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.

Latest Garbutt application to CCRC ‘still under review’

The Criminal Case Review Commission has confirmed that the latest application to review the murder conviction of Robin Garbutt, submitted on 5th December, 2019, is still under consideration. No date has been indicated by the watchdog’s press office as to when the decision will be communicated to his legal representative, Martin Rackstraw of Russell-Cooke solicitors.

An appeal against his conviction was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in May, 2012. A jury at Teesside Crown Court found Garbutt guilty of the murder of his wife, Diana, in April, 2011. The brutal attack on the vivacious 40 year old had taken place 13 months earlier at a business run by the couple, Melsonby Village Store and Post Office in North Yorkshire. She was killed by three blows to the head with a rusty iron bar (read full story here).

The CCRC has confirmed that two previous applications submitted by Garbutt were also rejected. The first was made in March 2015 and closed, without a referral to Court of Appeal, in June, 2016. The second was made in February, 2017 and a similar decision given in July, 2017.

The Garbutt family, and those attached to his claims of innocence, have previously declined to confirm those dates when requested to do so.

Indeed, in a podcasted interview with criminologist, Dr Sandra Lean, broadcast on Sunday 7th June, 2020, the lead campaigner, Jane Metcalfe, wrongly stated that the first CCRC application was made in 2013 and missed out any reference to the second one altogether. A number of press articles falsely reported that the third application was made in January, 2020 or later. These include The Justice Gap, a publication in which the Garbutt campaigners place great faith, and add to a concerning tally of basic reporting errors and palpable lack of investigative rigour.

There were a number of other inaccuracies uttered by Ms Metcalfe in what was a production ambitiously billed as ‘The Truthseekers‘. It did not feature a single searching question from Dr Lean. Jane, increasingly a stranger to the truth and an odd choice for an academic to choose as the launchpad for this new venture, was allowed to parrot her cherry-picked, well-rehearsed narrative, unchecked, which routinely steers around the key issues upon which the jury came to convict Garbutt and the Court of Appeal declared the conviction safe.  A forensic and utterly devastating take-down of the Metcalfe podcast can be read here.

His campaigners are now well known for blanking enquiries that do not fit with their ‘narrative’ and, in that spirit, have refused to publish the Decision Letters and Statements of Reasons from the first two applications Garbutt made to the CCRC. Looking at the time spent on the applications by the watchdog, often criticised for delays of up to ten years before reaching a decision, it is reasonable to infer that the Garbutt case has not, so far, merited a full investigation. The first may have been subject to a conditional rejection before the case was finally closed. The second was, probably, rejected out of hand as having little or no merit.

The CCRC say that their decisions are accompanied by a full record of their investigations. Neither of the first two rejections of Garbutt’s applications were challenged by judicial review, the only legal channel available to him. Instead he chose to make a third application, less than five years after the first.

The CCRC are at pains to point out that they encourage applicants to share details of the decisions. The watchdog cannot, of course, share them due to personal data restrictions.

The campaigners still consistently seek to re-heat matters that were either dealt with at trial or by the Court of Appeal. It is as if they (and Garbutt) do not understand the legal and evidential hurdles that need to be overcome before his conviction could be quashed.

Garbutt has, fairly recently, sought to jump on the notorious Horizon software bandwagon, after a lengthy, bitterly-fought legal battle resulted in a High Court ruling against Post Office Ltd in which they were ordered to pay £55 million in damages. Consequently, a large number of convicted postmasters and postmistresses have had their cases referred, by the CCRC, to the Court of Appeal (read more here).

The Melsonsby post office murderer has little or no prospect of the CCRC finding that Horizon software failures will be sufficiently persuasive for a long-awaited referral back to the law lords at the Royal Courts of Justice. The reasoning behind that bold assertion is set out in detail here. Campaign leader Metcalfe says that ‘an addendum’ to the Garbutt application was submitted to the CCRC as the High Court judgment against the Post Officer came later.

The claims of a poor police investigation (read about their failings in shocking detail here) would have more traction, but most of those were before the jury, in any event, and those unearthed later do not appear, from the limited information in the public domain, to impact on the Court of Appeal’s findings.

It is understood from a well-placed source that the Garbutt application has passed from the case review manager to the Commissioners who will, ultimately, decide its fate. That may mean that the decision is weeks, rather than months, away.

The Garbutt campaigners have been offered right to reply via their official website. The email did not even receive an acknowledgement.

Page last updated on Monday 29th June, 2020 at 1420hrs

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.