Convicted in 1974 at the age of 25 of a number of bombings – of the National Defence College in Buckinghamshire, a coach on the M62 motorway and Euston Station in London – Judith Ward was released from prison when her conviction was quashed on 11 May 1992. She has since written a book: “Ambushed – My Story”.
The appeal court was told the original trial had not been informed of Ward’s history of mental illness before her arrest and her possible unfitness to plead. Neither the court nor her family were told of a suicide attempt while Ward was in custody.
The appeal court was told Ward had changed her “confession” several times, and police and the prosecution had to select parts of her statements to construct a plausible version. The prosecution also concealed other important facts from the defence.
As well, evidence from discredited forensic scientist Frank Skuse had been important to her conviction. Skuse’s flawed methods had also been crucial in the conviction of the Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven and other Irish suspects.
One of the main pieces of forensic evidence against Judith Ward was the alleged presence of traces of nitroglycerine on her hands, in her caravan and in her bag. Thin layer chromatography and the Griess test were used to establish the presence of nitroglycerine. However, later evidence showed that positive results using these methods could be obtained with materials innocently picked up from shoe polish and that several of the forensic scientists involved had either withheld evidence or exaggerated its importance.
The Court of Appeal found that there was ‘material irregularity’ in the first trial because scientists had failed to disclose evidence, that some of their results were ‘valueless’ and that many of their conclusions were ‘demonstrably wrong’.
- A review of “Ambushed” on the London Review of Books site: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n21/paul-foot/still-it-goes-on
- Wikipedia article covering the coach bombing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M62_coach_bombing
- A Yorkshire Post report into the bombing: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/analysis/motorway-terror-and-a-40-year-fight-for-justice-1-6414550