10 October 2000
clear name dies in jail
Convicted of killing ex-lover, he refused parole offer
By Helen Carter
Harold Williams always said he would stay in prison until he died rather than gain release without clearing his name of the murder of his former lover.
He was still a prisoner when he died early yesterday, aged 68, after suffering two strokes, before the court of appeal had a chance to review his case.
The criminal cases review commission had announced in August that the case was being referred to the appeal court following a three-year investigation by West Mercia police.
Williams was jailed for life in 1977 for the murder of Margaret Davies, which he always maintained he did not commit. He was found guilty by a 10-2 majority verdict.
He was serving his sentence at Sudbury prison, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and was taken to hospital from the prison on Saturday after suffering a stroke. He died after suffering another stroke.
Williams claimed he was asleep at his parents' home at the time of the murder. He did not give evidence at his trial.
Williams had been an occasional lover of Margaret Davies, a divorcee, but they split up in January 1977. Shortly afterwards, she was found bound, gagged, strangled and stabbed at her home in Tupsley, Hereford.
Williams was charged with the murder six months later.
In 1988, Williams was offered parole but refused to accept it as it would have meant he signed a licence admitting his guilt.
When his family began to investigate the case, they discovered that Mrs Davies's diary, which contained the names of several lovers, had been lost by detectives and was not produced in court.
David Hallam, a former MEP for Shropshire and Hereford, who took up his campaign six years ago, said it was a tragedy that Williams had died before the appeal court hearing.
He presented a 250-page dossier to the CCRC two years ago detailing inconsistencies surrounding the timing of Mrs Davies's death.
"I feel quite angry about the way the justice system in this country has not been able to give him justice in the 23 years he was in prison," he said.
But Mr Hallam said that despite Williams's death, his family were more determined than ever to clear his name. "He said he would rather die a prisoner than accept that he had committed this awful crime."
Mr Hallam added that Williams had been very courageous.
Williams's sister, Sheila, said: "My brother was a man in a million and the fight to clear his name goes on. He stood his ground and maintained his innocence.
"It has taken 23 years, but we will go on fighting. My brother is not in prison now - he is a free man."
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, which works for penal reform, said it was "an absolute tragedy" that Williams had died in such circumstances.
9 August 2000
parole gets case review
By Nick Hopkins, crime correspondent
When Harold Williams was found guilty of murdering his lover, he vowed he would stay in jail until he died rather than leave without clearing his name.
Twenty-three years later - and 12 years after he was offered early release if he confessed to killing Margaret Davies - he has finally been given the chance to prove his innocence.
Yesterday the criminal cases review commission (CCRC) announced that his conviction was being referred to the court of appeal, after a three-year investigation by West Mercia police.
Friends of Williams, 67, said he was "delighted and overjoyed", but his daughter, Tereyna Wheatstone, said there was still a long way to go. "We will not be able to celebrate fully until he has been cleared and is out of prison."
Williams, a coach driver, was jailed for life at Worcester crown court for murdering Mrs Davies, 41, a divorcee.
The two had been occasional lovers for 12 months but had split up in January 1977. Soon afterwards, Mrs Davies was found bound, gagged, strangled and stabbed at her home in Tupsley, Hereford. Williams was one of three suspects and was charged six months later.
The prosecution admitted that its case was based on circumstantial evidence. Williams had been seen outside her house days before she was killed, and when detectives searched his room they found a magazine which had a picture of a woman lying gagged on a bed next to a man with a knife.
Williams claimed that he was asleep at his parents' house when the murder took place, but it was a weak alibi and hard to substantiate.
He did not give evidence at the trial. He denied murder but was found guilty by a 10-2 majority verdict.
Doubts about the case emerged when his family began to investigate. Mrs Davies's diary, which contained the names of several lovers, was lost by detectives and was not produced in court.
The timing of the murder was also questioned. A pathologist's report prepared for the police said she had been killed between 11pm on Friday and 6.30am the next morning. However, a schoolgirl claimed that she had seen Mrs Davies alive and well much later on Saturday morning.
Two years ago the CCRC received a 250-page dossier from David Hallam, a former MEP for Shropshire and Hereford who took up Williams's campaign. The dossier detailed inconsistencies about the timing of Mrs Davies's death.
"We don't know the grounds of the CCRC decision yet, but we know a 40-page statement of reasons has been sent to the appeal court," said Mr Hallam.
"We are aware there is someone out there who knows who committed this crime, and we would ask them to come forward to end this tragic story as quickly as possible."
He added: "This might seem strange, but Harold bears no grudges against the police. He believes they acted in good faith on the evidence they had, but the evidence was incomplete."
Williams is at Sudbury open prison in Derbyshire. After he refused to sign a licence admitting his guilt to win parole, he told a Sunday newspaper: "I know I could be outside fighting this case, but I was innocent when I came in, and that's how I want to leave.
"If I took the offer of parole I would have to agree to be released on licence, which would in effect mean signing a document saying I was a murderer. And I am not a murderer."
8 August 2000
is granted an appeal
By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
A 67-year-old prisoner who could have walked free 10 years ago by admitting to a murder he claims he did not commit is to have his case reheard by the Court of Appeal.
Harold Williams was jailed for life 23 years ago for the murder of his ex-lover, divorcee Dorothy Margaret Davies, 41.
Mrs Davies, the former wife of the Hereford rugby captain, Robin Davies, was found bound, gagged, strangled and stabbed at her home in Tupsley, Hereford and Worcester. But Mr Williams, a former coach driver with three children, has always protested his innocence.
He has consistently refused to sign a life licence that would have allowed him to go free but meant admitting that he was guilty. His first application for an appeal was rejected in 1979, two years after he was sentenced at Worcester Crown Court.
But the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has been re-examining the case since it took responsibility for referring cases to the Court of Appeal from the Home Secretary three years ago. Yesterday the commission ruled that the pensioner's case should be heard by the Court of Appeal.
Williams's daughter, Teryema Wheatstone, 36, from Hereford, said she was overjoyed at the news."This is a very happy day but there is still some way to go," she said.
The former MEP David Hallam, who has been campaigning for Williams, added: "I have been fighting this case for the past six years but I am aware the family has been campaigning for 23 years.
"We are aware there is someone out there who knows who committed this crime and we would ask them to come forward now and end this tragic story as quickly as possible."
Williams, who lived with Mrs Davies "on and off" for a year before their relationship broke up, was seen outside the house where her body was found just days before the killing, the jury at his trial was told.