9. More New Evidence
Eddie’s family, lawyers and journalists re-commenced the slow, painstaking quest for further fresh evidence in the case. This process was necessarily hindered by the fact that a substantial body of new evidence not available to the jury at Eddie’s 1993 trial had already been uncovered only to be peremptorily rejected at two appeal hearings.
The campaign for Eddie Gilfoyle spearheaded by his sister Sue Caddick and brother in law Paul Caddick (who had left Merseyside Police) continued to receive support. Eddie was visited in prison by Alison Halford who had been Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police at the time of Paula’s death. After examining the case, she said he was the victim of ‘a huge miscarriage of justice’. Eddie received support from many prominent individuals including Lord Hunt of Wirral who had been his constituency MP and a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
(That are relevant to this chapter)
The Times newspaper began to investigate Eddie’s case and interviewed Professor David Canter who submitted a lengthy report setting out grounds for believing Paula had committed suicide. The newspaper also published an article pointing to ‘a glaring error by judges’ at the 2000 appeal when the Court asserted the suicide note left by Paula was typed when it was in her own handwriting.
Police interview notes
Shortly before Eddie’s 1995 appeal hearing, notes of interviews with police officers during the 1992 internal review by Det. Supt Humphreys were disclosed. The notes served did not provide a full picture of why the police failed at the scene. That picture only became clear in June 2012. The notes stated the Police Surgeon told police at the scene Paula had died six hours earlier. Eddie was at work at this time.
There had previously been no suggestion that Dr Roberts addressed the question of time of death while at the garage. There was no mention of his estimate in his statements to the subsequent murder investigation. He told the trial jury that Paula had been dead for three to eight hours before being found. McCullough J. expressed surprise that no estimated time of death had been provided to the defence saying that it was:
"a rather obvious question".
More than a decade later, the Times requested a copy of the full notes under Freedom of Information legislation. The newspaper was initially told by Merseyside Police:
‘no such notes ever existed’.
An apology was issued after it emerged that the Crown Prosecution Service misled former Solicitor General, Vera Baird MP as to when they had received the Humphreys Report into the botched investigation of the scene of Paula’s death. As a consequence, Parliament was misinformed in answer to a question from Chris Huhne MP. A leaked internal letter indicated the report had been in the possession of Merseyside CPS for almost a year before it was disclosed. It was not until June 2012 that full attachments to the report were disclosed to Eddie’s lawyer. A piecemeal approach towards disclosure has been adopted throughout the twenty years since Eddie Gilfoyle was charged with no explanation offered for previous non-disclosure of crucial material.
Suicide during Pregnancy
At Eddie’s trial, the Crown’s view was that the incidence of women committing suicide while pregnant was very rare. During the murder inquiry, Merseyside Police asked a psychologist to report on the incidence of ante-natal suicide. It was later realised that the statistics on which the psychologist based her report were wrong. Since 1992, a number of studies have shown that suicide during pregnancy is not as rare as previously thought. Indeed, a 2003 study* by psychologist Margaret Oates found that suicide is:
‘the leading cause of maternal death’
-with the majority of such cases occurring during late pregnancy. In November 2012, the Royal College of Midwives published the results of a study which found:
‘more than a third of women who suffer depression during pregnancy have suicidal thoughts’ **.
At Eddie’s trial and appeal hearings, the assumption that suicide during pregnancy is very rare formed a strong feature of the Crown’s case against Eddie. Such a hypothesis can no longer be sustained.
The Metal Box
Eddie’s lawyers continued to press the Crown Prosecution Service and Merseyside Police for full disclosure of all material from the Humphreys Report. For many years, these requests were rebuffed. At the trial and two appeal hearings, the question of Paula’s state of mind when she died formed a crucial part of the Crown’s case. Indeed at the 2000 appeal, the Court stated the conviction depended on ‘non-pathological evidence’ that Paula was happy and looking forward to the birth of her child.
In August 2010, Eddie’s solicitor Matt Foot obtained consent from the police to see unused exhibits in the case. He discovered among them a padlocked metal box which had belonged to Paula. Its contents included diaries kept by her from the age of twelve until she was 22 together with other documents and keepsakes.
They revealed a very different character from the happy, cheerful personality with no history of depression portrayed at the trial and appeal hearings.
The contents showed Paula had a traumatic, troubled past:
When she was a teenager, she attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills after a row with her then fiancé, Mark Roberts. He had threatened to commit suicide. He was subsequently convicted of murdering a young woman. She continued the relationship for a considerable period while he was serving a life sentence.
She collected Roberts’ clothes from a police station including his jeans and the belt with which he had strangled his victim. She wrote they ‘had blood on’ without any apparent emotion or recoil.
She kept a suicide note from another, later fiancé Gordon Gumley (to whom she was engaged when she first met Eddie). This used similar wording to the note in her handwriting found after she died.
Gumley wrote to her: ‘the only time I see you happy is when your friends are around when they call you’re a different person. Smiling joking all that sort of stuff. . .’
In November 2012, the Times newspaper reported the Crown Prosecution Service’s confirmation that if the box’s contents had been known to them:
‘they would have been disclosed to the defence on the basis that it had the potential to assist the defence case that Paula Gilfoyle committed suicide’.
The newspaper stated that officers from Lancashire Police conducting an investigation for the Police Complaints Authority had searched 6 Grafton Drive and taken away what they described as a ‘metal box cont. personal papers + diaries’. The existence of the padlocked box and its contents was not disclosed to Eddie’s lawyers at his two appeals.
In 1995, the Court of Appeal asserted that:
‘Paula’s state of mind was one of the principal issues in the case.’
At the 2000 hearing, the Court referred with approval to the Crown’s contention that Paula’s suicide note was:
‘false, completely out of character and did not represent her true state of mind’.
The material in the box seriously undermines these arguments.
The Coroner’s Officer
In July 2012, the Times reported the emergence of yet more previously undisclosed information in Eddie’s case. On 4 June 1992, the bungling actions of the Coroner’s Officer at the scene of Paula’s death ensured that crucial evidence was destroyed or seriously compromised. It had been believed that PC Jones’ assumption of control over the initial investigation – during which he told more experienced detectives:
‘there’s nothing for you’
– amounted to an unfortunate happenstance. Det. Supt. Humphreys who reviewed Merseyside Police’s response to Paula’s death said that the Coroner’s Officer had exceeded his authority and should not have played any role in the initial investigation.
In many areas of the country, the role of Coroner’s Officers is purely administrative. Documents belatedly released to Eddie’s solicitor reveal the presence and activities of the Coroner’s Officer at the death scene derived from a highly unusual policy imposed by senior police officers in the Wirral area. This policy required police control room staff to call out the Coroner’s Officer to all suspicious deaths. Such a policy did not operate elsewhere in Merseyside.
This meant an inexperienced Coroner’s Officer - and not specialist detectives - took charge of a sensitive scene of death. Merseyside Police failed to disclose that the botched initial investigation had not come about by accident but because of a specific policy directive from senior officers.
The consequent likelihood that the Coroner’s Officer would be first to arrive at scenes of death made serious blunders almost inevitable. The potential embarrassment this would have caused senior echelons of Merseyside Police might explain why the existence of this policy remained concealed for so long.
* The British Journal of Psychiatry (2003) 183: 279-281
**Press Association Ante Natal Support Call 11 November 2012