A man jailed for 20 years after a security guard was shot dead during an armed raid has won the battle to clear his name.
The Appeal Court quashed Patrick Irvine’s convictions for robbery and manslaughter after hearing they had been undermined by a lack of credible evidence.
The “discrediting” of elements within the now disbanded West Midlands Serious Crime Squad also led to the review.
After yesterday’s hearing in London Mr Irvine, who was released from his 20-year sentence on licence in 1993, said he had finally been vindicated, but felt “gutted” by his long wait for justice.
He is now considering a damages claim for wrongful conviction. Paying tribute to his legal team, he added: “Without their belief and tenacity I would not be here today”.
Mr Irvine was convicted in February 1982 after George Smith, aged 32, was shot dead outside lockmakers Lowe & Fletcher, in Church Street, Willenhall, in November 1980.
The prosecution at the original trial at Birmingham Crown Court claimed Mr Irvine was a member of a gang which attempted a £11,500 payroll robbery at the works.
Mr Smith died after being shot at point-blank range with a sawn-off shotgun.
The key evidence used to convict Mr Irvine was an alleged confession he was said to have made to officers in the back of a police car.
But he denied making any admissions or being involved in the shooting.
His case was referred to the Appeal Court in October 2000 by the Birmingham-based Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, upheld Mr Irvine’s appeal, observing that the prosecution had conceded “this is a case where the conviction is unsafe”.
The court was told Mr Irvine had allegedly told officers in the back of the police car: “It makes no difference in the end who pulled the trigger – we were all there.”
It was also claimed Mr Irvine, aged 54, who lived in Pershore Road, Stirchley, at the time, was implicated by a confession allegedly made by his co-accused Keith Twitchell.
Mr Twitchell served 12 years of a 20-year sentence for robbery and manslaughter, but his convictions were quashed by the Appeal Court in October 1999. He had claimed police subjected him to “bagging” torture, in which a plastic bag was placed over his head to make him confess.