A lorry driver who proved that he was innocent of a child’s murder by studying neurology in his prison cell was freed by the Appeal Court yesterday.
Kevin Callan spent four years in jail for the killing of his girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter. But the court heard yesterday that expert evidence at his original trial was flawed.
Mr Callan’s research showed that Amanda Allman, who had cerebral palsy, did not die from being shaken by him, as medical experts had testified. Lord Justice Swinton Thomas praised Mr Callan’s “tireless” work to establish his innocence since his trial three years ago and declared his conviction for murder “unsafe and unsatisfactory”.
“It is a matter of regret to this court that he was convicted in the first place,” he said. The judge said he would not criticise the “professional men” who gave evidence against Mr Callan at Manchester Crown Court in January 1992.
He noted, however, that Dr Geoffrey Garrett, the pathologist who was adamant that Amanda’s injuries must have been caused by shaking, had since “retreated” from that position. The judge stressed that it was “important that experts with the correct expertise should be instructed in cases such as this”.
‘It has been a big fight but well worth it’
Mr Callan, who is 37 tomorrow, left the dock to applause from family and supporters. Outside the Law Courts in London he was reunited with his mother, Joan, 64, father, Arthur, 67, and his brother and sisters.
“It has been a big fight but well worth it,” Mr Callan said. “The first thing I want to do now is cut my hair and have a shower.” Reading from a prepared statement, Mr Callan said: “I am very relieved to be, once again, a free man. I have been in prison for four years convicted of the murder of a child I loved and it has been a devastating experience for myself and my family.”
He thanked the scientific experts who responded to his letters from prison and people who had supported his campaign to have his conviction quashed. He asked for privacy to be allowed to spend time “in peace and quiet” with his family.
Amanda died on April 15, 1991, the day after her fourth birthday. Her mother, Miss Lesley Allman, returned to the home she shared with Mr Callan in Hyde, Greater Manchester, to find him trying to resuscitate the child.
Mr Callan said Amanda, who was severely handicapped, had fallen twice during the day she died – once down stairs and later from a garden slide. Dr Garrett’s post mortem examination, however, concluded that the girl’s two brain haemorrhages had been caused by shaking.
He said that he would have expected to have found external bruising and possibly a fractured skull if the girl had fallen. During questioning and throughout his trial, Mr Callan consistently denied murder.
Miss Allman supported him, telling the jury that he “showered the child with affection”, was extremely patient with her and never became exasperated.
The couple had planned to marry but their relationship broke down after Mr Callan was convicted and jailed. In his cell at Wakefield prison Mr Callan, who left school without any qualifications, started to study medical textbooks. He said: “I thought that if I could read my way through everything in the medical section, concentrating on how the brain worked, it would help me to work out just how Mandy had died. Within a couple of months I’d got about a dozen books on the go. One title led to another and I just kept asking the library to order more.”
Over the next few months his knowledge of the neurological processes of the brain improved and he gradually became convinced that he could prove that he was not a murderer. He started writing to eminent authors and experts in the field of neuropathology. Yesterday, he thanked Dr Philip Wrightson, who replied to him from New Zealand, and Dr Helen Whitwell, a Home Office expert, for answering his queries.
Faced with the mass of medical evidence he had collected to support his claim of innocence, the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to have the case looked at again.
The CPS commissioned Prof Michael Green, professor in forensic pathology at Sheffield University, to re-examine the prosecution evidence.
Prof Green concluded that Dr Garrett’s testimony left “much to be desired”. He criticised the pathologist’s “absolute dogmatism” in saying the girl had died from being shaken. Such a conclusion would be “difficult to justify”.
Dr Garrett’s failure to preserve parts of the child’s brain for other tests to be carried out was “inexcusable” and a breach of protocol. Mr Richard Henriques, QC, for the Crown, told the Appeal Court: “We have formed the view that the overwhelming weight of material evidence supports the view that the injury was caused by trauma, not by shaking. That being so, we take the view that this conviction cannot be upheld.”
‘Here is a cautionary tale for lawyers’
Mr Michael Mansfield, QC, for Mr Callan, said none of the expert witnesses at the original trial had expertise in neuropathology. He pointed out that the Appeal Court had initially refused Mr Callan a hearing because it said he was conducting “a trawl for experts”.
“Had it not been for the persistence of the applicant and his solicitor, at a later stage, this matter would not have taken this course,” Mr Mansfield said.
“Here is a cautionary tale for lawyers and the courts themselves to ensure that the expertise proffered to the jury is the proper one.”
Mr Campbell Malone, Mr Callan’s solicitor, said after the hearing that his client would seek compensation under the Home Office scheme for victims of miscarriage of justice.
He said: “Kevin was very persistent and very determined. It took a considerable act of courage to keep going in the face of an incredible degree of scepticism.
“Prison has been a traumatising experience for him. He has never been able to grieve properly. His relationship broke down. Two families were devastated. He will find it very difficult to adjust”.
By Sean O’Neill