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 Man wrongfully jailed passes lie detector check

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PostSubject: Man wrongfully jailed passes lie detector check   Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:22 am

Sep 2 2008 by Martin Shipton, South Wales Echo

A CARDIFF man who served 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit has passed a lie detector test.

Michael O’Brien, who was wrongfully convicted with Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood for the 1987 murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders, said he had taken the test because of the refusal of South Wales Police to give him an apology.

The Court of Appeal quashed the three men’s convictions after judges found serious flaws in the prosecution case.

Two years ago South Wales Police agreed to pay Mr O’Brien £300,000 in an out-of-court settlement of a civil case he was bringing against it for malicious prosecution.

Last night, an ITV Wales documentary revealed that a lie detector test undertaken by Mr O’Brien two weeks ago had cleared him of any involvement in the murder of Mr Saunders.

Mr O’Brien said: “The fact that as recently as two years ago South Wales Police questioned my ex-wife Donna and her sister Mandy about money stolen when Mr Saunders was murdered suggests to me that although they have had to pay me a very substantial amount of money, they still think I am somehow involved.

“This makes me angry, not just for myself, but because they are not actively seeking the real killer. I decided to take the lie detector test to show that I had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Mr Saunders.”

Yesterday, at the launch of Mr O’Brien’s book on the case, The Death of Justice (Y Lolfa, £9.95), Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood renewed a longstanding call for a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Mr O’Brien, his two co-defendants and other miscarriage of justice victims in South Wales.

The other cases that Ms Wood and others want to see examined are the wrongful conviction of three men for the murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White, the wrongful conviction of brothers Paul and Wayne Darvell for the murder of Swansea sex shop worker Sandra Phillips, the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Jones for the murder of his fiancée’s parents Harry and Megan Tooze at their farmhouse in Llanharry, near Pontyclun, and the conviction of Annette Hewins for killing a young mother and her two children in an arson attack at Merthyr Tydfil.

Mr O’Brien was given a lie detector test by expert Bruce Burgess, who said: “I am totally certain that he is innocent.”

martin.shipton@mediawales.co.uk
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PostSubject: Man jailed for murder he didn’t commit launches book on injustice   Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:23 am

Man jailed for murder he didn’t commit launches book on injustice

Sep 1 2008 by Martin Shipton, South Wales Echo

NEARLY a decade after being freed from prison after serving 11 years for a crime he did not commit, Michael O’Brien seems finally to have come to terms with himself.

For a long time he was incredibly, and understandably, angry with the police for putting him away. He was also angry with Darren Hall, whose false confession resulted in him going to jail, with Ellis Sherwood, in the first place.

Now, if he’s any anger left, it tends to be directed at himself. Although he had nothing to do with the murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders, he blames himself for agreeing to take part in the theft of a car on the fateful night.

He said: “I let down my family, I let down my wife, and I let down my children. If I hadn’t gone out that night I wouldn’t have ended up accused of murder.

“But, of course, that doesn’t excuse the actions of the police. They acted appallingly, and eventually that was accepted by the Court of Appeal.”

For Michael O’Brien, being a miscarriage of justice victim had another tragic consequence: he was in custody when his baby daughter Kylie was a cot death victim.

The book he has written, The Death of Justice (Y Lolfa, £9.95), which is launched today, is part of his healing process. But it also provides powerful testimony to the way innocent people can find themselves convicted of murder when the rules of justice are bent.

Helped by his mother Marlene and coordinated by members of South Wales Liberty, a tenacious campaign was waged on Michael O’Brien’s behalf which eventually bore fruit.

But despite winning a record £300,000 payout from South Wales Police in settlement of a civil case for malicious prosecution, the force has refused to give him an apology.

Now, however, he is rebuilding his life with a new partner Claire and three step-children in Cardiff. He passed an A-level in law, but had to drop out of a university course when he became seriously ill with the lung disease emphysema.

But he is much more settled than he was in the immediate aftermath of his release, and is already writing a follow-up book, intended to be a definitive account of life in prison.

Tonight, there are further disclosures about the case in the ITV Wales current affairs series Wales This Week. The programme, which includes the result of a lie-detector test taken by Michael O’Brien, goes out at 8pm on ITV1 Wales.

Chief Constable Barbara Wilding issued a statement saying: “The thoughts of South Wales Police officers and staff are with the family of Phillip Saunders and, as the 21st anniversary of the day he was killed draws closer, we remember there are family and friends who still grieve for his loss. To this day, South Wales Police continues to have a good relationship with and the support of the family.

“South Wales Police settled civil litigation brought by Mr O’Brien and Ellis Sherwood. The force’s position was that the officers who worked on the investigation into the murder of Phillip Saunders did so in good faith and the force was not liable for malicious prosecution or misfeasance. This position was based on independent legal advice and was supported by the Police Authority.

“However, as a publicly funded organisation, we had to be mindful of the cost of such cases and the unpredictability of the litigation process. Therefore, in accordance with that legal advice, payments into court were made in full and final settlement of the claims of Mr O’Brien and Mr Sherwood. It is emphasised that this was done without any admission of liability and in full and final settlement. Mr O’Brien and Mr Sherwood chose to accept the payments on that basis rather than going to trial. They and their legal advisers were fully aware that this made an apology inappropriate.

“As to the present position in respect of the reinvestigation into the murder of Phillip Saunders, advice has been taken from the Crown Prosecution Service and while there is no further action that can be taken at this stage, the case, as with all unsolved murders, will remain open and will be revisited periodically in case new evidence comes to light.”

martin.shipton@mediawales.co.uk
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