my immediate family, we feel that had the operator previously had the honour of meeting the two members of the York Rescue Boat, as did myself and my husband, and of witnessing the raw grief on the faces of the unpaid volunteers whilst they told us of their first-hand experiences with individuals of all ages who have sometimes drunk a little too much alcohol, in some cases have drunk far too much alcohol and in further cases have drunk no alcohol at all but have nevertheless perished in the rivers of York, they would never have made those comments.

“Ultimately we feel that what is needed at this time is empathy, respect, courage and honesty. We feel we all need to be honest with ourselves. Haven’t we all said something naively and then wished we hadn’t?”

There is no indication on the NYP website that the CCTV operator faced any misconduct proceedings and it is, therefore, unclear what sanctions, if any, were imposed.

The force has chosen to break the law, yet again, by failing to simple questions put to them by way of the Freedom of Information Act (read more here).

Page last updated at 0945hrs on Saturday 2nd January, 2021.

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.

Photo credit: Yorkshire Live

© 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.

‘A comedy of errors’

North Yorkshire Police has finally admitted that no review of their calamitous murder investigation into the brutal death of Diana Garbutt ever took place (read more here). She was bludgeoned to death in the upstairs living quarters of Melsonby Post Office in March, 2010.

Her husband, Robin Garbutt, was convicted of the murder in April, 2011 after a Teesside Crown Court trial lasting four weeks. The jury didn’t believe his story that armed robbers had killed his wife, before robbing the shop at gunpoint. Neither did three law lords at the Court of Appeal. He continues to protest his innocence (read more here).

In a long-delayed response to a Freedom of Information request made in March, 2020 (read here), the force claim that a one day ‘de-brief’ took place in May, 2011, undertaken by the same officer that led the enquiry, Superintendent Lewis Raw (pictured). His report, it is alleged by NYP, was not published until eight months later.

Exactly a week after the murder, Supt Raw told the assembled press: ‘The investigation is very complex and it will take some time to complete all avenues of investigation’Yet the de-brief, NYP say, took less than a day.

The response to the FOI request was only provided by the police after intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

At the time of the trial and its aftermath, NYP was wracked with scandal and, indeed, in that same month their chief constable, Grahame Maxwell, narrowly avoided being the second officer of that rank to be sacked after a misconduct finding. Stanley Parr of Lancashire Constabulary being the first in 1977. Cleveland’s Sean Price became the second in 2012.

The force had made a statement to the media after the sentencing of Garbutt to 20 years in prison, promising a full review into an investigation that the defence barrister, James Hill QC, had described as ‘comedy of errors’. The trial judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, showed rather more restraint in his summing up, pointing out to the jury that NYP’s management of the crime scene, Supt Raw’s primary responsibility, showed ‘a regrettable lack of professionalism’.

A remark that should also be ascribed to the NYP Command Team who, apparently, allowed this sham to take place. If, indeed, a de-brief ever took place at all. A matter that forms part of the internal review request. Supt Raw

Section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act gives an applicant the chance to challenge a public authority’s finalisation of their discloure request.

NYP are refusing to publish, as requested, the executive summary of the Raw report. Whether one actually exists forms part of that same challenge.

Lewis Raw is a former head of North Yorkshire Police’s notoriously poor Professional Standards Department. A role he was in which he was engaged until shortly before taking on the Garbutt murder enquiry. He has, more latterly, been criticised over a cold case review into the infamous ‘Nude in the Nettles’ murder, in which many mistakes were made by NYP detectives over the years since 1981 (read more here).

An update will follow once that internal review is published by NYP. It is expected that this is another disclosure issue that will, ultimately, end up before an information rights tribunal. A repeat of a lengthy battle over disclosure relating to Operation Rome, the biggest and most disastrous investigation ever undertaken by the force (read more here). An eight year farce, costing over £1 million, did not lead to a single arrest.

As can be seen from the link to the What Do They Know website in para 3 above, Caroline Williams, a long-serving NYP disclosure officer is handling the present information request. She was responsible, in part at least, for an amazing NYP ‘U-turn’ on a request she finalised in connection with Operation Rome. Ms Williams said there was a post-case review into the investigation, a finalisation that was overturned four weeks when her line manager, Ashley Turkington (Malone as she was then), said there wasn’t.

It will be more than interesting to see whether history repeats itself with Operation Nardoo.

Page last updated: Thursday 8th October, 2020 at 1550 hours

Photo credits: Northern Echo

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.

© 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.

‘A grubby little police force’

This catchphrase, now widely shared on social media and indelibly associated with Durham Constabulary, was first coined in November 2016 as part of communication between journalist, Neil Wilby, and the force, concerning a concise, plainly expressed freedom of information request (read in full here).

The disposal of that request quickly turned very ugly after Durham made, very arguably, the worst and most offensive response in the history of the Freedom of Information Act, 2000. It was an unwarranted, unvarnished, libellous attack by a police force, against an enquiring reporter, that also contained a series of deliberate and inexcusable untruths. There had never been any communication or interaction between them prior to that request, which made a response of that deeply offensive nature all the more inexplicable and inexcusable.

Those police officers responsible, both civilian and warranted, should, on any independent view, have faced a criminal investigation or, at the very least, a disciplinary hearing. A clearer case of misconduct in public office or, in police regulations parlance, disreputable conduct, would be hard to find.

Interestingly, the senior officer with portfolio holder responsibility for information rights at that time was Deputy Chief Constable Jo Farrell, since promoted to the top rank following the sudden, inexplicable ‘retirement’ of her predecessor, the vastly overblown Mike Barton.

Their motivation, it seems, was to frustrate a journalistic investigation into yet another shoddy operation, in a lengthy cataloge in that era, by North Yorkshire Police. Durham’s part in that probe is that they had, allegedly, taken over a fraud investigation from NYP as it involved a very prominent, and influential, former police authority Chair in North Yorkshire, Jane Kenyon. Over the years, a regular object of derision in the satirical magazine, Private Eye, regarding her dubious business dealings (read more here).

The criminal ‘investigation’ also featured Thomas William Miller, a Scarborough councillor better known as Bill, who is now married to Kenyon. The victims of the alleged fraud were one Miller’s sons, Jeremy, and his daughter in law, Karen. All four had been involved in a company called Dales Timber Ltd.

In the event, disclosure was refused by Durham after a series of ludicrous, childish, unlawful posts on the What Do They Know website, upon which the request was first posted. They relied on Section 14 of the Act, saying the request was ‘vexatious’, without actually explaining why.

Following a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Durham decision was overturned. During the watchdog’s investigation the police force continued their smearing campaign against the journalist. Given weight to the argument that this was not about an information request but much more about pursuing a vendetta.

They eventually, and reluctantly, made partial disclosure from which it could readily be deduced that the fraud ‘investigation’ on behalf of NYP was a sham. There was simply no intention to gather probative evidence, take statements from key witnesses and/or suspects, seize evidence or apply the necessary rigour to what, on any independent view, was a very serious matter involving a high profile public figure with a history of dodgy dealing. Efforts since, via the Police and Crime Commissioner, the disgraced Julia Mulligan, a close Conservative Party associate of Jane Kenyon, to have the flawed fraud investigation re-opened, were vigorously rebuffed.

The outfall from that venomous attack by Durham is still the subject of civil proceedings that were first brought in November, 2017 against Durham, who have done everything they can to frustrate that process. A resumed hearing is listed for November 2020. The first, in December, 2019, was adjourned due to the court not allocating sufficient time for the hearing to be completed. [The court service’s over- listing of multiple back-to-back hearings, with no provision for urgent or emergency matters to be dealt with by district judges, will be the subject of a future article].

The claim has been brought by way of section 13(2) the Data Protection Act, 1998 (since superceded) following the sub-optimal disposal of a data subject access request; Durham’s Information Rights Manager, Leigh Davison, has admitted the breach and apologised in her witness statement but, at the same time, their counsel, Daniel Penman, pleads that there is ‘no cause of action’ and advises Durham to refuse to pay the nominal damages sought.

Penman, an oppressive, excessively bullish and sometimes foolish individual is, in those terms, ideally suited to this particular client. One of his bizarre claims, made during informal discussions with the district judge at the conclusion of the last hearing, designed only to humiliate his opponent, was that Mark Gosnell, a senior civil judge based in Leeds, is known as ‘Mr Justice Gosnell’. He was not then and is still not now a ‘red judge’; notwithstanding the very fine and highly regarded arbiter that His Honour undoubtedly is.

He did not welcome the advice from a seasoned journalist/court reporter that, without a change in approach towards other parties to litigation, or journalists, he may well not make the advance in his career his undoubted promise as an advocate might warrant. An approach also in evidence at Bradford Law Courts during a hotly contested civil claim at which both journalist and barrister were present (read here) when he and his leader, the similarly bullish Olivia Checa-Dover, tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent Neil Wilby reporting on the case. Anyone reading that trial summary will understand precisely why those instructing counsel, led by Alison Walker of West Yorkshire Police no less, would have preferred the highly controversial matters aired in the resolution of that £5 million claim, including lurid details of the activities of a “bad apple” officer (read more here), to remain concealed.

A second civil claim is to be issued shortly against Durham concerning the same data subject access request: The force, via Ms Davison, maintains that all materials to which the applicant was entitled were disclosed, when it is patently obvious that such an assertion has no basis in either the facts or evidence. There is also a peripheral issue of the torn packaging in which the subject access materials were sent. Taken at its face, a minor matter of course, but one that created significant distress and alarm at the prospect that sensitive personal data, sent out by a police force, was accessible to anyone within the postal service.

At the time, Durham didn’t even have the courtesy or professionalism to respond to the email and attached photographs, evidencing the flimsy, careless and, in fact, unlawful manner in which the data was transported. But for “a grubby little police force” that type of treatment comes as standard. They utterly resent any form of scrutiny or challenge.

Ms Davison is the subject of robust criticism, over both disclosure failings and her lack of professionalism and the seeming lack of integrity of her department, from other service users such as Huddersfield businessman Stephen Bradbury who has also succeeded at the ICO in his complaint against Durham and has been forced to issue civil proceedings, grounded in Section 168 of the Data Protection Act, 2018 and Article 82 of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), over a grotesque breach of his privacy and misuse of personal data. Despite the ICO finding, the police have ignored all attempts to settle the claim without resort to legal action.

The case of local man Mel Dawson has reached the national newspapers (read here). Durham Constabulary has been responsible for a quite remarkable sequence of ‘disappearances’ of important data. Not least of which is all materials related to a search warrant that Mr Dawson asserts was unlawfully obtained.

Another more startling critic of the Information Rights Department, Ms Davison, the force’s Legal Services Department and Chief Constable Farrell is one of their former colleagues, Michael Trodden, who complains bitterly over disclosure failings relating to a criminal trial at which the detective was cleared by a jury (read here) and in misconduct proceedings that followed.

A third Yorkshire man, Darren Longthorne, together with his wife, Tracey, are also fiercely critical of Ms Davison, and others, following the death of the latter’s father and a botched investigation by Durham that followed. The inevitable disclosure failings by the police are at the heart of their complaints.

This is an emerging picture of sustained abuse of the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act and the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act by a law enforcement agency. A national disgrace and one upon which the statutory regulator should be taking much more robust action than the occasional slap on the wrist.

It is a near certainty folowing publication of this article that other complainants will come forward and add further weight to the “grubby little police force” strapline.

More recently, yet another decision made by the ICO has gone against Durham following a further Neil Wilby information request (read in full here). The genesis of the request was the media storm over another grotesquely failed ‘outside force’ investigation. This time concerned the alleged theft of sensitive documents relating to the review of the police actions following the Loughinisland massacre in 1994.

Durham Constabulary and the two officers who led the investigation, at the invitation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the aforementioned Barton and the civilian investigator, Darren Ellis, about whom much has been written elsewhere on this website (read more here), were absolutely slaughtered both in the High Court and the national press over their conduct – and particularly over warrants obtained unlawfully against two hugely respected Irish journalists, Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey. The latter two are presently involved in mediation over settlement of their claims for unlawful arrest, trespass and detention. Neither Barton nor Ellis have faced any investigation or proceedings over their ghastly conduct.

In their response to the information request, again very precisely drafted, Durham claimed that they held no information and that under the Police Act, 1996 the request should be transferred to Durham. It was a response so ludicrous that it might have been written by a 12 year old – and was nothing more than a peurile, vacuous ruse to avoid disclosing more damaging material, particularly internal and external emails, to journalist they dislike intensely. If Ms Davison didn’t write it herself (the response was sent anonymously in breach of Code of Ethics and Authorised Professional Practice), then it went out under her departmental direction and control.

The force even refused to fulfil their obligations under FOIA and, more particularly, the College of Police’s Authorised Professional Practice, regarding the request made for an internal review of the decision not to disclose anything.

Durham has also now revealed that four other requests were received on similar subject matter and they got away without making any disclosure to those applicants.

It took the ICO seven months to reach their decision but, for them, they were scathing in their criticism of Durham and directed that the request did have to be dealt with by them and all materials prior to the investigation commencing should fall for disclosure. Some, but not all, of the disclosure has now been made and, as expected, almost the entire artifice was designed to protect one man: the thoroughly disgraced Darren Ellis.

PSNI do not escape censure either as they repeatedly, and unlawfully, intervened in the request, apparently on behalf of Durham, attempting to take it over and then refusing disclosure by way of a section 31 exemption. One is entitled to muse over the calibre, and integrity, of employees of that force engaged in their disclosure unit and, of course, the unseen hands directing them from above.

The battle over the Loughinisland disclosure continues, however, as once again, it is clear that not all the materials known to be in existence at Durham have been disclosed. A matter that is, once again, destined for both the ICO and the civil courts.

In the meantime, the public are entitled to seriously question the hundreds of thousand of pounds, and countless officer hours, squandered by Durham Constabulary (and, in two of the cases, NYP and PSNI) to simply conceal materials that will further damage their reputation as “a grubby little police force”. It is a matter so serious that it should warrant a mandatory referral of the conduct of those officers involved, from the past and present chief constables downwards, to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

The immediate past chief constable, Mike Barton, now faces an uncomfortable few weeks as the real reason for his hasty exit from the top job has been exposed by an insider. A follow-up to this article will be published during w/c 28th September, 2020, wherein those revelations will be expanded upon.

It is not a pretty picture for either Barton or his boss, the late Ron Hogg, whom, it seems, concocted the ‘spend more time in my greenhouse’ story that the local and regional media swallowed whole. Within days a national newspaper had revealed that Barton had taken on a lucrative role with a Canadian IT company (read more here). This, in addition, to continuing to pick up the pieces from his force’s failed enterprise in Northern Ireland. Both a long way from his garden in Blackpool.

Barton received a CBE on the day he required. In all truth, one is entitled to ask how he had the brass neck to accept it.

The police force press offices at Durham and PSNI, the interim Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham have all been approached for a statement.

Page last updated: Thursday 3rd September, 2020 at 1300 hours

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

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© 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, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Blind in one Eye

Much has already been written on this website about the well-publicised innocence claim of Robin Garbutt, convicted of brutally murdering his wife in April 2011 (read here). A jury at Teesside Crown Court found that, a year earlier, he had bludgeoned his wife to death whilst she lay sleeping in bed above the village shop and post office that they jointly ran in Melsonby, North Yorkshire.

His alibi was that robbers, armed with a gun and an iron bar, had first killed his wife upstairs then, a short time later, robbed the post office safe and shop till before making good their escape, at the busiest time of the day, unseen by another living soul.

There have been numerous attempts to overturn the verdict, all unsuccessful. The first, when the Court of Appeal ruled in 2012 that the conviction is safe; the fourth, and latest, is a third application to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) made on 5th December, 2019 (read more here).

One of the publications appearing to overtly support the Garbutt campaign is satirical magazine, Private Eye. They ran (for them) a lengthy piece on the case in their edition 1514 at the end of January, 2020. The author was the award-winning Heather Mills. It was not, it might be said, either her, or the Eye’s, finest hour. The article appeared to be grounded in the work of another investigative journalist, the late Bob Woffinden, whose efforts had, largely, led to the first two failed CCRC applications, in 2015 and 2017, with the new, and latest, angle being a perceived connection to the Post Office Horizon software scandal.

There were a number of basic errors in the first Eye piece and they have steadfastly refused to respond to repeated exhortations to correct them. Even the location of Melsonby village, in North Yorkshire, was wrongly identified. That simple mistake, naturally, gives rise to concerns about the authenticity of the rest of their offering.

Whether they choose to admit the errors and correct them is, of course, is entirely a matter for them, but it does see history repeating itself for both the same journalist and publication, as they were also supporters of the long-running, high profile, Simon Hall miscarriage of justice campaign which ended with him confessing to the murder, then taking his own life.

Recycling matters already heard by the jury, and later considered by both the Court of Appeal and the CCRC, does not assist any reader minded to take an impartial view of the case. These include time of death, contaminated crime scene evidence, ‘lost’ evidence, and the shop finances (read more here).

The Eye does not appear to have understood, either, that the prosecution did not have to prove motive. That is not a requirement in a criminal trial. Nor have they grasped that Robin Garbutt talked himself into prison, without assistance from anyone else. He lied to the police and he lied to the court from the witness box. Ultimately, the jury did not believe the ‘armed robbery’ story, or that all was well in the Garbutt marriage and their business, and that is why he is serving a life sentence.

The latest piece in the Eye in their late July, 2020 edition, numbered 1527, sees the main focus on the Horizon software issue upon which Garbutt’s legal team now appear to pin most of their hopes of a referral, by the CCRC, back to the Court of Appeal. The remainder of the article is taken up with an almost verbatim repeat of the issues articulated in the January article.

Further submissions in connection with the third application to the CCRC were made by Garbutt’s legal team on 24th July, 2020. The watchdog acknowledged receipt, in writing, four days later. It appears that the Eye received a copy of those submissions at the same time as the CCRC. It is said they relate to issues raised by the High Court judgment of Mr Justice Fraser handed down on 16th December, 2019. The magazine does not explain the lengthy delay in Garbutt’s lawyers making their additional points.

Private Eye correctly alludes to the forty-seven Horizon miscarriage of justice cases already referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC. What they do not mention is that ten of the alleged miscarriage cases have not been referred. The applicants having received a Provisional Statement of Reasons indicating that there will not be a referral unless there is more compelling evidence that has not yet been made available to the criminal justice watchdog. Four more cases remain under review at the present time. This information would have been readily available to the Eye with a quick phone call or email to the CCRC press office.

The Post Office Horizon scandal does not, therefore, guarantee an applicant to the CCRC a golden ticket to the Court of Appeal. Each case is considered by the watchdog strictly on its merits.

The Eye has previously, and wrongly, opined that they expected all the Horizon cases to be referred to the Court of Appeal.

These are the closing seven paragraphs of the Court of Appeal judgment handed down in May, 2012. It deals with the Post Office part of the prosecution’s case as well as the main plank of the defence claim: That a robber, or robbers, killed Diana Garbutt. The view of the three senior judges is unequivocal and appears to slam firmly shut the Post Office Horizon door through which Garbutt hopes to walk:

The numbering of the paragraphs is the same as in the judgment:

“(25). The premise on which this appeal has been so well argued is that the jury may have proceeded from theft to murder. We have asked ourselves anxiously whether that might be so. We are clear that it cannot be. The Post Office irregularity evidence could not by itself prove theft. It became important once it was known that there was nothing in the safe and the defendant’s explanation for the absence of money there was the robbery that he said had occurred. It was important because it provided an alternative explanation consistent with there having been no robbery. But the evidence before the jury, we are quite satisfied, that the possibility of there having been the robbery which the defendant described must have been rejected quite independently of the financial evidence [Emphasis added].

(26). In arriving at that conclusion we have thought it right to make a number of assumptions in favour of the defendant [Emphasis added]. First, the evidence of the sighting of the defendant on the village green the previous night, whilst if accurate it would prove him a liar, might simply be an entirely innocent mistake. Second, the fact that nobody saw any robber(s) leaving might well be sheer chance; no-one was looking out for a stranger and all had their own affairs to concentrate on. The two ladies who had lines of sight to the back door might not have been looking that way at the right time. However, it is the evidence of the timing of the death and its impact on what must have happened which leads us to our conclusion.

(27). If the robbery which the defendant asserted had occurred, the robber(s) must have been at the shop from sometime at least an hour before a man appeared through the internal door and made the defendant hand over the cash. On the evidence of the timing of the death, he or they had probably been there several hours before appearing. There is no reason why anyone bent on robbery would arrive so early and do nothing to further the robbery. Nor would there be any reason for such person(s) to go upstairs to the living quarters when they were after the money in the post office and shop. The only possibility suggested is that the robber(s) knew of the time clock on the safe and that it could not be opened before 08.30hrs. Accordingly, It is suggested, he or they might have arrived and taken up station silently upstairs to wait for the audible beep of the time clock being operated. We make the assumption in favour of the defendant that it might be possible for a robber to know this, as it may be that the system is (or was) common to many post offices. But if the robber(s) did know this, there was even less reason to get there hours before the robbery could possibly be accomplished. Still less would there be any reason to go upstairs, where it would be obvious on the merest reconnaissance, that since there was only the defendant about downstairs, there might be someone else present.

(28). Next, if the robbery occurred as the defendant asserted, the robber(s) must, having gone for whatever reason upstairs, then have encountered Mrs Garbutt, he or they must then almost instantly, and silently, have killed her, for she raised no alarm and the defendant downstairs heard nothing at all. That is highly improbable. Still less likely is it that having done so, the killer(s) would remain in the upstairs living quarters with the body, patiently waiting for the safe to be open, when at any time the defendant might have to come upstairs. Equally improbable is it that, having once killed, he or they should offer no violence whatsoever to the defendant when finding him alone in the shop.

(29). If the robbery occurred as the defendant suggested, the robber(s) must also have taken to the scene the iron bar which was used to kill Mrs Garbutt, and which did not belong in the house or shop. That might be done, even though, if the defendant is right, there was doubtful need of it since he, or they, had a gun. The iron bar must then have been placed on the wall outside the back of the premises. It is extremely difficult to see this occurring either in the haste of flight or, even more improbably, by leaving the premises, depositing it, and returning.

(30). To those considerations must be added the facts that the defendant, who had suffered a previous robbery, (a) left the back door unlocked despite warning his staff never to do so, (b) having had silent alarms fitted to the shop with a series of panic buttons which he instructed staff how to use, did not make any attempt to touch any of them and (c) gave evidence which was directly contradicted that he did not know the alarm to be silent. Those facts would not be conclusive alone or together, but they support our clear conclusion. [Emphasis added].

31.For all those reasons we are quite satisfied that this conviction is not unsafe and that the late disclosure of the additional post office records does not render it so. The appeal must accordingly be dismissed. [Emphasis added].”

On plain reading, there is nothing in either of the two Private Eye articles, or elsewhere in the public domain, that will overturn that judgment. Add to that, the recent startling assertion by campaign leader, Jane Metcalfe, in a publicly available podcast (see here), that there had been two other armed robberies before the Garbutts took over the post office premises in 2003. A claim, it must be said, entirely unsupported by evidence and now proved, conclusively, by the police, to be another Metcalfe lie (read here). But if that is the (mistaken) belief of Robin Garbutt, then it makes the unlocked door (and the failure to activate the silent alarms) even more remarkable and strikes further at his own credibility.

A more recent development relied upon by the Eye does not assist the Garbutt campaign, either: The discovery that the iron bar, used as the murder weapon, was not in the position it was ultimately found, on the day after the murder, makes it even more unlikely that the CCRC, or judges in any future appeal, would be persuaded that the murderer(s), robber(s) returned to the scene, two days after the heinous crimes, to carefully place the bar in its position on the top of a nine foot high wall so close to the murder scene, in a location that was, by then, swarming with police and forensic officers.

The bottom line in this troubling case is that either Neil Wilby or Heather Mills, backed by her magazine, Robin Garbutt’s campaigners and his lawyers, is wrong: The former has spent approaching 500 hours on the innocence claim and written well over 40,000 words on the topic. The latter appears to rely on what she is being told, selectively, by the campaigners, without applying the same independent, evidence-based approach of her journalist contemporary.

The eagerly-awaited decision of the CCRC will go a long way to providing the answer.

In the meantime, Garbutt’s lawyers, Martin Rackstraw of Russell-Cooke Solicitors and leading criminal barrister, Jim Sturman QC, involved in this case for over 7 years, may wish to remind themselves of the  statutory criteria for admitting fresh evidence. They are, of course, those set out in section 23 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968. Ultimately, the court has to consider whether or not it is necessary, or expedient in the interests of justice, for such evidence to be received. The court is required for this purpose to have regard, in particular, to the matters set out in s.23(2)(a), (b), (c) and (d). Read that section of the Act in full here.

For the purpose of exercising its statutory function, the appeal court has to balance two competing principles:

The first principle is that it is incumbent on a defendant to present his whole case at trial (the one trial principle). It is, in general terms, contrary to the proper administration of justice for a defendant to advance on appeal a case different from, or other than, the case he is able to present at trial. On plain reading of the trial judge’s summing up, at no point did Garbutt’s defence team advance Post Office software discrepancies, or resultant cash shortfalls, as the reason for the empty safe in the shop. Indeed, Garbutt confirmed at trial that the amount he alleged was stolen from the safe tallied with the shop accounts.

The second principle, however, is that it is generally abhorrent to the proper administration of justice that a defendant may have been wrongfully convicted.

The court has to weigh carefully both these two matters, and all other relevant matters (including those specified in s.23(2)(a) to (d)), in deciding whether or not to receive the proposed fresh evidence.

The Court of Appeal reminded itself in R v Slade and others [2015] EWCA Crim 71 that the impression sometimes given by appellants – and, on occasion, perhaps, was sometimes given in the arguments advanced before them on behalf of the appellants in that particular case – that if only the fresh evidence may afford a ground for allowing an appeal then that of itself justifies its reception into evidence. But, demonstrably, the consideration has to be wider than that: The ultimate question being, whether it is necessary or expedient, in the interests of justice, to receive the evidence.

Dennis Slade, the lead appellant in the cited case above, and, by all accounts, a career armed robber, featured in another very recent article on this website (read here). That, in part, explains the choice of that particular cited legal authority. The other factor is that, by way of balance, the appeal succeeded and the conspiracy to murder convictions were quashed.

Right of reply was offered to the Garbutt campaigners, the Private Eye and Heather Mills. None of them even acknowledged the communications.

There is a similar eerie silence from Martin Rackstraw and Jim Sturman QC.

However, Mark Stilborn, Garbutt’s brother-in-law made this post, dated 6th August, 2020, on the Robin Garbutt Official website:

“Last week everything was finally submitted to the CCRC after the covid hold-up. The Private Eye magazine have done a very supportive article in there (sic) current publication highlighting some of the facts.

“One of the main points being the prosecution relied heavily on evidence from the post office specialists to try and implicate Robin was stealing from the post office although no physical proof of this.

“However following recent high court rulings it has seen the CCRC send over 45 cases (sic) back to the court of appeal stating the Post Office evidence can not be relied on.

“If this is the case then surely the evidence against Robin must be deemed unreliable thus removing the case for theft from the equation.

“This been (sic) the case then there is no case against Robin as the prosecution always maintained whoever stole the money killed Di.”

Apart from the glaring factual errors, beginning with the date when further submissions were made by the Garbutt team to the CCRC, Mark’s outpourings and muddled thinking further demonstrate that the family, at least, really have no clue at all about the case against Garbutt and the very high hurdle they face in ever overturning the conviction.

Page last updated at 1020hrs on Tuesday 20th October, 2020 at 1910hrs.

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.

Photo credit: J D Butler

© 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.

Dr Truthseeker loses her moral compass

Over the past three months, a number of articles have been added to this website on the subject of a murder, in 2010, at Melsonby Village Store and Post Office in North Yorkshire. At the conclusion of a criminal trial that took place a year later, at Teesside Crown Court, the judge and jury found that Robin Garbutt had brutally killed his postmistress wife, Diana, as she lay sleeping, striking her around the head three times with a rusty iron bar.

Garbutt has always maintained his innocence, despite being proved to have lied to both the police and the jury. His alibi of armed robbers killing his wife, then making off with the contents of the post office safe and shop till, leaving him unharmed and free to raise the alarm, was described as ‘ludicrous’ by the judge, Mr Justice Openshaw.

A series of appeals launched by the murderer and his campaign team have seen his sister, Sallie Wood, and brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn to the fore. The first was to the Court of Appeal in 2012, which was comprehensively dismissed, followed by three applications to the Criminal Case Review Commission in 2015, 2017 and 2019. The latest of which is still under review by the miscarriage of justice watchdog (read more here). Neither of the previous applications has merited an investigation by the CCRC. It is very likely that the latest one will be closed in the same way (read the reasons why here).

Garbutt has scrupulously avoided publication of the reasons for those failed applications and appeal.

Since the end of 2018, the Garbutt innocence campaign has been led by 57 year old York resident, Jane Metcalfe, who works in Learning Support at nearby Askham Bryan College. She has achieved considerable success in raising the profile of the case, both within the miscarriage of justice fraternity and in print and broadcast media.

Regrettably, that has come at a cost as she, like the man to whom she now devotes her life, has proved to be, at best, economical with the truth and, at times, an outright liar. Most notably, with her now abandoned mantra: “Robin has only ever told the truth“. The appearance of the first Garbutt article on this website (read here) blew away that myth and, thankfully, she has not repeated it since.

The campaign under her leadership, has acquired a motley crew of fellow travellers, developing an unpleasant edge by attacking and smearing anybody who criticises the Garbutt/Metcalfe narrative. Those bold enough to ask questions, however innocuous, are insulted, blanked or blocked on social media (read more here).

But, most notably, this is an enterprise in which there is scant regard for the victim and her family: Diana’s mother, Agnes Gaylor, is resolute in her belief that the right man is in prison for killing her beloved daughter. She tires of hearing ‘Robin is such a nice man, he couldn’t possibly have done it‘.

Mrs Gaylor is airily dismissed by Metcalfe and others as “not being in possession of the full facts”, despite attending every day of the four week murder trial – and hearing, and seeing, all the evidence. Jane, on her own admission, did not attend Crown Court for even a single day and has little or no knowledge, or experience, of the criminal justice system.

It is against this background that, on 7th June 2020, Midlothian-based author, researcher and alternative therapist, Dr. Sandra Lean, chose Jane Metcalfe to feature in the pilot episode of a new podcast venture billed as ‘The Truthseekers‘.

Dr Lean is best known for her support of the unsuccessful innocence campaigns involving two other murderers, Luke Mitchell and Gordon Park. The latter recently had a posthumous appeal dismissed by three law lords which, effectively, brings that campaign to a close. Park committed suicide in HMP Garth in January 2010 but the troubling murder spawned two books: One by Douglas ‘Dick’ Binstead, the other by Lean.

Explaining his motivation, Mr Binstead told his local newspaper, the Carlisle News and Star: “I had contemplated writing the book for some years, because I had always been fascinated by the mysterious and unique case of Gordon Park.

“What finally provoked me into actually putting pen to paper was a 2015 book ‘No Smoke! The Shocking Truth About British Justice,’ which singles out the case in question and seeks to depict it as an example of flawed police investigation, a totally misconceived decision to prosecute it, and finally a wrongful decision by the jury to convict the accused.

“As I had been involved in the case as a prosecutor and was very familiar with the evidence on which the case was based, I strongly felt that I should redress the balance.”

The Binstead account is fiercely critical of the Sandra Lean book. He states: “Whatever merits her book, and her appraisal of the evidence in the Park case may have, they are, to my mind, completely eclipsed by her entrenched and overwhelming antagonism towards, and her disdain for, the way that the organs of the criminal justice system operate and conduct their affairs.”

That she should choose Robin Garbutt as her next marquee case, given its own recent troubled history, demonstrates extraordinarily poor judgement as this brutal dismantling of her Jane Metcalfe interview amply demonstrates. Nevertheless, the words of Dickie Binstead prove highly portentious.

Dr Lean has also been associated with the innocence claims of another wife-killer, Adrian Prout; the late Simon Hall and Matthew Hamlen. The latter spawning another notably unsuccessful podcast series entitled ‘Justice in Jeopardy‘.

Prout admitted the crime in 2011, following a four year campaign to clear his name. He took police to where he had buried the body.

Hall committed suicide in prison in 2013 after confessing to murder. It followed a prolonged, high profile innocence campaign. His widow, Stephanie Hall, a regular miscarriage of justice commentator, maintains that Robin Garbutt has ‘groomed and conned’ Jane Metcalfe and that Sandra Lean, whom she knows quite well, has exploited her in what is an opportunistic, bandwagon-jumping interview. They may well both turn out to be portentious observations.

This is a verbatim transcript of the Lean/Metcalfe podcast with corrections, observations inserted in bold type by Neil Wilby, who has spent over 400 hours on a ground up, independent investigation of the Garbutt innocence claims.

The Truthseekers, Episode One. 7th June, 2020.

Dr Sandra Lean with Jane Metcalfe

Sandra Lean: Would you like to kick us off just by giving us some background to this case?

Jane Metcalfe: 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.  Yeah, the background to this case, if I could maybe start by saying how I know Robin.  Many, many years ago, Robin’s long-term girlfriend was a really close friend of mine.  They were together for a quite a long time.  So that’s how I initially knew Robin.  Then they parted company and sold the house that they had.  Then Robin went on to buy another house.

As will be repeated many times in this piece, Jane struggles to tell the full truth: Her interest in the case was sparked by her close friend, Clare Bradley, giving evidence for the defence at the murder trial. To the effect that Clare had a normal relationship that ran its natural course and Garbutt had never been violent towards her. The trial judge placed due emphasis on that important point in his summing up. Jane, as will be seen later in the interview, didn’t even know the name of Garbutt’s mother, who gave evidence at the trial and whose name and picture appeared on television and in the press at the time.

JM: The background of him and Diana is that they met and Diana moved into his house when they met.  Then they bought the Melsonby Post Office in North Yorkshire in 2003, which is when they got married.  They wanted to set up a business together and live and work together.  In Melsonby the Post Office is right on a busy junction, it’s a gorgeous little village of 700 people, approximately.  So the Post Office was a real hub of the village.  It was where everybody did their meeting, everybody knew everybody, and all the children would gather there on a morning before they got the bus to school.  Robin would start serving customers from 4.30 in the morning.  It was a really http://unclear.  It was on the junction of the A1 so lots of people came off the motorway onto the little link way where the post office was. Everything was good.

 – There is no ‘little link way’ off the A1, as Jane describes it. At the Barton interchange (just north of Scotch Corner) it is necessary to join the B6275 towards Piercebridge and then take a left turn onto a minor road towards Melsonby. The Black Bull pub and St James Church were, and are, the hubs of the village. The junction of East Road, Moor Road and West Road is busy at school time in the morning and afternoon, during term time. The picture painted by Jane was not so rosy, in reality. A village shop, off-licence, newsagent, post office, opening 7 days a week from early morning until 6pm, was taking, on average, a meagre £570 per day. Diana soon lost interest in the post office, and the business was put on the market in, or about, 2005. At one point, the murder trial jury heard, Robin had told Diana, at least once and in the hearing of a customer, “to get up off her fat arse and do something”. She would, habitually, not rise from her bed before 8.30am, despite the shop having been open for around 4 hours by then. Everything, plainly, was not good.

JM: It’s worth mentioning before Robin & Diana bought it, the Post Office was robbed…. had two armed robberies before they bought it.  It’s important to know that.  And then, sadly they were robbed in 2009.  17th March 2009, which was a Tuesday, which is the day Robin didn’t have any staff in on a Tuesday, he worked on his own, and they were robbed then.  There was never any suggestion at that point that the robbery was anything other than a genuine robbery.  The Post Office agreed and the Police agreed that there was never anything to suggest anything otherwise.

There is no trace on the internet of two other armed robberies at Melsonby post office, prior to 2003. This was not raised either at trial, on appeal and in acres of press coverage both at the time of the murder and the subsequent criminal trial. There is no reference to these highly significant events on the ‘Robin Garbutt Official’ website, either. Further enquiries are being made at Post Office Ltd, North Yorkshire Police and the Northern Echo. As far as the alleged 2009 robbery is concerned, whilst an enquiry to the Post Office Ltd press office is awaiting response, it can be stated categorically that the police did not agree it was ‘a genuine robbery’. After Garbutt was sentenced, the Echo also raised the question of a fake robbery in 2009, based on the evidence of a witness in the trial (read the full article here). That piece, tellingly, made no mention of any previous robberies, either.

JM: Shall I go on to say about what happened on the 23rd of March in 2010?

SL: Yeah, that lets everybody know why we’re here and what this is all about.

Dr Lean asks no questions about the financial health of the business, the roles of the Garbutts within it or, more crucially, about the alleged armed robberies prior to 2003. This is important information, not previously in the public domain, or available to a resourceful investigative journalist. These issues, all highly relevant to the Garbutt case, should have raised a modicum of interest from the interviewer: When, by whom, how, type of weapons produced by the robbers, upstairs, downstairs, daylight, dead of night, injuries, proceeds, witnesses, scale of manhunt, capture, prosecution, sentence, enhanced security measures post-robberies? But from Sandra? Nothing.

JM: Yeah, so life was really good for them, everything was happy, they had a nice life.  Happy people.  And then tragically on the 23rd of March 2010, so it’s almost a year to the day, also on a Tuesday, they suffered another armed robbery.  Only this time the robbers had gone upstairs into their private quarters and Diana was killed by three blows to her head from a metal bar.  The reason that the robbers would have gone upstairs was because upstairs in the living quarters was a second safe.  It could be seen from downstairs in the shop through the- in the ceiling, it was built into the ceiling.  So the only reason anyone would go upstairs is for that reason, to go to the second safe.

‘Happy people, nice life’ says Jane in her familiar glib style. But that was not the picture painted at the murder trial, where evidence was heard from 87 witnesses. Diana was far from happy, constantly looking for other men, and sexual satisfaction, that Robin was either unable, or unwilling, to provide. The business was in financial trouble and had been up for sale for a number of years. The Metcalfe narrative concerning the second safe is highly speculative and, in parts, nonsensical. Anyone with knowledge of criminal methods, such as the journalist/court reporter writing this article, would know that robbers frequently go upstairs in search of handbags, purses, wallets, credit cards, cash, watches, jewelry, silver or gold, cameras, mobile phones, car keys, to name but some of the common targets. When Diana was murdered, none of those items were taken. The second safe was untouched. It had not been used for some years as the key was said to have been lost, the court heard. Matters that, understandably, raised significant suspicion with the police. Robin Garbutt had no cogent answer when these points were put to him by the police, in interview, and by the prosecutor at trial. Other than a random psychopath just happened on an unlocked door down an obscure ginnel, had gone into the property and perpetrated a brutal, apparently motiveless, attack on a sleeping woman. Then hung around for a couple of hours, at least, risking capture. Unsurprisingly, the jury and the appeal court judges did not accept that scenario.

JM: Leading up to the robbery, Diana and Robin were having… if I could just quickly say what the lay out of the Post Office was, it might be useful.  Downstairs was a very large kitchen, their kitchen.  Next door to it was the actual shop itself, so the little Post Office, the little shop, it was only small.  Little Post Office, little shop and outside on the ground floor was a little yard and then from the back door you’d go either into the kitchen or straight upstairs into the living quarters.  At that time they were having a big – they were having all the kitchen redone like a – they were having the kitchen redone anyway.  They’d spent money on the kitchen.  So everything was upstairs from the kitchen, in the living quarters and they were also getting ready to go on holiday to America two weeks later, I think it was.  To see Diana’s family but also they were going to renew their marriage vows.  And in preparation for them going on holiday, Diana had all their cases laid out in their bedroom, so the bedroom they’d normally sleep in had become – it was just covered in cases and Diana was getting ready to iron and pack everything away. So they were sleeping in the spare bedroom at this time, which wasn’t normal for them to do that.  So anybody who’d been doing a cursory ‘recce’ on the place would have expected nobody to be in the spare bedroom where the safe was.  So they were sleeping in the room where the safe was, which wasn’t what they normally did.

A collection of photographs of the rooms, interior and exterior layout can be viewed here. It adds important context, both here and later on in this piece. It is a large property as can be seen both from the internal and external photographs.

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This is the shop area after a recent refurbishment.

At trial it was heard that there may have been another reason for the cases to be on the bed in the master bedroom: Either Diana was leaving Robin to live elsewhere, as she had planned to do only a short time before, or she was throwing Robin out (the property was, apparently, in her name). The proposition of ‘a cursory recce’ revealing the layout of the upstairs of the property, and the location of a safe concealed in the floor of one of the rooms, is just another example of how contrived the present version of the Garbutt/Metcalfe narrative is. The fact that Dr Lean doesn’t intervene, and seek clarity, reveals at an early stage how weak and mediocre this ‘interview’ is. It ill-serves the rest of the miscarriage of justice fraternity.

JM: So, on the morning of the 23rd, Robin got up and left Diana in bed and came downstairs, unlocked the door at 0430.  Delivery men and everything arrived with the newspapers, Milkman and (audio unclear) customers are coming in, slowly at that time, 4.30, but they’re trickling in.  Then at 0830 the gunman arrives and says to Robin “Don’t do anything stupid, we’ve got your wife” and Robin does what he says, gives him what he asks for which was to empty the till, empty the safe and then he leaves by the backdoor does the robber and then he (Robin) runs upstairs and he finds Diana.  He rings 999 and the operator- in fact it’s interesting, you can hear the 999 call, it’s available.  One of the ladies on a conference, messaged me, they played it on a news clip recently and she said to me, Michelle said to me “I’ve always felt that Robin was, from what you’ve said at different conferences that Robin was obviously innocent” but she said “If I had any doubts and then heard that 999 call, it would have, you know – it was clear that the man was in a terrible state.”  So it’s…

This section of Jane’s version of events is, again, deliberately misleading. The facts are, as evidenced at trial, that the till roll recorded the first customer at 5.15am. Garbutt’s testimony was that the wholesaler had already delivered the newspapers and he opened the back door at 4.30am to finish offloading the stock purchased the previous evening at the cash and carry. According to the murderer, the door remained unlocked, thereafter. He couldn’t explain to the court why he would take such a risk with the security of his business, his wife and himself. If, as Jane infers, ‘the gunman’ arrives at 8.30am then neither he nor his alleged robber accomplice could have killed Diana Garbutt. She had been murdered long before then.

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SL: I will add the 999 call as a link to this so that people can hear it.

– Dr Lean has not added the 999 call. But it can be reviewed at this link here. Again, a complete abdication from the most obvious lines of enquiry do not serve her at all well. It is also a moot point as to whether the 999 call aids Garbutt. It spawned a TV documentary, in 2016, called ‘Killer on the Line: Robin Garbutt(watch here). The programme posits quite clearly that the emotion of the call was faked. The police, the prosecutor, the jury at the murder trial must have also taken that view. Michelle Feather’s message, a Facebook post on the Robin Garbutt page, against that backdrop is almost totally irrelevant. Especially, if the probative case papers have not been thoroughly absorbed. Of the two neighbours from whom Garbutt sought aid during that call, Pauline Dye gave evidence for the prosecution at trial. Her husband, David, had gone out a short time earlier. Pauline had been putting out washing in the shared yard with its view of the back door of the post office. She did not see the alleged robbers leave. Neither did the other occupant of the shared yard.

JM: It’s a really powerful, awful, heartbreaking phone call.  So he’s clearly in a terrible state, so the operator advises that he goes – is there anyone that can help him and he says that he’s got neighbours downstairs.  At the back of the post office is only a small little yard and they shared – Robin and Diana shared the little yard with two other houses.  So there wasn’t a big area at the back of the house, at the back of the Post Office.  So Robin ran downstairs and got help from the neighbour who came upstairs and helped him turn Diana over and clearly she was no longer alive.  And then the ambulance came and confirmed that she was dead, and that was the beginning of the nightmare really, that was the beginning.

The murder trial heard that the beginning of the nightmare for Robin Garbutt was arguing with the paramedic who attended Diana over the state of the body and how long she had been dead. He continued that curious, and suspicious, debate with the two police officers who were first on the scene.

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The ginnel that leads from West Road into the yard at the rear of the shop and by which route the robbers are claimed to escaped.

SL: Ok.  So from that point, it sounds like we’ve had a robber come in one door and hold up Robin and another has gone upstairs and attacked Diana?

– The very fact that Dr Lean rehearses this nonsensical proposition demonstrates one point very clearly: She has done no meaningful research on the Garbutt case.

JM: Yeah.

Jane blithely agreeing agreeing with that proposition, knowing it to be completely untrue, is a devastating indictment both of her inability to tell the truth and her willingness to draw anyone into the lazy Garbutt narrative who is gullible enough to accept its manifest flaws.

SL: So how do we get from there to where we are today?

JM: If I give a quick brief of the timeline, so people know what the timeline was and then we’ll go back and talk about individual parts of it.  So the robbery – the first robbery was in 2009, March 2009.  The second robbery was on 23rd of March 2010, which is when Diana was killed.  Robin was arrested three weeks later and then the trial was the following spring in 2011, so almost a year later it went to trial and then obviously Robin was convicted at trial.  Then the following year, the following June, I think it was, they then went to appeal, they appealed and they got to the appeals court.  Tragically, the appeal was upheld, no – it wasn’t upheld, we didn’t win, we didn’t win at appeal.  And then the following year Robin applied to the CCRC, which is the Criminal Case Review Commission and was unsuccessful.  That went on for probably 18 months, to-ing and fro-ing with the CCRC but that was unsuccessful. We now have another application in which was put in in December of last year, December 2019.   So that’s kind of a timeline as to where we are now and where Robin’s come (audio unclear).

– It is difficult to reconcile Jane’s assertive demeanour when discussing the case with the number of basic errors she makes. The appeal against conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in May, 2012. In essence, three very senior judges emphatically affirmed the jury verdict that the robbery did not take place. As set out in the opening paragraphs of this article, the first CCRC application was not ‘the following year’ (2013) as Jane claims, it was in 2015. She omits mention of the second application which was quickly dismissed by the criminal justice watchdog in 2017. Another demonstration of a complete avoidance of uncomfortable truths.

JM: So at the very beginning, the prosecution’s case against Robin was two parts.  The prosecution case was that Robin had been stealing from the Post Office and that was his motive to kill Diana because they were going off on holiday two weeks later.  So the prosecution’s case was that a temporary Post Master would come in and look after the Post Office while they were away and at that point there would be an audit.  So what the prosecution said was Robin had been stealing – his theft was going to be revealed in this audit so that gave him his motive for killing Diana.  There’s lots that doesn’t ring true with that; firstly, Diana was actually the Postmistress, so Diana did all the books, so Robin didn’t – Robin was very much involved in the business, but Diana was the bookkeeper.  Also, there’s been a huge judgment now, to do with the Post Office Horizon scandal which was where the Post Office were prosecuting people wrongfully, accusing them of theft.  That also has a big link in there too.  There’s also an audit that should have been available to them at trial, from the Post Office which would have helped Robin massively, but the Post Office said it wasn’t available.  It only became available after trial.  So we’ve got Robin being accused of theft, and then the second plank of the prosecution case was time of death.  Initially, the Police said that Diana was still probably alive at 0630, 0700, 0630-ish, but then they changed tack further into the investigation, and I suspect it was because it became obvious that Robin had an alibi after 0430 because Robin had opened the Post Office at 0430.  He had customers coming in.  So the prosecution’s time of death was- they brought in a so-called expert, who was an expert on food analysis in the stomach contents of somebody who’d died.  She gave a very specific window of death; that Diana had been killed between 0230 and 0430 which if that was the case, it could only have been Robin.  There was only Robin in the building, so it was very powerful.  And apparently this expert was, according to Sally & Mark and the family who were at the trial, she was a really, really powerful witness.  She wouldn’t be moved from this 0230 to 0430.  So they were the two main planks of the prosecution’s case.

– These are the facts as rehearsed at trial and upon which the jury reached their verdict. A very different narrative to the rose-tinted view put forward by the Garbutt team: The prosecution did not have to prove motive for the murder, that is not a necessary ingredient of a criminal trial. They did, however, seek to give the jury an explanation as to how, or why, the Garbutts came to have so much cash available that they were able to enjoy a millionaire lifestyle with, in the year preceding the murder, nine holidays including trips to Paris and Amsterdam, or lavish weekend breaks where they would spend around £1,000 each time. There was also the unknown source of the substantial funds needed to refurbish the very large kitchen (see picture below), to which there is no reference by Jane, and, in the words of the appeal court judges, ‘scant explanation’ for the large sums of cash sent by Garbutt to his bank every month by special delivery post. The murder trial heard evidence from the Home Office pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton, that the death of Diana was likely to have occurred ‘in the early hours of the morning’. The pathologist retained by the defence came to a similar conclusion and was, for obvious reasons, not called to give rebuttal evidence. The expert testimony of Dr Jennifer Miller, regarding the fish and chip supper, was supplemental to the more conventional Home Office evidence on time of death and it is unclear whether the jury took any account of it. As crucially, the court heard from an expert neurologist, Dr Daniel du Plessis, who said that it could have taken Diana up to an hour to die from her injuries. Although ‘it was likely to be minutes, rather than hours’ was his evidence.

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There were a couple of other little smidgens that were going on as well.  The prosecution case was so, so… they cherry picked the investigation.  Cherry picked, and ignored huge pieces of evidence and cherry picked.  It was an incredibly weak case and I don’t think anybody ever thought that there was ever going to be a conviction.  I think everyone was quite confident that there was nothing on Robin; nobody had anything to worry about.  Lots of us thought it would never even get in a court room, never mind a conviction.  Lots of people have said since, people in the village that ‘we didn’t realise, we should have gone back and said more’ or some of their witness statements.  For example, some of the witness statements from when the police were gathering evidence from the local friends in the village, a few people said it felt like a ‘Robin hunt.’  It didn’t feel like they were investigating a robbery, an armed robbery at the Post Office and a murder.  It felt like they were more interested in what was going on with Diana and Robin, what they did in their private lives.  It didn’t feel like a – one lady said that she asked the police why is ‘xyz’ missing from my statement.  And they said ‘Oh don’t worry, it’s going in another report.’  So there was things missing from – but nobody really realised the importance of that at the time because nobody really thought that Robin was ever, there was ever going to be a conviction.  There was never any evidence on him.

In terms of ‘cherry-picking’ and ‘ignoring huge pieces of evidence’ it could very well be argued that no-one in the history of innocence claims is better at it than Jane Metcalfe. Who now, it seems, places herself in the campaign team at trial, despite not being the, and speaks for ‘everyone’ and ‘lots of people’. The petition on the Garbutt campaign website has amassed 54 signatures; his Facebook campaign page has 134 friends; the campaign Twitter account (@hanksoff03), run by her, has 190 followers. The conclusion, therefore, is that there is very little public support outside of their own tiny bubble and no visible political support, either. For the avoidance of doubt, the only evidence of note, from any of the villagers, that would have assisted the murderer was: ‘I saw the robbers enter (leave) the post office. This is a description of the men. This is the direction from which they entered (left). Not one of the 500, from whom statements were taken, did that. Either in regard to the alleged 2009 robbery, or the 2010 renewal. Jane also betrays her lack of knowledge as to how a murder hunt, and resultant house to house enquiries in the proximity, is conducted; principally building a picture of the victim and those closest to her. Robin Garbutt had put himself in the frame with his suspicious behaviour from the outset and he was never supplanted as prime suspect. That was entirely down to him, and no-one else.

SL: I’d like to come back to that bit about witness statements later but rather than interrupt your flow, if we carry on with the defence case and all the other bits and pieces that happened in this case.

Dr Lean doesn’t ask, either, of what ‘the cherry picking’ consisted or what were ‘the huge chunks of evidence’ that were missing. She simply allows her interview subject to make these wild, exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims, completely unchecked.

JM: Right. Yeah.  So the prosecution’s were ‘theft’ and ‘time of death’ and then there were a couple of other little smidgens, which one was that Robin couldn’t possibly, from the moment that the safe was opened to phoning the 999 call was, I think it was 79 seconds, and the prosecution tried to say that that was- it was impossible to do.  Well, it was possible to do.  The defence team were able to prove that the clocks were out on the till, the clocks were out on the safe.  So it wasn’t an exact science.  Remember that the Post Office is tiny, the shop’s tiny, the stairs are just through the door.  So for Robin to… you know, if someone’s got a gun to your head and tells you that a loved one is in danger you could move mountains in 79 seconds.  And the defence barrister and lawyer went round to the house and they repeated it.  And did it several times where they ran up and down the stairs more than once within the 79 seconds.

– This is the relevant section of Garbutt’s police interview (watch here) in which he describes what happens from the moment the alleged gunman arrived in the shop to the answering of the 999 call. The jury, unsurprisingly, did not believe this version of events. Neither did the Court of Appeal judges, or the CCRC, or the Crown Prosecution Service, or the police, or Diana’s family. Judge for yourself if what takes Garbutt four minutes to describe could be acted out in 20 seconds (not 79 seconds), as he emphatically claimed at trial. Jane states that the robber put a gun to Garbutt’s head. He says that the gunman kept the weapon down by his side the whole time – and couldn’t describe the gun to police (he changed that evidence in the witness box at court). He also told the police, strangely, that he ‘wasn’t worried’ by the sudden appearance of the gunman in his shop. Which ran counter to his later evidence in that ‘the agony of the moment’ prevented him setting off any of the four silent alarms, in the shop and post office, that were connected directly to an emergency control room. The Metcalfe assertion that ‘the clocks were out on the safe and on the till’ is not the evidence heard in court from Post Office experts: They were correct to the nearest second.

Dr Lean, for her part, is, once again, not even remotely curious about these crucial points, and glaring inconsistencies, that rail strongly against the Garbutt innocence claim.

There was also a lady on the green who said that she thought she’d seen Robin the night before carrying a bag under his arm, sort of suggesting that he was out hiding some money.  Again, it came to nothing.  Well, it was used in court.  It was used in court but there was another gentleman – what she said was that she was surprised because Robin didn’t speak to her and the reason he didn’t speak to her was because it wasn’t Robin.  Robin was at home in bed across the green and it was another man who apparently resembled Robin a lot who’d picked his little dog up and that’s what that story was.

SL: Did that other man come forward?

JM: He did, he did.  And Mike Naughton who was a private investigator employed very early on in the original investigation said it was shocking how like Robin he was.  But he was away on holiday, he was away abroad when the trial hit and there was always a query as to why he wasn’t told either he couldn’t go on holiday or usually if a witness is important… and of course he was a very important witness, because Mike Naughton he was incredibly like Robin, he could have been his brother.  They were the same height.  He said it was a striking resemblance.  So he was away abroad.

 – This is another Metcalfe red herring. Reports of such a likeness has never emerged, previously, at either the trial or the appeal, or on the Garbutt website. Nevertheless, the judge in his summing-up gave the jury the usual legal direction regarding identification evidence after defence counsel had, quite rightly, made significant play on the point during his closing speech: An honest, truthful witness can be mistaken when identifying a person fleetingly. There was no corroboration. The jury were, quite correctly, directed to treat such evidence with caution. If, as Jane asserts, the witness was so very important to the defence then he would have been at the murder trial. Robin Garbutt would have made sure of that. Holiday, or not. However, the Court of Appeal also gave Garbutt the benefit of doubt on this point when handing down their judgment saying it could have been ‘an honest mistake’ on the part of the lady on the village green. 

SL: It sounds like the defence, it should have been cut and dried for the defence.  They’ve got very little to actually defend against.

 – Once again, Dr Lean’s intervention borders on the incredible. To make such an assertion means she has not read either the summing-up transcript or the Court of Appeal judgment. Or, if she has, she doesn’t recognise their significance. The Garbutt trial turned on the armed robbery fantasy. The judge made that plain in his sentencing remarks, as did the three appeal court judges in upholding the conviction as safe. 

JM: Yes.

SL: So, tell me about the defence.  Tell me what they argued and how they tackled the case.

JM: Yeah, ok.  I think it needs to be said as well that everything that could have gone wrong , everything that could have gone wrong for Robin, went wrong.  The investigation was incredibly poor.  The crime scene wasn’t protected.  There was all sorts which we’ll go back to about the crime scene and then the court case…  Everything’s gone wrong.  Of course, when you choose a defence team for a murder- I mean, how many people do you know have to choose…? In our lives we might be able to get recommended an estate agent because many of us move house and we can recommended a good estate agent or a bad one.  “Stay away from them.”  But you don’t do that when you employ a defence team, do you?  How many people do you know who’ve needed a defence team for something like this?  So you don’t know until it’s too late that you’ve not got a very good defence team.

Did you want me to talk about the defence overall with the evidence to http://unclear Robin’s innocence?

– The fact that the police investigation was sub-optimal is accepted on all hands. It is covered in considerable detail in this article posted elsewhere on this website (read here). The defence barrister, James Hill QC, took full advantage and described it to the jury as ‘a comedy of errors’. The judge was rather more restrained, but summed it up by saying North Yorkshire Police showed ‘a regrettable lack of professionalism’. The jury were aware of all the police failings that the Garbutt team constantly re-heat, as was the appeal court. Both made their decisions in that light. When blaming the defence team, Peter Furness of Darlington solicitors, Clark Willis, and Mr Hill, Jane does not, as usual, go into specifics. Particularly, where they departed from the instructions of Robin Garbutt, by which both lawyers would be ethically and professionally bound. More crucially, Messrs Furness and Hill, the latter a very experienced and well regarded QC in defending murder allegations, had a client who had not told the truth to police and then, plainly, lied to the court; a disgruntled wife with a constantly roving eye; unexplained, lavish expenditure against a backdrop of a failing business and whose defence centred on an ‘armed robbery’ that very clearly did not take place. An independent observer might take the view that the defence team did very well in persuading 2 of the 12 jurors that Garbutt may not have been guilty. It is also a matter of public record that the defence team were praised by very senior judges for the way they presented the case at the Court of Appeal. This ‘sour grapes’ ground of discontent amongst the campaigners has never before been raised publicly and, again, does them very little credit. Dr Lean, of course, does not ask any specifics regarding the alleged defence team failings: What did the lawyers actually do wrong and where, specifically, did they ignore their client’s instructions?

SL: Yeah, actually I think it might be better if we go back before we come to that and talk about the actual evidence that was available that pointed away from Robin.  So tell me about things like the hair and the DNA and things like that.

JM: Ok.  Well initially at the crime scene, we know that the Police thought it was or decided that it was Robin very early on, probably within days.  We know that for a fact.  We can evidence that. But things like at the crime scene, in the bedroom where Diana’s hand was, there was a clump of hair and it wasn’t Diana’s.  Diana had dark hair and Robin had very short grey hair.  This was a mid-brown clump of hair and it was massively important because from that there could have been DNA harvested from it, and of course it was lost.  They were never able to use it because it was lost.  It was bagged and moved away but it was lost.  They showed it on a huge photograph in the courtroom but it wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t there in evidence.

 – The jury were made fully aware of the missing clump of hair and its potential significance. As evidenced by the use of the relevant crime scene photograph in the jury bundle. That is factored into their verdict. It is clear, also, that Robin Garbutt became a prime suspect a very short time after the body of Diana was discovered. The evidence of PC’s Reed and Graham-Marlow at trial bear that out. As does his first interview at Northallerton Police Station a few hours later.

What they’d said was that Robin had killed Diana while she was asleep.  But the crime scene photographs show that- oh, because they said there’d been no evidence of a fight, of a struggle but in fact the contrary because in the crime scene photographs you can see that on the bedside cabinet that the lamp’s fallen over, the mirror’s fallen over and the witness who came to help Robin had to pick things up to get across the bedroom to help because there was stuff all over the floor from a fight.  There was also a very strange thing; there was- The Police said there was no blood spatter.  There was never any blood on Robin.  When they examined his clothes there was no blood. And the Police, when they’d interviewed Robin at some point, said that there would have been a lot of blood, the bed was soaked in blood but there was none on Robin.  And there was two bedside lamps, nobody realized they’d gone missing but the Police had said there was no blood spatter to be found.  But months later some experts in London were looking at these crime scene photographs and said ‘where are these lamps?’  So a Police officer had to go back to the crime scene, because nobody was allowed to go anywhere near the crime scene – it was cordoned off and had been locked up and of course, Robin had been arrested by then.  So when the Police officer went back with another officer to look for these lamps, they’d been put on the top of a wardrobe, on the top shelf of a wardrobe.  So we don’t know why anybody would have done that.  They’d actually moved – and when they had examined them, there was blood spatter on them.  So whoever had harmed Diana would have been – they certainly would have had blood spatter on them.

 – This narrative also bears strikingly little resemblance to what was evidenced in court. The jury heard that there was no significant disturbance in that bedroom. Diana was laid face down IN the bed and had been struck three blows from behind. One to each side of her head and the one that was probably fatal, across the top of her skull. That was the wound that bled onto the pillow, not soaked all over the bed as Jane falsely claims. A forensic crime scene/blood staining expert, Joanne Millington, gave evidence at the trial and she told the court that there would be little or no blood spatter from the one wound that punctured the skin on top of Diana’s skull. That opinion was aided by the re-construction of a head, using a mannequin. The Garbutt campaign’s proposition that there was a fight between Diana and the killer overlooks the fact that she spent 7 years in the Army, latterly in close protection security, where she received unarmed combat training and, in her later civilian career, was used to handling prisoners from high category prisons, again with appropriate training. Diana’s body, hands or face showed no injuries consistent with a struggle. But, most crucially, it would have been, by necessity, a soundless altercation with no noise heard in the shop immediately below – and she then got back in bed, laid her head on the pillow and allowed the attacker to bludgeon her to death. Once again, Dr Lean sees no reason to challenge Jane’s ridiculous, contrived account. 

The other thing about the crime scene, massively important, is that none of Robin’s DNA.  The crime scene was a pillow where Diana had died and there was none of Robin’s DNA on the crime scene.  However, there was a mixed profile, of at least three males on there as well as another profile of somebody else that we’ll maybe talk about that’s connected to the little bar, the murder weapon.

 – One of the enduring mysteries of this case is how Robin Garbutt’s DNA is NOT on the pillow in a bed in which he says he slept with his wife on the morning of the murder. Dr Lean failed to take up that point.

This is a private bedroom.  This is a private bedroom.  And also the murder weapon was a rusty bar.  It was quite – the bar was used to murder Diana with.  And it was put – I knew I’d do this, you go round and round in circles and there’s so much to tell ‘While I’m talking about that, I need to tell you about that as well’ so I apologise.  So, the murder weapon.  Can we talk about the murder weapon?

SL: Yes, please.

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JM: The murder weapon was found two days after the murder.  So the murder was on the 23rd, on a Tuesday and there was Police everywhere from that moment on and there was fingertip searches going on in the village. But this murder weapon wasn’t found for two days.  And it was found on a very, very high wall. Eight and a half, nine foot wall, right at the back of the Post Office, across the road.  I’m talking a small road, not a great big motorway road, a little village road.  And the Police said ‘this was the murder weapon.’  Initially they said there was DNA on it a full http://unclear male profile.  But they said this was the profile of the wielder.  Whoever had held the weapon and hit Diana with it.  Then it turned out that the DNA was actually belonged to a Police officer.  Robin’s DNA isn’t on it.  But the Police officer who was there when it was found, his DNA was on it.  The troubling thing about all of this is that, when the pillow case was investigated for DNA, it became apparent that there was a linear void in the pillow case which has come from a bar, so what we think’s happened is that whoever’s hit Diana, at some point they’ve gone to hit Diana but they’ve missed and hit the pillow case that she was laying on.  In this linear mark, rust mark, is DNA and in that DNA is a profile of the same officer.  Well, that officer wasn’t on duty that day.  He didn’t come on duty until the 25th.  So how on earth does DNA from an officer who doesn’t come on duty for two days appear on a crime scene that he’s never been in? He doesn’t go in the crime scene.  Which could surely only point to cross-contamination at some point.  Which can only render that there was so much wrong with the investigation and the trial.  It’s incredibly worrying that that’s happened.  That somehow there’s been cross contamination after… How did they come together?  The pillow and the bar after the…  We may never know how that happened.

 – The jury at the murder trial heard of how and where the iron bar was found and about the cross-contamination of evidence. The officer concerned, PC Darren Thompson, gave evidence and was cross-examined. Yes, Jane, the investigation was poor. But, Jane, the trial was conducted with that in full view of the jury and an open goal for the defence. However, the jury still found that Garbutt was lying about the armed robbery. That’s the reality.

SL: I think as well there’s something about, there was still photography of the wall on the 24th and the bar wasn’t there?

JM: That’s right. Yeah, yeah.  There was film footage of the actual wall and the camera pans across the top of the wall and this was found a long time after trial.  This was probably found after the appeal.  And people took still photographs of the wall which have been examined and people have examined the video footage and we know for a fact that this was on the 24th, the day before the bar was found, and the bar isn’t on the wall.  It’s not there.  So at some point the bar’s been placed.

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 – Jane’s proposition appears to be two-fold: Robin isn’t tall enough to reach the top of the wall from the West Road side of it and that someone has placed the iron bar on top of the wall two days after the murder in the expectation that it would then be found. The unspoken inference is that the police were responsible when the more likely scenario is that Garbutt, or an associate, has delivered the bar to that location, wiped clean of his DNA and, thus, throwing suspicion away from him. Of one thing the reader, Jane and Dr Lean can be certain: Two armed robbers, who have also senselessly beaten a woman to death for the sake of £16,000, did not return to Melsonby, swarming with police and with vehicle checks in situ, and place the iron bar, with the victim’s DNA still on it, less than 20 metres from the crime scene. 

What the prosecution case said was Robin had murdered Diana in the dead of night, while she was asleep and then he’d crept downstairs, ran across the wall – ran across the road, sorry, then placed this iron bar on top of the wall.  There’s all sorts wrong with that.  They never said a time, they just called it the dead of night.  It’s not something anybody would do.  I don’t know why anybody would do that.  I mean, if Robin had done what they say he had, I don’t think he would have run across the road and hide his – I think he’d find somewhere…  Why would he do that?  Why would you do that?  And also, not only that, Mike Naughton who is the private investigator we met a long time after.  We met him in 2018 by pure coincidence, but that’s another story.  But he was the private investigator employed by the original defence team, back in April, March-April 2010.  He went back and he recreated, tried to recreate the bar on the wall.  Because we knew the exact spot where the bar was found from police photographs, and it can’t be done.  He’s the same height as Robin and he- we photographed him trying to do this, and it can’t be done.  Robin would have had to climb up the wall, lean across a telegraph pole, and then lean as far as he could, and he still couldn’t reach the place where they said the bar was.  And the bar was placed strategically across the top.

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The other side of the wall – this side of the wall is 8 and a half, 9 foot, but the other side drops down to a – there’s a hill at the other side that drops down to about 3 foot, and the people that worked in the garage – there’s a garage on the other side of the wall – and the people who worked in the garage that day said that they were looking over the wall, watching all this story unfold, all the ambulances and Police, people cordoning off the road, and nobody saw the bar on the wall.  Because if anything had been left on that wall they’d have moved it because children pass, people pass, it wasn’t… so there’s huge doubts surrounding all of that for Robin.

SL: So one of the other things, from memory, they said that there was no suspicious people around in the area.  There’d been no suspicious activity in the area, either on the day of the murder or in the lead up to the murder, but that’s not true either is it?

 – This was not heard in evidence at either trial or the Court of Appeal. Dr Lean had plainly been primed by Jane Metcalfe to push that point.

JM: No, no. That’s anything but true.  There was tonnes of criminal activity around.  Not only was there suspicious activity, Sandra, there was known criminals in Melsonby on the 23rd of March 2010.  We talked about this the other day, Robin and Diana were massive creatures of habit and really were creatures of habit.  Every Monday night, Robin would go to the cash and carry and pick up fish & chips.  He’d go home, they’d have fish & chips and he’d take out the expensive stuff out of the little car outside in the back yard and then the following morning,  Tuesday, he’d get up, open up, let his delivery men in and then serve his customers in between emptying the rest of the goods from the car from the night before from the cash & carry.  On this particular night, the night before the murder, when Robin went to the cash & carry, four CCTV cameras picked up a car following Robin to the cash & carry.  We’ll not say following.  It was the same car picked up on four cameras on Robin’s journey to the cash & carry.  The same car is picked up on his return journey from the cash & carry.  And also, a fortnight before, there was some- when they’d been robbed in 2009, it really upset Robin, it unsettled him a lot and they did talk about leaving and moving because it really frightened him.  But they didn’t and lots of people persuaded them to stay and they loved their life there.  So there was things like- there was a noticeboard outside the window of the shop & the Post Office and the Parish Council agreed to move it, because Robin was nervous and he didn’t have a very good view out of his window so the Parish Council were really good and they moved it, they understood his fears.  The Post Office wouldn’t put any security in, that wasn’t what the Post Office do.  They were going to get CCTV but unfortunately… the money was going to be spent on something else, they didn’t spend the money on the CCTV, it was going to go on this fabulous new kitchen they were having done.

 – ‘Tonnes of criminal activity around’ says Jane. In a village that had one of the lowest crime records in a county that is shown, statistically, to be the safest in the country. The court heard that community police visits were reduced to one every four weeks, such was the peaceful nature of Melsonby. Garbutt couldn’t explain to the jury, and Jane doesn’t attempt to explain either, why spending £1,500 on a compact, but reasonably sophisticated, CCTV system for the interior and exterior of the shop was placed behind spending £10,000 plus on a refurbished kitchen. In the light of Jane’s recent claim that there had been three prior armed robberies, it would strike the independent observer as inherently absurd that such a decision could be taken by a postmistress and her shopkeeper husband. Unless, of course, Garbutt was already planning to repeat the 2009 ‘robbery’. There appears to be no other plausible explanation.

Two weeks before the murder, there was some shady characters came into the Post Office and other customers were in at the same and actually said to Robin ‘they look dodgy, they weren’t here to shop.’  And when Robin had said to them ‘excuse me, can I help you?’ they just picked up something and bought it just to sort of- but they were looking round, they were casing the joint.  And Robin made a diary note of it, he used to keep a diary in the shop and he diaried – he noted the day and the time.  I’m not sure if he got a car number, I don’t know if it went into that much detail but it was logged. There was also a strange car that was seen.  People had spotted a blue car and somebody crouching down in the car.  There was a motorbike involved and there was some criminals that had been convicted criminals, they’d done a hole in the wall, you know, like the cashpoints ‘hole in the wall’.  They were convicted http://unclear for that.  And they were actually in the village on the morning and it showed on the Sat Navs where they’d been and they just talked it away.  They just said they’d been pricing a job up.  They lived miles and miles away, the other side of Darlington somewhere.

 – None of this was heard at trial or at the Court of Appeal, apart from the blue car. Garbutt’s diary was not produced in evidence. Jane appears unclear about what it did, or did not, contain. If it was so crucial, she would know.

The other important point on that one was, after the murder there was an anonymous phonecall to the Crimestoppers.  There was a Crimestoppers thing, I think it still exists now; you can ring up with information for the Police.  This is all documented by the way, this isn’t hearsay, this is all in black and white. Somebody phoned and actually named – this was on the 24th, this was hours after the event -named somebody, gave them a name and said this guy – which I won’t name, has- was seen in a crackhouse yesterday with a load of cash and said he ‘didn’t mean to kill her, that was never- that was never what he wanted to do, he didn’t mean to kill her.’  That information was given to the Police and the Police said ‘we know it wasn’t him (the name) because he was under surveillance by the Police.’  No-one’s ever seen evidence of that.  No-one’s ever seen anything to show that that was true.  So there was lots of – there was a car that was burnt out later on that day, or the following day a few miles away.  There was a car that was found burnt out.  There was a ski mask and a ‘BB gun’, a ball bearing gun, they look very much like guns but they’re not real guns.  They were found behind a working men’s club about 17 miles from Melsonby.  And I think it was Cleveland Police that found it and they said ‘we’ve had no suspicious activity in our area’, knew there’d been a robbery in North Yorkshire so passed it to North Yorkshire Police.  It’s never even been tested for – Mike Naughton, the private investigator’s tried to request for them – they’ve never been tested.  They’re still – as far as we know in a box in a cupboard somewhere in wherever North Yorkshire Police keep their… I don’t know what they’ve done with it, they’ve never been tested.

– ‘No-one’s seen any evidence of that’ says Jane about the clearing of the Crimestoppers suspect. Nor are they likely to. For very obvious reasons, details of covert policing operations are shielded from the public eye. But if the CCRC did ever decide to investigate the Garbutt case further, they would have access to that material. No report of a burnt-out car appeared in the local press at the time of the murder and its alleged existence was not put before the Garbutt trial a year later. Jane omits to say whether the vehicle was found 5 or 50 miles from Melsonby. With regard to the ski mask, and the BB gun to which Jane alludes, these are the facts: The ski mask was of a completely different type, texture to the balaclava described by Garbutt to police at the time of the murder. He confirmed this from the witness box. In that same cross-examination he said that the gun exhibited, and shown to him in court, was of a similar square type, and colour, to the one used in the robbery. This ran counter to his evidence in many hours of police interviews, when he repeatedly said he couldn’t describe the gun. It is not known whether Cleveland and/or North Yorkshire Police tested either item for biometric samples. It would be utterly remarkable if they did not, in the context of other enquiries unconnected to the murder of Diana Garbutt.

SL: You can’t call it evidence because they didn’t use it? They didn’t test it?

 – Another ludicrous interjection from Dr Lean. Both items were used in evidence in court. Highly significant evidence as it happens, as Garbutt’s credibility before the jury crumbled once again.

JM: Yeah

SL: So, just to go back to – you mentioned the fish & chips there –

JM: Yeah.

SL: This ‘so called’ expert on the stomach contents…

JM: Yeah.

SL: This was based on the fish & chips that Robin and Diana ate on the night before?

JM: Yeah.

SL: But they even managed to mess up the collection of that, didn’t they?

JM: Yeah, they did.  The Police take the fish and chip wrappings from the communal yard and weigh them and then this ‘so-called’ expert is then going to decide, from the scraps that are left, how much Diana ate.  But initially, the first time they tried to do it, they chose the neighbours’ fish and chip wrappings, they didn’t even get the right – Diana’s fish & chip wrappings were still in the house, in their kitchen in a black bin liner, ready to go out into the bin.  But what they did was they – so she, the expert reckoned she can give an exact time for the time of death – which it’s not an exact science – she kind of makes out she can. In the – I’m sorry, I’m losing my thread there a bit.  I’m thinking about the appeal court and how we’ve been able to prove how her evidence has now been – shall I talk about how her evidence has now been…?

Jane correctly alludes to another North Yorkshire Police blunder, but it does not impact on the evidence heard at court, the conviction, the appeal or any applications to the CCRC. 

SL: Yeah, that’s the obvious next place to go.

JM: Yeah, the two main planks of the prosecution case are theft and time of death.  The first one is theft, and at appeal with an audit they were able to prove that Robin hadn’t stolen anything, at all, ever.  The business was a healthy, thriving business.  Newspapers have peddled that they were in debt.  They weren’t in debt.  It was all managed, they didn’t owe anybody any money, other than what they borrowed legally.  And there was no letters from anyone saying ‘you owe us any money’.  It was just a story they peddled.  So they were able to prove at appeal that no money had ever been taken.  The business was actually healthy and the Court of Appeal accepted that, but then Court of Appeal said ‘however, we think it was the time of death the jury convicted on, so off you go back to prison, we’re not – we accept there’s no theft.  We can wipe that clean, no theft, but you’re left with this one plank, time of death.  So Robin – that was it, back to prison.

 – The business was not healthy or thriving. Extensive evidence, including cross-examination, over two days at trial from two fraud experts made that plain to the jury. With regard to debts, they owed £43,000 in credit card and bank loans. Plus a £60,000 mortgage on a property for which they paid £105,000. Jane’s assertion that the appeal court made a finding that Garbutt ‘hadn’t stolen anything, ever’ is completely without foundation. Another Metcalfe lie. In six paragraphs (out of thirty-one) the appeal court judges summarise why they found that the conviction was safe. Central in that is the finding by the jury that the armed robbery did not take place, even after allowing a number of concessions in Garbutt’s favour.

So then there was lots of investigating done on the time of death.  And what it turns out happens is this expert, she actually turned out – it turned out her expertise was archeological digs.  That’s where he expertise lay.  But she – eventually another expert, a Home Office pathologist worked along with Robin and we discovered that this expert contradicted herself in another trial and had she used the same method with Robin as she had in another murder, she would have got a totally different result.  And also she got her science completely wrong, her science was completely wrong.  Now also, second plank; time of death has been completely wiped.  Rubbished her science, the science was wrong.

– The issue of the time of death is much simpler than Jane makes it out to be. As rehearsed above, the evidence of the Home Office pathologist (and that of the neurologist) was very likely to have had more impact on the jury than Dr Miller’s. A more recent expert brought in by the Garbutt team, Dr Brian Rouse, asserted that Dr Miller was ‘incorrect’, based on her allowing a greater margin of error in an almost identical case at which she gave evidence. His conclusion was that the time of Diana’s death MAY have been substantially later than 4.30am. POSSIBLY after 6.45am. That lack of certainty does not advance the Garbutt innocence claim or undermine sufficiently the evidence heard at trial regarding time of death.

The other interesting thing about that was in the court room, in the trial, this expert, the ‘time of death’ expert, the ‘stomach contents’ expert is pitched alongside this very reliable witness who came into play on the day of the murder.  A gentleman who lived in the village gave a statement to the Police saying he heard Diana call to Robin at 0645 on the morning.  He went to the shop every day, he used to go in every morning on his way to work, for the paper.  He remembers exactly why and what for.  He went straight to the Police when all hell let loose, and everybody arrived at this awful, awful morning.  He went straight to the Police and said ‘I heard Diana call to Robin from the back of the shop.’  Not – she wasn’t alarmed.  It was a, you know ‘Robin!’ She wouldn’t ever come through to the shop when she had her pyjamas or anything on.  And Robin just acknowledged and said ‘Yeah, in a minute Di, in a minute Di’ he was serving customers, and she wouldn’t come in until the customers left.  So in the court room, what they did was, we’ve got this very reliable witness who said he heard Diana, he wasn’t friends with Robin and Diana, he was just a gentleman who lived and worked in the village.  So he’s heard Diana’s call out at 0645.  What they did in the court room is, they said ‘we’ve got this evidence from this expert about time of death, who’s saying that Diana was killed between 0230 and 0430.  Now we’re not saying this gentleman is lying, who said he heard Diana at 0645, but clearly he’s mistaken.’  So they don’t pooh-pooh his evidence, but they undermine it because they’re pitching him against this expert.

 – The witness who gave evidence at trial was Brian Hird. He told the court that he didn’t know Diana and wouldn’t recognise her voice. His evidence was that he heard a female call out through a closed door at 6.45am. According to Mr Hird, Garbutt had replied ‘Yes, dear’ or ‘Yes, Di’ (not the embellished version Jane pushes). The murderer had never previously mentioned this to police, before the court hearing over a year later. Extraordinary in the circumstances considering that, if true, it would have been the very last time he heard his wife alive. He couldn’t explain, either, why he hadn’t spoken to Diana after that interchange, once customers had left the shop. Another damaging blow to his credibility. The jury were highly alert to Mr Hird’s evidence as, shortly after retiring to consider their verdict, they sent a question to the judge concerning Mr Hird’s witness statement. Nevertheless, they still found Garbutt guilty.

SL: But he had very good reason to remember, to know it was this particular day, didn’t he?

JM: Sorry Sandra, I didn’t hear what you said then, sorry.

SL: That witness that, they said he might have been mistaken, probably meaning it might have been another day.  But he had very good reason to remember why it was that particular day, didn’t he?

JM: Yeah, yeah.  Well he did.  I think he used to work full time, he worked for the environment and he used to go on a different – to do a different job.  He used to go and do some voluntary down by the – to do some environmental work.  And he was a keen bird watcher, listener.  So he was a keen bird – so he knew what he’d heard and he was specific about… And he’d gone that day, he went to the Police that day.  He didn’t go to them four days later and say ‘I can’t remember, I think I heard – actually went to the Police that day.  And I think he had to go to them twice before they came to get a statement from him.  As I say, we know that the Police had made their minds up – they cherry picked – they made their mind up that they had their man in Robin and they didn’t investigate so much more that could have been investigated.  And I can never get my head round that ‘Why?’  Why would they do that?  Why would they do that?  But it’s been put to me that, you know, they weren’t very experienced with murder cases in North Yorkshire and the inexperience – also they wanted to shut it down as quick as possible because the previous year, in the same – in North Yorkshire, not far from York, or in fact, in York there was the Claudia Lawrence case, which was a chef who worked at York University who went missing. And her case was criticised.  They criticised the investigation. You know, the Police were criticised highly because of that.  So maybe they wanted to shut this down.  Maybe they wanted – maybe that’s why they did it.  That was their motive for shutting this down.  You know? ‘We’ve got our man, we don’t need to look at anything else.  And we’re not going to throw the net any wider because we’ve got the man.’

 – The police were drawn to Robin Garbutt as a prime suspect by his own suspicious behaviour, as rehearsed above. 

SL: So, that then brings us to your involvement, and I have two questions for you.  The first is, why do you do this?  Why do you continue to do it?  How – why are you so involved in trying to get this – the details of this case, the facts of this case out before a wider public?

 – Jane Metcalfe is not determined to get the facts out at all: She and her fellow Garbutt campaigners have a lengthy history of concealing facts. Particularly those that run counter to whatever narrative they happen to running at a given time. She has been aided, in recent months, by journalists not applying the necessary rigour and simply accepting the highly distilled Garbutt narrative. 

JM: A couple of reasons.  One reason has become, it kind of evolves doesn’t it?  I was saying to Sally yesterday ‘we never set out to do a campaign.  We didn’t think ‘Ooh, let’s do a campaign.’  It wasn’t that.  I think they’d come to the end of the line. They’d gone through appeal.  We’d applied to the CCRC.  My God, that’s it.  You’re on your own. There’s nobody out there to help.  There’s no official body who’d come in to help you.  So, my reasons have sort of changed.  Now, part of the reason we do it is because public perception has to change.  People have to know that wrongful convictions are not rare.  They happen.  And not only do wrongful convictions happen, to overturn that wrongful conviction is virtually impossible.  The system works against you.  You’re one man/one woman, on your own and you’re working against this massive, massive machinery of the Police, the CPS,  and then beyond, beyond that.  I once likened it to – I couldn’t think of an analogy of how to describe what goes on in the justice system and I thought about – when several washing machines break down, bear with me, when several washing machines break down, and a few people’s kitchens get set on fire they do a recall.  They recall that machine and say ‘anybody who this Bosch number 64321, stop using it, we’re going to send an engineer in, or we’re going to take it off you and we’re going to replace it.’  We need the justice system to have something similar, that when it becomes obvious that there’s a massive doubt over a conviction there should be a team, some- a flag that’s raised, some professionals go in and sit around a table, with the family maybe or the victim himself and talk about it, and help.  And work towards that –  we’ve got some wonderful people in the miscarriage world, yourself, Sandra for one, and Dr. Naughton and Glyn Maddocks, and Dennis Eady.  People who are just incredible people who work so hard to make changes although against a big machine.  Maybe it will come, maybe we’ll get the changes.  So that’s one reason we felt it was really important to get the public perception changed because that would help Robin.

 – No changes to the criminal justice system will come about as a result of either Jane Metcalfe’s involvement, or Dr Lean’s for that matter. Except, perhaps, for the conduct of this campaign to be marked as vexatious, and oppressive to Diana’s family. It is also an abuse of the criminal appeals process on every level. Those involved with it need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

When they reached the end of the line, and I’ve known the family for a long time, I knew Robin from years ago but got back in touch with him, obviously, when all this happened.  My (audio unclear) with his mum and I wrote to his mum after the trial, and nobody thought Robin would get convicted.  Nobody thought they’d even get into a court room.  All his friends, nobody believed it.  And I got in touch with his mum, I wrote to his mum and she rang me.  I didn’t for a minute expect to hear from her.  I knew she was inundated with letters and calls from people and support.  She phoned me.  I wrote on the letter – I didn’t know her first name, so I just wrote ‘Dear Robin’s mummy.’  I got this call one day, picked up the phone and this lovely voice said ‘Is that Jane?’ ‘Yeah.’  She said ‘It’s Robin’s mummy’ and I couldn’t believe that she’d phoned me and we had a long conversation and from that we just became really close friends and became a close family friend with Robin, Sallie and Mark and the kids.  And when you watch your friends going through something like this and you know there’s not – and the more of the case that was revealed to me, actual statements and… I used to sit at home and read it and think ‘No, this is just unbelievable.  There’s nothing – there’s just so much evidence pointing away from Robin.  Overwhelming, shocking amount of evidence to support Robin’s innocence.

 – Jane falls between two stools again. She claims she has known Garbutt and his family for a long time, but didn’t know the name of his mother, or anyone who could give her that information until well after the trial. 

Sallie and I went to a meeting together, a wonderful meeting, United Against Injustice in Liverpool (UAI).  They don’t actually do your case, but they put you in a room with people who can help you.  That really was a starting point.  So, Sallie and I went to this meeting and my little girl came with me, my daughter came with me and the CCRC were there which was terrifying.  We, we – from there, we met other people who have advised us what to do and there was people up there telling their stories and you cried watching these people because you knew what they were facing.  And I said ‘Sallie, these are the people’ and she said ‘I could never do that.  I could never stand up there.’  And I said ‘I will.  I will.’  And when you love your friends, and I do love my friends, you’d do anything for them.  Wouldn’t you?  And even if – and I hate doing this, I don’t like being – I’d rather… But we had a joke actually about the – there was an awful photograph that was picked up of me.  It was a photograph and it wasn’t very flattering and I said to everybody – we wanted to publicise this meeting, this case and we had to use this photograph and I looked at it thinking ‘Which is most important, this awful photograph going out in the world or Robin’s justice, and I said you owe me with this horrible photograph.’  So I don’t enjoy doing it, I don’t like doing it but I’d be better at it than Sallie. Sallie would be a gibbering idiot – I shouldn’t say that, you’re not a gibbering idiot, Sallie.  She’s incredible.  They’re all incredible, the paperwork that they’ve had to do.  And that’s another thing; you could employ people, there’s so much work to do.  You could employ two or three people full-time to trawl through all the work, but you have to do it by yourself.  Rely on friends to help you do that and fortunately for Robin he has got some – a wonderful family and some fantastic friends from the village – people from Melsonby who are still there, never gone away.  They write to him all the time.  So I do it because I love them and I want to help and I want to – and it’s something that we’ve done quite well in.  We’ve met some great people who’ve – who want to guide us and help us, which is just amazing.

‘Sallie would be a gibbering idiot’ says Jane, without a trace of irony. United Against Injustice (UAI) is an organisation that has been riven with infighting for many years. It is now run by Kevin McMahon, an ex Merseyide Police civilian officer with a conviction for witness intimidation. His co-founder, Andrew Green, a lecturer in law at Sheffield University and noted miscarriage of justice advocate, was driven out in 2016. Jane has denied that she is romantically involved with Robin Garbutt but loves him and his family.

SL: So, you say you’ve become close to the family and you love them.  What is it that convinces you that Robin is innocent?

JM: Well, everyone says, and it’s true, Robin is the nicest man.  You will not meet a nicer, funnier guy.  He’s genuine, he’s non-judgemental.  While he’s in prison now, he’s doing so much work to help other kids, other lads in prison, it’s – but even if he was the most miserable, middle-aged, grumpy old – unsociable, unlikeable character, the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.  It’s stacks up all by itself.  If Robin Garbutt was just a (audio unclear) wasn’t a nice person, the evidence supporting his innocence is overwhelming.  So, I always knew he was innocent.  We always knew that, you know, if he’d done it, he would put his hands up to it.  There’s no way on God’s Earth that he would put his mum and his step-dad and his sister, his family through this.  No way would he do it.  If he’d have done it – maybe we’ve all got a breaking point, maybe we all know we all have a point where something gets that bad but – they loved each other.  They loved each other very much.  There was a few – there was talk at the beginning of – the newspapers peddled the story that Diana was having affairs.  They weren’t really affairs.  She had a couple of flirtations within the drink, she’d had too much to drink and she kissed somebody and there was something else – the thing was, it couldn’t be used against Robin because Robin didn’t know about them.  Robin knew about the thing with the cousin.  He knew about that and it caused trouble, it caused trouble.  But that was the year before.  That was all done and dusted.  Life was good, it was happy.  But the evidence stacks up all by itself.  Stands alone.

 – The court heard from seventeen defence witnesses who all spoke well of Robin. But none of them brought testimony that could assist him in respect of the alleged armed robbery taking place. The court also heard that Diana had told one of the men with whom she was romantically involved, Kevin Heapey, that her marriage was ‘doomed’ and what they had ‘was something special’. They were planning a life together once both of them had removed their ‘baggage’ (existing relationships). Jane repeatedly states that ‘the evidence stacks up, it’s overwhelming’ but doesn’t point to any that the CCRC or Court of Appeal would find persuasive. Another conundrum ducked by Jane is that in the first Garbutt police interview, conducted on the day that Diana was killed, he refers to the murder having taken place in ‘Di’s bedroom’ then quickly corrects himself to ‘our bedroom’. (Watch the 4 minute clip here).

SL: One other thing that I wanted to bring in, the Post Office – so, there’s been this big case about all these people that were accused, some of them convicted for stealing from the Post Office.

JM: Yeah.

SL: It was actually the Post Office’s own software that had introduced that was miscalculating and making it look like there was money missing when it wasn’t, and they’ve had quite a success in the courts, the Postmasters that took that case that case to court.  So, just to clarify, was that the system –

JM: Yes.

SL: That was in place in Robin and Diana’s Post Office?

JM: Yeah. Yeah, exactly the same system.  And at appeal we were able to prove there was no – at appeal we were able to talk about that. But the Post Office Horizon case is massive.  I don’t want to say too much about it really because it’s kind of ongoing.  Because Robin had – Robin’s team – Robin has – another application has gone into the CCRC, the Criminal Case Review Commission, with lots of new evidence in it.  And hopefully this time the CCRC will see that this man is innocent and even though they’ve had previous applications, this one’s got more clarity in it.  The lawyers are as we speak, preparing an addendum, which is in addition to the CCRC application because Robin’s application went in in December and the judgment didn’t come through for the Post Office Horizon until after the application had gone in.  So there’s another being prepared now.  But the CCRC have referred loads of cases, which is fantastic.  Loads of Post Office Masters – and as you say, some of them went to prison.  Their lives were ruined by – and the most troubling thing of all is the Post Office knew, the Post Office knew for ten years what the – and they used to tell individual Postmasters.  They’ve had a massive programme on Radio 4, anyone can find it now, it’s out there.  It’s called The Great British – The Great Post Office something or other, it’s been on Radio 4 everyday.  Nick Wallis is one of the investigators who worked on it, a journalist, I’m not sure if he’s a journalist but, anyway, he’s a documentary maker.  He’s a great guy.  I think there’s a programme coming in the next few nights on television about it.  In fact, he wanted to cover Robin’s case.  He contacted me and said ‘How come we’ve never known about this case of Robin Garbutt? I can’t believe I don’t know about this case.’  And there’s hope that sometime we’ll do something on the case.  He’s just been so wrapped up in what they’re doing now with the Post Office Horizon – that at some point there’s a chance that he will do a piece on Robin’s case as well, because it all ties in.

 – This is the biggest red herring of all. The bare facts are these: On both the occasions of the alleged 2009 and 2010 robberies the sums said to be taken from the safe – £11,300 and £16,150 – tallied with what was in the post office accounts. That was Garbutt’s evidence at court. There was no shortfall as a result of malfunctioning software. There was an empty safe on two occasions, with a total of £27,450 missing, with threadbare accounts of robberies, at peak school and commuter time, that not one single person witnessed apart from Garbutt in either 2009 or 2010. It is probably not a coincidence that the amount spent on holidays, luxuries and the new kitchen would reveal a figure close to the amounts said to be robbed from the safe. A mystery that Dr Lean doesn’t pursue is that if the Post Office judgment was made public on 16th December, 2019 (eleven days after the submission of the third Garbutt CCRC application) why it has taken six months to prepare ‘an addendum’ to that application? 

SL: Yeah, you had another very well known writer/journalist do some work on Robin’s case earlier on –

Dr Lean and the ‘very well known writer/journalist’ were close associates – and two of the driving forces behind the Gordon Park innocence claim. Sandra ill-serves her listeners by not disclosing that.

JM: Yeah, we did.  We had  – Sallie, Robin’s sister- after they failed at the appeal and it was devastating for them.  The work that Sallie and her family have done is incredible, but Sally came across and contacted an incredible guy Bob Woffinden who’s an investigative journalist and he’s written several books and – incredibly highly thought of, and he put so much work into Robin.  He completely believed it was a miscarriage and we’ve got so much paper work that we hand out – we use it now – that’s a photograph of Robin, but we have handouts that we give, it’s a seventeen page document that Bob did.  He went to the village, he went to Melsonby, he met friends by http://unclear of Robin’s, spoke to villagers and stayed over with Sallie.  He visited Sallie and Mark.  He never got to meet Robin, unfortunately, and he did so much work.  He wanted to take Robin’s case to the Houses of Parliament http://unclear miscarriage.  But Robin was advised by the legals not to do that.  Legals, solicitors are often very guarded, nervous about being public about things.  We need to say as well that Robin doesn’t have the same legal team that he had in the beginning now – they’re no longer there.  But Bob works so hard and… But sadly, Bob died two years ago.  I think it was two years in May.  2018, 1st of May, so massive loss to his family and his friends, but also to the miscarriage world because he really made a difference.  He made a massive difference and worked – but we do say now Bob’s still working.  He’s still working for us, because we still use his work all the time and it carries so much credit.  We were really, really lucky a few months ago, that private investigator Mike Naughton – we’ve got two Mike Naughtons in our life.  We’ve got a private investigator, and we’ve got Mike Naughton from Bristol who’s the founder of Empowering The Innocent who we’re involved with as well.  But Mike Naughton, private eye, contacted Private Eye. And Private Eye contacted us which was fantastic.  And because Bob had done this work it gave the story so much credit and Heather Mills, the journalist at the Private Eye, who’s lovely, as soon as she saw Bob’s work she knew it was credible because she knew Bob.  So it’s like Bob’s still… although he’s not here he’s still – his work still helps Robin a lot.

 – It is true that Bob Woffinden was a well-regarded journalist. But the Garbutt case was not his finest hour (neither was the Park case for that matter). His piece in the Inside Time magazine, to which Jane refers, is written from the standpoint of campaign supporter, not independent investigator, and adopts some of Garbutt’s more absurb propositions. It does not address the gaping holes in the murderer’s account of an alleged armed robbery, or why he lied successively and repeatedly to the police and the court. The most telling thing that can be said of Bob’s work on the Garutt case is that it led to two applications to the CCRC, neither of which were even strong enough to move the case off first base despite the family’s high expectations. To continue to rely on that platform is, on any view, bizarre. But in keeping with how much of the rest of campaign is conducted.

SL: So if you could say something to people who find themselves in the position that Robin and his family found themselves in at the beginning, what would you say to them?

JM: If they knew now what they knew then [sic] it would be – it would have been a totally different story.  I suppose when it happens to you, anything can happen to anybody, you could get involved in a car accident, you could be in a fight you could – somebody said to me quite a long time ago ‘why are you involved?’  http://unclear I said ‘can you imagine, you get burgled, your house is burgled and in that burglary you find your loved one has been murdered in that burglary.  Imagine dealing with that.  Then imagine three weeks later the Police come for you and say ‘it was you, you did it.’ And that can happen to anybody, at any point, and if the Police decide to make it fit for you then you – you’re against the Police, you’re then against the Crown Prosecution Service and the court room.  I’d say that you’d take it very seriously.  Take it very seriously and don’t – I think what – they didn’t know they were sitting on their laurels but what they assumed, what we all assume is, the truth will out.  We don’t have anything to worry about with this because in the court case, as it all unravels, the truth will come out and everyone will know what really happened.  I mean – Sallie said, Robin’s sister said ‘in that court room, everybody knew Robin was innocent.’  The courtroom was packed.  The gallery was packed.  Everybody knew.  And she said ‘even when the verdict came in, even the prosecuting barrister, even he looked as shocked as everybody else was’.  Nobody really thought there was going to be a conviction of guilt.  And also, don’t forget that there was 12 jurors, 2 of them- it was a 10-2 jury, they took the majority, so it wasn’t a – it wasn’t an outright 12 jurors.  And poor Robin said that at the time when the jurors came out, when they came out to http://unclear he knew straight away it was guilty because two of the jurors were crying, and he knew then what the result was going to be.

 – In that courtroom ‘everybody knew Robin was innocent’ says Sallie Wood (and now Jane). That excludes Diana’s family, those villagers who gave evidence against the murderer, the press, ten of the jury, the police, the Post Office employees, the prosecution team, the expert witnesses, and the judge. 

But it can happen to anybody and you’re on your own.  You need to do as much homework as you can.  It’s kind of like if your child was poorly in hospital, you’d ask every question there was, you wouldn’t take everything for granted, you’d have to keep asking questions.  The doctors say ‘we’re going to do this’ and you’d say ‘Why? Why are you going to do that?’ And the thing that happens is you put the lawyers maybe on a pedestal and you assume they all know what they’re doing.  You assume they’re all very, very good at what they do.  And sometimes they’re not and you have to ask and question ‘Why would you do that, why would you do that? Why are you doing that?  And why are we not doing this?’  Like for example, Mike, private eye Mike Naughton, he was employed by the defence team right at the very beginning, and he came up with loads of stuff.  I mean, if we’d still got his reports – his report was massive.  He then passes it on to the defence team, Robin’s lawyers.  Robin never met Mike Naughton.  Robin’s family never met Mike Naughton, so he’s gives his report to the defence lawyers; they don’t use half of it.  You know, they didn’t use it.  Maybe they didn’t think we needed to use it.  Maybe they thought ‘it’s so obvious that this man’s innocent, we don’t have to really fight very much.’  But you have to tick every – you’ve got to make sure you do absolutely everything by the – you’ve got to fight.  Fight, you know?  And poor Mark, Mark’s Robin’s brother-in-law, he said a few times during the lead up to the trial, said to the solicitors ‘are you sure you can do this?  Are you sure you’re up for this?  It’s a big murder trial, are you sure?’  And they kept saying ‘Of course we are, of course we are.  Of course.’ Once they got the wrongful conviction – sorry, a conviction, we were stuffed.  There’s no way back.  That door’s closed.  To overturn that is – and poor Mark said he went into the chambers afterwards and was crying, as you can imagine, it must have been absolutely terrible and said ‘You’ve just managed to get the most innocent man in Britain convicted of the worst crime there is.’  But there’s no going back.  You can’t, you can’t undo that.  You can in – and the other thing to note as well is that in famous miscarriages of justice they had to go through at least three appeals before they overturned – you know the Birmingham Six, I think, were they seventeen years?  Seventeen years, the Birmingham Six fighting for. (name unclear) was seven years.  People fight for years, it takes years and anyone that thinks that they’re not working – I suppose people might think that Robin’s case, it’s all gone quiet, well it’s not quiet at the moment but, ‘gone quiet’ – he must have done it, he must have been guilty because he’s still in prison, we don’t put innocent people in prison, but we do.  We do keep innocent people in prison and that family have been working on this case every day since.  There’s not a day that goes by – I think Robin sometimes has to put it down and move away from it for a couple of weeks to then come back to it and read it again, go over it again.  But it’s – the system is broken, the system is broken.  It needs mending.  We need to mend it.

 – One of Jane’s less attractive habits is conflating the Robin Garbutt case with other miscarriage of justice claims. He talked himself into a guilty verdict without aid from anyone else. No empty safe, no alleged robbery, no conviction. As for Michael Naughton, the special constable turned private investigator, caution would need to be advised when relying on anything he says. Thoroughly exposed as a liar and a charlatan in this piece here.

SL: My final question for you, Jane, because we’re almost out of time; would you, prior to this, would you have believed this can happen?

JM: No, not really.  No.  I think I would have thought it was very, very, very, very rare.  Joyce, Robin’s mum said the same thing.  When you saw on the television news, when there’d been a murder enquiry and then later on you find out who’s done it it’s –  it was the husband or the brother or whatever and everyone goes ‘Oohh, the father did it then.’  And you just assumed he’s been found guilty, he’s guilty.  I never would have believed, never would have believed that not only can you get a wrongful conviction, which are really not anything but rare, but then once you get the wrongful conviction, you can’t overturn it.  You have to rely on the system, there’s a huge system that doesn’t recognise innocence.  You’re guilty in their eyes and hopefully things are getting better, but – this application’s in to the CCRC now with Robin and we’re praying that – they have referred quite a few lately that – their numbers have been really low for referrals.  Maybe they’re creeping up, well they are creeping up.  Let’s pray that they will see this for what it is.  It’s blatantly obvious to anybody that Robin is innocent, and we just need to get him home for his mum.  And we need to get him back – back to his family.  But no, I never would have believed it Sandra, never in a million years.

 – ‘It’s balatantly obvious to anybody’ says Jane. Except those that have researched the case thoroughly and independently. Convictions are quashed by the Court of Appeal as she well knows. The brother of her friend and supporter, Michelle Diskin, was cleared of the murder of BBC presenter, Jill Dando. Barry George was also assisted by Bob Woffinden. Which, if nothing else, shows how tightly networked those involved in miscarriages of justice are. 

SL: Jane, thank you so much for joining us today.  For telling us about the case, you’ve done a great job filling everybody in with all the details and helping people to understand that this happens to ordinary people.

‘You’ve done a great job’ says Dr Lean. Completely overlooking the gaping holes in Jane Metcalfe’s story about a cold-hearted psychopath who appears to have groomed his latest ‘victim’ into projecting a campaign grounded in half-truths and blatant untruths. 

JM: It does, yeah.  Ordinary people with no convictions, no – not even a parking ticket.  Nothing.  We said before, that you can understand it when there’s been a grey area if someone’s already had quite a few convictions, you can understand a grey area there, but not when it’s somebody who’s – They gathered 500 statements, the Police gathered 500 hundred statements about Robin.  500 hundred.  Not one, not one said anything negative about him, and actually it counts for nothing in the end.  It didn’t mean anything in that court room.  His character didn’t count for anything, it was just this evidence that was so flimsy.  And now with the – what the Private Eye said, the lady who did the Private Eye piece, I wish I could have read it out to you really.  She finishes saying ‘I wonder now what that jury would think.  If that jury heard this story now, the real story, what would they make of it?’  And that’s how she leaves it there.  She leaves the – that little piece that she wrote.  And what would they make of it?

SL: I’ll put that Private Eye piece on the website as well so that people can go and read that.

 – The Private Eye piece, by Heather Mills, largely regurgitates the Bob Wooffinden narrative, but linking it to the Horizon cases is hopelessly misconceived. That will be revealed in the fullness of time. Not the Eye’s finest hour, either.

In summary, either wittingly or unwittingly, Dr Sandra Lean has allowed the broadcast of an innocence narrative that is, essentially, grounded in deceit. It is also completely absent of consideration for the victim of this heinous crime, Diana Garbutt, and her family. Likewise, if the convicted murderer is innocent then where is the drive, or impetus, to catch the real killer(s)?  In a broadcast lasting one hour, no mention at all is made of either. It is all about “Poor Robin”.

Moreover, if this is a fair example of the general quality of Dr Lean’s research, or oversight, then she must stand discredited. This podcast is a genuinely appalling misrepresentation. As for Jane Metcalfe this is behaviour entirely in keeping with the disgraceful way the Garbutt campaign is, and has been, run. But the end will soon come for them. It is very doubtful that the third CCRC application will spark an investigation of their claims and, even if it did, it is unlikely it would lead to a referral back to the Court of Appeal. Even less likely that that three law lords would quash his conviction.

Robin Garbutt, unless he changes his tune, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

For those with an hour of their life to waste, this is the YouTube version of the interview.

Dr Lean and the Garbutt campaigners were offered right of reply. They have, unsurprisingly, not responded. Jane Metcalfe has, however, disappeared from Twitter. Her last post about the innocence claim was on 14th June, 2020 having previously been very prolific.

Garbutt’s brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn, has, since this article was published and updated, claimed in interview that Jane’s campaign is ‘independent’ of the ‘Robin Garbutt Official‘ campaign run by him and his wife, Sallie Wood. Although Mark acknowledges that the family are ‘grateful for her getting the publicity in Private Eye’. A curiosity given the appearance of the three of them together on network television as recently as March, 2020.

The Garbutt defence team at trial have also been contacted for comment. The communication did not even receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement.

Page last updated on Wednesday 9th September, 2020 at 1205hrs

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