We are sorry to announce the death of Andrew Pountley on Thursday 28 April 2005. Innocent will continue to fight to clear his name.
Andrew died of a heart attack. He had complained to medical staff of pains which are symptomatic of a heart attack, but he was given no treatment and sent back to his cell, where he was later found unconscious. Attempts to revive him failed.
The inquest into Andrew's death will take place on Monday 8 May, starting at 10 am. Andrew's family believe that the circumstances leading to Andrew's death need full and serious investigation, and would welcome any support that you can give by attending the inquest.
The inquest will be held at
the Magistrates Court, Newcastle Road,
|The case of Andrew Pountley is horrifying
and deeply disturbing, not just because it concerns the worst kind of crime
imaginable, nor because the Oldham police were so keen to build a case
against an unlikely suspect, using very dubious evidence, nor because a
sound defence which was available was never put before the court - but
above all because whoever committed this terrible crime remains free to
do it again.
Rosemary McCann was just five years old when she disappeared from her home in Oldham on the night of 13-14 January 1996. Seven weeks later, on 4 March, her body was found by police in the corner of a small patch of waste ground. She had been raped and murdered.
Andrew Pountley, then 32, the boyfriend of Rosemary’s mother, Josie Mahon, was arrested within a few hours of Rosemary’s disappearance. He was held by police until he was charged with her abduction, and then remanded in custody. After her body was found, he was charged with her rape and murder. He has consistently denied any involvement in or knowledge of these crimes. He was put on trial at Manchester Crown Court, and convicted on 6 February 1997. Mrs Justice Steel gave him two life sentences and said he should serve 25 years.
There seemed to be a lot of evidence against Andrew. Before Rosemary had been reported missing, a man driving a hired van, James Stidworthy, had telephoned the police to say he had given a lift to a man with a small girl wearing pyjamas and with bare feet, and he thought this was suspicious. When Rosemary’s mother, Josie, reported her missing, the police took Mr Stidworthy to Andrew’s house. The van driver had a feeling he recognised Andrew as his passenger, so the police arrested Andrew.
Later that morning Detective Sergeant Wharton examined the van for fingerprints, and found prints matching Andrew’s on one of the doors. More pieces of evidence were soon found: an 11-year-old boy who lived across the road from Rosemary said he'd seen Andrew arrive in a taxi and then take Rosemary away; a taxi driver said he'd picked Andrew up from his house and taken him to Josie's. Two teenage girls who were baby-sitting for Josie said Andrew had phoned her house from the pub where he was working as a DJ that night, he was very angry with Josie, they said, and he had threatened her. The prosecution said he had taken Rosemary, raped and killed her because he was angry with Josie.
When the police searched Andrew’s house for the third time, they found a pyjama top with a Thomas the Tank Engine design on it. They took it to show Josie and the baby-sitters, who said it was the one that Rosemary had been wearing when she was put to bed.
Once Rosemary’s body was found, a forensic scientist, Dr Moore, found fibres from the pyjama trousers worn by Rosemary, and fibres from Andrew’s scarf, in samples taken from the van driven by Mr Stidworthy. The bag in which Rosemary’s body was found was identified by Andrew’s ex-wife as one that used to belong to her. On its own, not one of these pieces of evidence actually proved Andrew had raped or killed Rosemary. But put together, the case seemed damning. You could scarcely criticise the jury for finding Andrew guilty - since none of this evidence was really challenged.
But everything could have been challenged. The van driver, James Stidworthy, hadn't really identified Andrew as his passenger: he was taken by the police at night to the house of someone he knew to be a suspect, and only thought he recognised him. In court, he sounded convincing - but really it was very poor, virtually worthless evidence. Besides, he had originally said he had given a lift to the man and girl at a time when, according to Josie and her friends, Rosemary was still at home, and when Andrew could not have had time to arrive at Josie's house. Mr Stidworthy obligingly changed his timing to fit the times given by other witnesses.
Were Andrew’s fingerprints really on the van? DS Wharton did not take a photograph of the prints where he found them, nor did he produce any sketches or diagrams. Remarkably, although the van had been used by many other people, there were no other fingerprints anywhere on it! The van was at once returned to its owners, who cleaned it: there was no independent examination of it.
As for fibres - they were everywhere. Andrew and Josie, who had lived together for extended periods, were not tidy people. Andrew had often looked after Josie's three children. They sat on his coat and scarf. Their garments already had fibres from other garments on them. But that night, Andrew was wearing a coat which, according to an independent expert consulted by the defence, 'sheds its fibres readily'. None of these fibres were found on the van seat. Nor were any found on the seats of the taxi in which Andrew is alleged to have travelled from his house to Josie's. The same defence expert gave his opinion that the fibre evidence did not prove Andrew's involvement in the abduction.
The boy who said he'd seen Andrew taking Rosemary from her home told the police this only after talking to Josie. His witness statement was written for him by the police - it was certainly not in his own words. Frequently in trouble with the police himself, he was perhaps very willing to say he'd seen things which he could not have seen - such as Andrew carrying Rosemary away - on the other side of a row of houses, at night, on an unlit path.
But what about the Thomas the Tank Engine pyjama top which Josie said Rosemary was wearing when she was put to bed. When she reported Rosemary missing, she said Rosie was wearing a 'Snoopy Bear' top. After the police found the pyjama top, they interviewed Andrew in the presence of his solicitor, Michael Talbot. They showed Andrew the top and asked him if he could explain its presence in his house. Josie's children had often stayed there, he said. There were numerous items of their clothing there. Later, preparing for the trial, the police supplied a photo of the Thomas the Tank Engine pyjama top that the prosecution intended to submit as evidence. Both Andrew and his solicitor were amazed. It was not the same pyjama top. Mr Talbot said he would testify to this at Andrew’s trial. A crucial item of prosecution evidence would have to be thrown out.
What defence ...?
But this presented a problem. Andrew’s solicitor was now a defence witness, and so he was excluded from the trial until the time came for him to give evidence - right at the end.
Andrew’s defence was simply not presented. James Stidworthy’s earlier statement, which gave a timing which would have ruled Andrew out as Rosemary’s abductor, was not put to him. The jury never knew about it. DS Wharton was not cross-examined on the lack of photographs or diagrams showing the finding of the fingerprints on the van. The defence forensic expert - who had reported that the fibre evidence did not prove Andrew’s guilt - was not called. All the jury heard was Dr Moore's confident assertion that the fibre evidence virtually proved Andrew guilty.
On point after point, Andrew’s defence pulled its punches, and finally the lawyers decided not to call Andrew’s solicitor to give evidence about the Thomas the Tank Engine pyjama top. Andrew, who had firmly asserted that both he and his solicitor had been shown a different pyjama top in the police interview, now looked like a liar because his solicitor did not go into the witness box to back him up.
And there was one further area strangely neglected by the defence.
When did Rosemary die?
Within a few hours of Rosemary’s disappearance, Andrew was arrested, and he has been in police custody or prison ever since. If Rosemary was alive and well after his arrest, then it was not Andrew who raped and murdered her. If her body was moved after his arrest, then someone other than Andrew was involved in this crime - and it was always the police and prosecution case that he acted on his own.
There was a massive search for Rosemary, involving hundreds of people and all available police resources. There were nation-wide appeals for information, and a large number of responses. Many people reported seeing a child who looked like Rosemary, and some of these sightings could have been of her. So how long had she been dead when her body was found?
Dr Lawler, the police pathologist, said that she had been dead for weeks. But a second pathologist, consulted by the defence, said she might have died only days before she was found. Predictably, the defence did not call their expert to give evidence. Had the body been moved after death? It was the jury who asked this crucial question, not the lawyers. Dr Lawler could not answer it.
The body was found just a short distance from Andrew’s house, in the heart of the search area. Could it have been missed in the original search? The exact spot had been searched by Michael France, a member of a mountain rescue team. Giving evidence, he said he could have missed the body. He was looking for child who was alive, he said, not for a body. Yet the narrow space between two walls was such an obvious place to look; and at the same time, other searchers were looking for bodies in ponds - Mr France himself reported the finding of an object as small as a key... . Six weeks later, two senior police officers went almost straight to the spot and found the body, as if they knew where to look.
Who killed Rosemary?
Not Andrew Pountley. Andrew has never been a child abuser. He cared for Josie's children, and when Josie left them on their own for long periods, he complained to the police, hoping to prevent her from neglecting them.
So if Andrew didn't murder Rosemary, who did? If Andrew is innocent, that means someone who has raped and murdered a small child is still at large - to do it again.
Andrew Pountley (prison no. XG1520) died in HMP Frankland, Finchale Avenue, Brasside, Durham DH1 5YD on 28 April 2005.