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17 years for helping the Police with their enquiries

17 year old Andrew Allder was arrested and charged with murder when he tried to eliminate himself from Police enquiries. Prosecuted on the back of an unsafe confession and an eyewitness who changed their story, Allder has now been released and is fighting to clear his name.

Kathleen Turner, a 67 year old part time sales assistant, was killed by a single stab wound while she was alone in the leather goods shop where she worked, at just before 10.00 am on Monday 18 May 1987. There was no apparent reason for the murder.

“The most the police have to go on at the moment are a couple of sketchy sightings,” said reporter Liz Pike on Central TV news on 19 May. “A ginger haired man was seen running nearby shortly afterwards.”

Watching the news at a friend’s house, Andrew Allder, then aged 17, cried out. He had ginger hair, and he had run through the town centre on the morning of 18 May. He realised he had to have himself eliminated from the inquiry.

At 7.30 pm he arrived at Aylesbury Police Station. Detective Sergeant Osmond and Detective Constable Munn interviewed him, and he told them that on the Monday morning he had accompanied his father to the DHSS office in the town centre, and afterwards had run to the office of his social worker. At the DHSS he had been with his father and brother, and staff there as well as other people in the waiting room, and his social worker could all confirm his account.

At the end of the interview, after midnight, DS Osmond told Andrew that he did not believe his story, arrested him for murder, and put him in a cell until 6.30 the next evening. He asked to see his father, but was not permitted to see anyone. He was then interviewed. He confessed to murdering Mrs Turner.

At his trial, Andrew withdrew his confession and pleaded not guilty. The police produced a witness who claimed to have heard him plotting to rob a shop, but this witness was discredited when it was shown she had lied about several other matters. The police managed to show that there was a period of a few minutes around the time of the murder during which none of the alibi witness could definitely claim to have had Andrew in sight – just enough time to commit the crime. The witness who had seen the running ginger-haired man already knew Andrew. At first she said she did not know who the ginger-haired man was, but after he had been charged, she said it was Andrew.

None of this was sufficient evidence on which to convict anyone. Clearly Andrew was convicted on the evidence of his confession. Why did he confess?

A vulnerable person

Despite spending 17 years in prison, today Andrew is a normal mature adult who has a steady job working as a chef. At the age of 17, he was very different – immature and unstable. Always a difficult child, he was sent to special boarding schools where he was bullied and in trouble. Today such a child would be diagnosed as suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder.

When he was 14, he discovered that the man he’d always thought was his father was not in fact his biological father. Four months before his arrest, his stepfather moved out of the family home. Then, unable to cope with the children, his mother moved out and his father returned, just two days before his arrest. Andrew felt neglected, and later told a prison psychologist ‘his confession was a result of his feeling that his parents would give him more attention if he was in custody for something serious.’

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) made provision for vulnerable people who are arrested to have a person to support them (called an appropriate adult, usually a family member), to make sure that they understood what was happening and that they were given the rights to which they were entitled, including free and independent legal advice. The police believed Andrew was suicidal and posted an officer at his cell door to keep him on 24 hour watch, but they did not provide him with an appropriate adult.

He asked to see his father, but this request was denied. The police gave him no reason.

So were his confessions false? They are not consistent with what happened during the attack on Mrs Turner in the leather good shop. Andrew said that when he stabbed her, she fell to the floor and did not move, but when the shop owner came downstairs into the shop in response to the alarm bell rung by the victim, he found her still standing. Andrew said he placed his hands on the glass counter, but his fingerprints were not found there. And he said that he went to the shop while his father was being interviewed at the DHSS, although the interview took place after 10 am, when Mrs Turner was already at the hospital.

Interview records

PACE also introduced the tape recording of police interviews, but in 1987 Thames Valley Police had not yet obtained tape recorders, and all interviews were (or should have been) recorded word for word by a police officer writing down everything that was said. Andrew disputes that the records of his interviews are accurate, and says that statements are attributed to him which he never uttered. He signed the records, but did so simply because he was told to.

Were the records falsified? There is some support for Andrew’s allegation. Some periods of time are not accounted for. The second interview (when Andrew first confessed) took 1 hour and 14 minutes, but the record covers just three pages of double spaced typed copy. Following the end of the interview is another 20 minutes before the interview is recorded as ended in the custody record. What was happening during all this time? Investigating officers are not supposed to speak to a suspect about the crime under investigation except when their conversation is recorded.

The behaviour of investigating officers was quite strange when they interviewed Sarah Edwards. She was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a conspiracy to rob the shop at the time when Mrs Turner was murdered. Twenty one days after Andrew’s arrest, Sarah, then a 16 year old schoolgirl, was interviewed togetherwith her mother Brenda Edwards, in the presence of a solicitor and an appropriate adult. Much of the interview concerned a remark alleged to have been made by Andrew in the company of both of them, to the effect that the best time to rob a shop was on a Monday morning. It would have been incriminating if he’d said it before the murder, but Sarah insisted the remark was made later, after the murder. Some of the interview consisted of an argument between mother and daughter about this. The interviewing officer accuses Sarah of ‘lying out the back of [her] teeth.’ Neither the solicitor nor the appropriate adult intervened at any stage. In an interview which followed almost immediately afterwards, Sarah said the remark was made on the day before the murder. But the interview record, labelled ‘contemporaneous notes’, does not read as if it had been spoken at all, certainly not by a schoolgirl. For example:

Can I just say one thing. I knew the outline of what you would call a plan but I’ve tried denying that any of my friends could be involved in cold blooded murder. I do not know the finer details of this plan, all I knew was that it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do to prevent it happening. I’m fed up with doing my best to convince myself that Kevin or any of the others were involved, and I just have to accept that I was used for something for them to hide behind. I did not take an active part in this murder…

Is this the speech of a schoolgirl? If this interview record was fabricated, then Andrew’s claim that parts of the records of his interviews were falsified gains credibility.

It was possible that Sarah Edwards could have acted as a defence witness had she not been put under pressure to change her account. It appears that the investigating officers were not above bending the rules to obtain the conviction of Andrew Allder for murder, under pressure from the media to solve an otherwise inexplicable crime.

Legal advice

It was not until after his third interview, when Andrew had already made the confession that would lead to a murder conviction, that he spoke to a solicitor.

A basic right of suspects is to obtain free and independent legal advice at any time while they are detained in a police station. According to the police records, Andrew agreed to be interviewed without a solicitor. But nowhere does it say that Andrew was offered the services of a legal adviser who would not charge him, or that the solicitor would be independent of the police. Eventually a superintendent told him that he would “arrange for a solicitor to come and see you and for the other [investigating] officers to go through it with you and your solicitor more thoroughly.” This gave Andrew, who did not know what his rights were, the impression that the solicitor would be working with the police.

When the solicitor did turn up, he spoke to Andrew and then left again, knowing that Andrew was going to be interviewed a fourth time by the police.

Under the impression that he could have no contact with the outside world until he had done what the police wanted, he repeated his confession.

We at Innocent believe that Andrew’s confession was false and that he did not commit this crime. We think that the interview records should not have been admitted as evidence in his trial, because he was denied his right to have an appropriate adult present, and his right to independent legal advice, and as result, he made a false confession. We think the interview records themselves are suspect, and cannot be relied upon.

If the interview evidence had not been available to the court, then the trial would never have gone ahead. But the defence did not challenge it (as far as we are aware). No doubt that was because his solicitor had not challenged what was happening at the police station, and to challenge the admissibility of this evidence, the solicitor would have had to criticise himself.

Challenging the conviction

After his trial, Andrew’s solicitors simply told him he could not appeal. For a long time he believed them, until he found out that he did not have to accept their advice. Then the solicitors refused to send him his defence papers. Eventually another solicitor obtained copies of the CPS file for him. But no solicitor was prepared to appeal against his conviction.

Andrew’s tariff (the minimum time a lifer must stay in prison) was fixed at 10 years. But he was kept in for seven more years, because he was ‘in denial’ of the crime of which he had been convicted – claiming to be innocent has cost him seven extra years inside.

He has now applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and asked them to investigate his case and refer it to the appeal court. INNOCENT is supporting his application.

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About INNOCENT (120 Articles)
Challenging miscarriages of justice since 1993.

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