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  • Team Free Clive Freeman

Clive Freeman Brief. Information for Lawyers, Investigators and Supporters

  1. Introduction

This document is for use by lawyers, investigators and supporters working on behalf of Clive Freeman in his challenge against his murder conviction. It outlines his case and suggests underlying reasons why the CCRC has consistently rejected his applications. It proposes new actions which could challenge and change CCRC thinking and might be needed at judicial review, assuming another refusal. It includes both new evidence and new argument. Without being forced to change, it is likely the CCRC will continue to reject any future defence challenges put to them. Anything written for the CCRC must bear in mind the possible need, and readiness, for a (rapid) judicial review afterwards.

As I no longer have all my files, Mr. Freeman’s legal team need to check all dates, cross-references and documents here. Some of these documents may only be available through Mr. Freeman himself or by reference to the relevant body: the police who have access to the investigation records and artefacts, the Appeal Court(s) or the CCRC themselves. A full set of documents – particularly the various submissions and attachments, the correspondence and statements of reasons and what the Judges (Trial Judge summing up and decision/comments of the Judge at Appeal, Court of Appeal) will be essential.

For personal reasons I cannot undertake the investigations and contact work set out in this document, nor can I take phone calls or edit documents. Terry Wilcock will be able to explain my reasons. I hope however that, with the benefit of this briefing, a new solicitor for Mr. Freeman can discuss the options for that work with others and agree an action plan. There will be constraints: available time (Mr. Freeman is very ill and may not be able to mount another submission after this one) and resources (submissions, investigations and lobbying are resource intensive) will need to be weighed against likely benefit. Again, these issues are for others to discuss and decide upon. Hopefully, these ideas will help develop that plan.

Of course, it is for Mr. Freeman’s solicitor to decide whether any of this is relevant and what material should be included in future submissions. He and only he can advise Mr. Freeman. Could I ask all parties to please make clear Mr. Freeman that I am NOT writing or editing the submission itself.

  1. Overview

This is a complex case. Clive Freeman was imprisoned for murder in 1989. It was claimed that he killed Alexander Calder Hardie, an unemployed man, as part of an elaborate plot to substitute Hardie's body for his in a fire in order to claim life insurance. There was certainly some incriminating circumstantial evidence: Freeman, a Rhodesian, was in the process of taking out a large life insurance policy; he had been trying to get a new passport with a new name as well as trying to access his dental records; and he left the country the day after Hardie's partially body was found in Freeman's flat. The defence have evidence that Mr. Freeman was suffering from PTSD at the time which would have made him very prone to secrecy and any actual or perceived threat. Mr. Freeman was also planning an illegal reentry to Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) which would have been dangerous (hence in part the life insurance and the plan to travel under a different name.). Mr. Freeman’s team went for an “alibi” defence – Mr. Freeman had checked into the Trebovir Hotel in Earl’s Court many miles from where Hardie was found dead in Freeman’s flat at around 10.30 on the night in question. The receptionist, Monica Barber, stated that while he might just have been able to leave the hotel unnoticed, there was no way he could have got back in.

Freeman was convicted and sentenced to twenty years.

Mr. Freeman requested permission to appeal in 1991. His application was based on criticisms of his defence team at trial, challenges to the judge’s summing up, suggestions that David W. Taylor (a prosecution witness) was a police informer and a number of other contested points.

The process for permission to appeal is particularly pertinent here: the single judge considers the case papers and determines whether there is material and merit which might justify referral to the court of appeal. In doing so the judge will only grant permission where he/she “considers that the appeal would have a real prospect of success” i.e. of the court of appeal finding that the conviction is unsafe. In other words, the Single Judge is applying rules and thinking which is directly comparable to the CCRC’s “real possibility” test.

In giving his ruling denying permission to appeal, the single judge analysed what he considered to be the direct incriminating evidence at trial. This analysis will be important in this briefing. He highlighted the primary direct evidence which supported a conviction of murder. It is reasonable to infer that, in order to grant permission to appeal in Mr. Freeman’s case, the judge would have needed to be presented with new evidence which provided direct and credible challenge to the points he raised. This should be no surprise to the CCRC: his comments are referred to by the CCRC themselves in various statements of reasons including the following:

As can be seen the single judge highlighted three areas of direct evidence which were important to the conviction:

  1. Medical evidence - the Crown pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd, testified that Hardie had been killed by burking – specifically kneeling to the chest - which would stop a man breathing and kill him in a few minutes because chest pressure can kill with “minimal force”. He claimed that his evidence pointed to that conclusion and that his study of burking corroborated his findings. He also suggested that people with a military training might know methods of killing which left little evidence (the court had already heard that Freeman had fought in the Rhodesian army). The Judge states (para 19 above) that “On the basis of this [medical evidence] evidence as it stood at the end of the prosecution case, the judge was entirely right to rule that it was open to the jury to find that Mr. Hardie had been deliberately killed.” He also explained that the jury “had to consider …that evidence in relation to the whole context of the case (para 20 above)” The judge there establishes an intimate relationship between Dr Shepherd’s contested - but at least apparently at that time possible - medical evidence and the overall case context. We argue later in this paper that fundamental changes in medical understanding now renders Dr Shepherd’s evidence as impossible and unsafe. That evidence is certainly nothing like “as it stood at the end of the prosecution case”. And of course, if the credibility of the medical evidence changes so drastically, it cannot help affect consideration of the whole context because they are “in relation” to each other.

It is also clear from the Single Judge’s comments that the medical evidence is one of the most important, if not the most importance, pieces of direct incriminating evidence. It is astonishing therefore that the CCRC have argued repeatedly against this, denying that the medical evidence was central to the case and it could, in effect, be treated as peripheral or subordinate to other (circumstantial) evidence

  1. Fire evidence/Death of Hardie before the fire took hold. The fire expert stated that the fire “could have been caused [by accidental causes]” but the court heard that but there was no nicotine (or more significantly, fire smoke) in Mr. Hardie’s lungs and that on the “available evidence it was open to the jury to find that the fire had been deliberately started”. The judge is echoing the question which the jury faced at trial – how could the fire have started with Mr. Hardie alone in the flat, dead before the fire took hold and no obvious evidence of matches etc. nearby etc.? We provide below detailed evidence and argument which validates Mr. Freeman’s POE, namely that there was a third person in the flat for some or all of the time and that person was in all probability Trevor Percy Hughes who, like Hardie was a smoker. It seems overwhelmingly likely that Hughes accidentally set fire to the property and escaped not knowing whether his friend Hardie had also got out ( little knowing that by that time Hardie had already died). Even without knowing exactly what happened in the flat (see Annex 1 for a reconstruction) this evidence, had it been available to the court, would have provided a highly credible alternative explanation of what happened – that Hughes, probably accidentally, set fire to the flat, not realizing that his friend Hardie was already dead. The CCRC cannot dismiss this as speculative because there is strong evidence pointing to it being probable. The CCRC, in considering referral should be bound, like all others judging a case, by the rule which states “ The appeal court may draw any inference of fact which it considers justified on the evidence” (rules S2.21 (4)

  2. Eyewitness evidence placing Mr. Freeman near the murder scene in the small hours of Saturday morning: The judgement notes that “Mr. Taylor gave evidence that on Saturday morning at 1.30 a.m. he heard a bang and then saw Mr. Freeman leaving the flat”. The ruling notes that the jury was told they “must approach this evidence with great caution because of the possibility of a mistake being made”. Nevertheless, the Judge clearly considered this identification as “direct evidence” pointing to Mr. Freeman’s presence at or near the time of death and germane to a finding of murder. The prosecution used this evidence to argue that Mr. Freeman must have left the hotel where he was staying, crossed London and killed Hardie before returning undetected. Mr. Taylor’s evidence - the only eyewitness evidence – was critical in subverting Freeman’s alibi defence. The CCRC have been repeatedly pointed to the retraction of his eyewitness evidence by Mr. Taylor in 1996 but have never accepted its importance as direct evidence of guilt nor provided an adequate explanation of their failure to take even the most basic steps to investigate his claims. New rules should now be used to force them to act.

Since the formation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (the 'last chance' for those who have failed at Appeal) Mr. Freeman has made five unsuccessful applications to the CCRC. He could have applied to leave prison on parole from 2001 onward but refuses to admit any guilt or contrition for a murder he did not commit (a requirement for parole). Parole was therefore repeatedly turned down and latterly Mr. Freeman has persisted in resisting any “softened” parole conditions. We understand this makes him Britain's longest parole "refusenik".

  1. Summary of key evidence in submissions

The CCRC have, in our view, had ample evidence to warrant a referral to the court of appeal. This includes:

  1. world leading testimony from Professor Kroll and Dr Karch in the States, backed up by detailed studies and reports proves it is impossible to kill a man by kneeling on his chest, unless the ribs are fractured (Hardie's were not). This latest evidence states that Dr Shepherd's evidence of death by murder is against known medical science (Prof Kroll report). The CCRC gave this compelling evidence no proper consideration, simply dismissing it by reference to a footnote referring to their requirement that death must be proved as accidental

  2. evidence from many world-renowned expert pathologists who challenge Dr Shepherd's methods and conclusions. Many of the errors they identify were not raised by the defence in court (see for example the new testimony of Professor Bernard Knight). These experts agree that on the medical evidence presented by the prosecution, Hardie's actual cause of death was unknown and was probably caused by heart failure (Hardie had major heart disease) combined with alcohol poisoning. We believe that this material should be treated as a “body of evidence” that Dr Shepherd’s methods and conclusions are not just open to challenge (as set out in the trial) but are completely untenable. The CCRC appears to refuse to accept this body if evidence saying that the medical evidence (for and against) was “fully ventilated at trial” which is clearly wrong.

  3. Evidence from a world renowned toxicologist showing that Hardie’s toxicology (alcohol and drugs) would have ben at levels sufficient to have killed him (in direct contradiction to the Crown pathologists assessment, repeated by Dr. Shepherd)

  4. The retraction in 1996 of the eyewitness evidence (which the prosecution used to undermine Freeman's alibi). The witness Taylor stated in his letter that he realised he had made a wrong Identification and this had preyed on his mind for years. This letter arrived in 1997 long after the 1991 Appeal. Had it arrived earlier, it would undoubtedly been used as grounds for that Appeal.

  5. Eyewitness testimony from a doorman at a club where Freeman's daughter worked. The eyewitness knew Freeman and saw him very drunk on the night in question. He refused to allow the drunken Freeman in and told him to go and sleep it off at the nearby Trebovir Hotel - the 'alibi' hotel. Again this would have been material “fresh evidence” is 1991, challenging the prosecution case that this was a planned alibi as part of a murder plot.

  6. Evidence from soldiers who served with Freeman in Rhodesia, none of whom had ever heard of burking or a method of killing a man in such a way and all of them explaining that they were horseback troops and not involved in any special forces training or operations – their job was mostly supplies and reconnaissance

As far as the defence knows, the CCRC has never (directly or via the other agencies etc.) attempted to contact/ interview either David Taylor or the barman to investigate further. Despite repeated requests by the defence, they have also refused to appoint or commission an expert pathology witness to report on the defence medical evidence. The only person they have ever interviewed (without an independent pathology expert even present) is Dr Shepherd himself. There has never been, in our view, an appropriate or reasonable investigation of the new medical and witness evidence.

  1. Why has the CCRC refused to refer

In the defence view, the new evidence renders untenable both the medical evidence for murder and the evidence placing Freeman anywhere near the scene (effectively reestablishing his alibi). The refusal by the CCRC to refer on the above grounds, either individually or collectively, seems obtuse and perverse. Why have they behaved so bizarrely?

The CCRC 's actions seem based on several traits and misinterpretations:

  1. The silver bullet test. The CCRC has repeatedly been accused of only acting when they are given a “silver bullet” by a defence team – some new evidence which is so incontrovertible that it “proves” innocence. Mr. Freeman’s case – and their responses - appear to be yet another example of requiring exactly that. Demanding such incontrovertible evidence:

  1. eliminates the need for proper investigation by the CCRC: it effectively changes the role of the CCRC from an investigating body (which it was set up to be) to one which simple checks and passes on the investigatory work of others.

  2. reduces the risk of criticism by the Court of Appeal that the CCRC are too “soft” (it seems this happened a number of times in the early days of the CCRC and may have created a lasting impression)

  3. avoids their having to consider the weight or balance or probability of new evidence or a body of evidence

  4. avoids them having to consider “new argument” (an obligation set out in the Act which established them) particularly if that argument is one of nuance or interpretation.

A silver bullet may be convenient for the CCRC but it has no place in law. This behaviour, with their refusal to refer on the grounds of new incontrovertible medical evidence, might be supporting grounds for a judicial review. When looking at cases, the overriding condition for granting appeal is that a conviction is unsafe, not that the defence evidence must prove innocence.

  1. The “possibilities” in this case. Shepherd gave evidence that Mr. Hardie was killed by kneeling to the chest alone. The judge reminded the jury that burking was sitting or kneeling [on the chest] to prevent breathing through the nose or mouth. He said it worked for Burke and Hare in leaving no marks. Shepherd’s case to the court therefore appeared based on historical precedent (although we have since shown his historical evidence was completely incorrect) The judge reminded the jury that Mant too had said that pressure to the chest was also a remote possibility as a means of causing death (albeit completely unsubstantiated) . Indeed, the Judge made a point of checking that off as a “possibility” during Mant’s testimony. It is therefore clear that, in briefing the jury, the Judge believed he was setting out for them a choice of two different but entirely possible causes of death:

  1. kneeling to the chest as proposed by Dr Shepherd (and at least accepted by Mant as a remote possibility)

  2. natural causes (the possibilities set out by Mant).

We now know, from the expert evidence of Prof Kroll and Karch, that it is not possible to kill a man by kneeling on his chest in such a way. Had Mant or the court known this, the Judge could never have suggested to the jury that there were two different, but possible, causes of death for them consider and that one of them (Shepherd's) might fit a picture of murder given the wider context. Had the evidence of Kroll and Karch been available to the judge and jury, Shepherd’s evidence would have had to have been set aside, leaving the only credible remaining medical evidence as Mant's - which directly challenged a suggestion of murder.

  1. The 'full picture' test. The judge explained to the jury that they had to judge the medical evidence as part of the full picture or situation.

'When two experts give evidence as happened here, it may be that you could not possibly say that on the pathological evidence which has been produced, that you are sure that Dr Shepherd is right, and that Professor Mant is wrong. Equally, and it is a matter again for you, you might say that those possibilities mentioned by Professor Mant remain possibilities. What you have to consider - because you consider the full picture, and not just the pathological evidence - is what the situation is. lf you so find, here you had a man who was out to deceive the insurers by the production of a body, a body which would not indicate that it had cancer, and yet a body which would satisfy the insurers. The prosecution say that, in those circumstances, the only explanation for this death and for this fire is that they were deliberate.'

In Mr. Freeman’s first Appeal the Judge said (our italics):

"[Mr. Freeman] called an expert witness, Professor Mant, who disagreed with the evidence of Dr Shepherd, the pathologist. Dr Shepherd's evidence had been that this was a case of deliberate suffocation. Professor Mant took the view that this was not so and he particularly stressed urine in the bladder and the absence of petechial [haemorrhages]. All we need say is that there was a conflict between the experts on that aspect. What the judge very fairly did was put to the jury that if that evidence had stood alone, they might very well not feel satisfied and what they had to consider was that evidence in the context of all the other considerations that we have referred to here. It is our judgment, if the matter is approached in that way, the position is that there was ample evidence for the jury to come to the conclusions which they have."

Both the original Judge and the Appeal Court Judge are emphasizing here that that the Jury were presented with two possible but disputed causes of death. The judge invited them to consider that evidence in the context of the “full picture,” because this could help them decide whether Dr Shepherd’s or Professor Mant’s conclusion on cause of death was more likely. The Appeal Judge backs this up. For both of them, the medical evidence is part of the full picture and the ”ample evidence”, not separate from it.

We believe the CCRC made a fundamentally incorrect interpretation of this material in 2002 and that incorrect interpretation has discoloured and distorted their thinking ever since. For example, their 2021 statement of reasons refers back to para 7.14 of their very first statement of reasons (I do not have a copy) saying:

“The Commission considers it inescapable on the specific facts of this case that if the Court of Appeal considered that the independent body of evidence {NOTE presumably “independent” here means “other”} was sufficient to convict Mr. Freeman, irrespective of the question whether or not the jury accepted Dr Shepherd’s conclusions, then in the absence of anything new affecting that independent body of evidence, further evidence affecting the force of Dr Shepherd’s conclusions cannot give rise to a real possibility that the Court of Appeal would not uphold the conviction” (our emphasis)

Their 2020 statement of reasons (citing the 2002 decision) echoes this, saying:

…the judge had directed the jury that even if they did not accept Dr Shepherd's conclusions as to the cause of death, there was sufficient other evidence on which they could still draw the inference that Mr. Freeman had murdered Mr. Hardie in pursuance of an insurance fraud. (our emphasis)

Both of these statements are untrue and unfair readings of what the judge(s) said and meant. Neither Judge ever said that the Jury (and now the CCRC) could convict “even if they did not accept Dr Shepherd's conclusions as to the cause of death” or that they could reach their decision “irrespective of the question whether or not the jury accepted Dr Shepherd’s conclusions”. Those are the CCRC’s words, not the Judges’ and the CCRC have placed words in the mouths of the judges which were never said. The trial Judge’s nuanced advice was that the jury should consider the medical evidence and could accept Dr Shepherd’s evidence if it fitted with the other evidence, i.e. it needed to all be treated as part of the full picture. We hold that the CCRC have misinterpreted the Judge’s (and the Appeal Court’s) interpretations for over 20 years and this is at the core of their rejection of medical challenge.

Moreover there is an absolute and well established condition for acceptance of any expert evidence; that evidence must accord with and be based on known scientific facts. We now know what Dr Shepherd, Professor Mant and the rest of the Court did not know at the time – that Dr Shepherd’s evidence of death by “minimal” pressure to the chest where there are no rib fractures is against known medical science (see Kroll). The rebuttal of Dr Shepherd's evidence as scientific hokum by Kroll and Karch changes not only the admissibility of Shepherd's evidence but also must change the "full picture" or "situation" – because the jury were instructed to consider its part in the full picture. If Shepherd’s medical evidence cannot fit into the full picture (because it is completely untrue) then, by the same reasoning, the full picture itself must be reconsidered. We are certain the Court of Appeal would uphold that conclusion based on the evidence cited, the comments of the trial judge and the comments of the single judge. The prosecution case of homicide ("the only explanation for this death" as the Judge described it) falls, and the full picture changes with it.

We hold that the CCRC’s original (2002) interpretation was wrong and prejudicial and explains why the CCRC keep setting an excessive and unfairly high “bar” with regard to challenge to the pathology evidence. In its February 2021 statement of reasons it confirms this:

“Since its first statement of reasons, the CCRC has been consistent in its decision that the pathology evidence cannot raise a real possibility that Mr. Freeman’s conviction would be found unsafe. The pathology evidence cannot exclude unlawful death. “

Being consistently wrong is not evidence of clear, rational or impartial consideration. Nor is it reasonable to require, as seems the case, the defence to “disprove” unlawful death. We work in this country on the basis of reasonable doubt. We believe the CCRC has set this high burden of proof because their interpretation of the Judge’s advice was wrong and therefore the test which would be needed to dispute it was also wrong. We now know, irrefutably, that Dr Shepherd’s opinion was not possible. That led to both judge and jury being misled and to the jury being asked to consider as part of the full picture evidence which is not, and never could be, possible. That is wrong.

  1. The retraction of David Taylor’s evidence. CCRC set aside the retraction of David Taylor's evidence which stated that he saw Freeman near the flats at the time in question. The CCRC seems to admit:

“The court considered that there was also other direct evidence which the judge properly allowed the jury to consider. For example, Mr. Taylor gave evidence that on the Thursday two men were in the flat. At that time Mr. Freeman was still there. Mr. Taylor also gave evidence that on Saturday at 1.30am he heard a bang and then saw Mr. Freeman leaving the flat. The judge explained to the jury that they must approach this evidence with great caution because of the possibility of a mistake being made.”

And then

“Having considered the approach of the Court of Appeal in similar cases and the available information relating to Mr. Taylor's police statements, trial evidence and apparent retraction, the CCRC concluded that the Court of Appeal would not receive new evidence from Mr. Taylor on the basis that any evidence he gave after the trial would not be capable of belief, especially since Mr. Freeman's representatives were suggesting that Mr. Taylor was generally unreliable and that no reliance should have been placed on his trial evidence at all. The CCRC took the view that it was unlikely that the Court of Appeal would be persuaded by that argument.”

And that

“that the apparent retraction statement of David Taylor would not be considered as credible by the Court of Appeal”.

However, it is clear that the CCRC never “investigated” Taylor’s retraction in any way (e.g. by asking an independent police force to interview him). They simply read the paperwork and dreamt up a counter argument. Interview of such a witness would be a basic and fundamental step in any reasonable investigation of a retracted statement, particularly where that evidence had helped lead to a murder conviction. Indeed such an interview might well have led to them finding the person who Taylor realised he had actually seen.

The CCRC also argued that, because the defence had previously argued that Taylor was an unreliable witness, his retraction would be seen as unreliable as well. This in excessive and mischievous grounds for dismissal in the absence of investigation, interview or corroboration. The evidence should be judged on its own merits, not clouded by previous argument wherever it might come from. How could the CCRC conclude that a retraction was not credible without proper investigation?

It is true that the judge did advise caution to the jury about Taylor’s testimony because some aspects had changed since his original statement and because Taylor's sighting in the night in question was from an angle and during darkness. However the judge in no way ruled Taylor’s evidence of seeing Mr. Freeman in the early hours of Saturday as unreliable, insignificant or inadmissible. Indeed, Taylor’s evidence was subsequently seen as significant enough by an Appeal Judge to be cited as direct evidence pointing to guilt. The treatment of Taylor’s retraction by the CCRC therefore is based on spurious argument which does not accord with the advice given by the trial Judge nor the Appeal judge.

The grounds the CCRC have given is that they consider that the Court of Appeal would not accept his retraction based on “similar cases”. However we would argue they have never cited “similar cases”. We do know the CCRC have previously had referrals dismissed by the Court of Appeal. In our understanding, those cases involved a witness who had a close emotional, psychological or familial relationship with the accused. In such cases, the Appeal Court might reasonably conclude that their retraction might result from emotional or psychological pressure and therefore have little weight. This case bears no such interpretation. Taylor and Freeman had no relationship other than as rather prickly neighbours.

There may be grounds for a judicial review (presumably based on other cases where retraction of witness statements have occurred) on the grounds that the CCRC took no steps for a proper investigation of the retraction, used spurious and unsubstantiated argument about the reliability of Taylor’s retraction and failed to explain why there was not a reasonable possibility that the Court of Appeal would not consider Mr. Taylor’s retraction either on its own or as part of a body of new evidence.

On a separate point, Taylor’s evidence was undoubtedly part of the “full picture” which the Judge asked the Jury to consider. Here, after all, was an eyewitness who placed Freeman near the scene. So, the CCRC now has evidence that the “full picture" the jury was invited to consider has changed in TWO ways: discredited and impossible evidence from Shepherd which cannot fit a full picture of guilt; and retraction of evidence from the only eyewitness near the scene, David Taylor. If we add the corroborating new evidence from the barman – that Freeman was indeed drunk and it was the barman himself who pointed Freeman at the Trebovir Hotel - that is three aspects in which the “full picture” has changed. How many more changes do the CCRC need?

  1. Taylor’s retraction and CCRC probity

In their final statement of reasons letter September 2021 the CCRC states in respect of David Taylor:

Note the date – September 2021. I do not have access to the 2002 and 2006 documents but it appears overwhelmingly likely that the CCRC breached its own procedures in September 2021 by failing to investigate David Taylor’s retraction in accordance with Law Officers rules and their own procedures applicable at that time.

In retracting his court evidence, we can infer that Taylor either:

  1. Lied in court but is now telling the truth (perjury in 1989)

  2. Was telling the truth in court but was lying in 1996 (perjury in 1996)

  3. Was lying in 1989 and lying in 1996 (perjury at both times)

  4. Was telling the truth and is now telling the truth (an honest retraction i.e. not perjury)

We believe that from 2002, onwards the CCRC were duty bound to either refer the retraction to the police/CPS themselves or as an absolute minimum to have advised Mr. Freeman’s defence team so to do. As far as we are aware, neither of these actions occurred.

In July 2021 (two months before the final decision on Freeman’s last submission) the Government Law Officers issued specific guidance on how to deal with potential cases of perjury from false statement contempt (see here). It states:

Witness statements are a vital part of a criminal investigation, and it is a criminal offence to deliberately make a false statement. It is also a criminal offence to deliberately make a false statement when giving live evidence in criminal or civil proceedings. This is commonly known as perjury.

Allegations of perjury can be investigated by the police and then passed to the CPS, who will apply the Code for Crown Prosecutors to decide whether there is sufficient evidence (and whether it is in the public interest) to prosecute.

The CCRC have case worker policies on this (note for example 2.3):

The interviewing Policy CW-POL-21 Interviewing version 1.0 states:

2.1 Where the CCRC is provided with a witness statement containing new

evidence or information relevant to the review, the witness will normally

be interviewed to establish the circumstances under which the

statement was taken and to confirm the evidence or information that

they can give.

2.2 Where a referral is being considered by the CCRC, based upon the

information contained within a statement provided by a witness, s/he

may be interviewed by the CCRC to confirm the evidence.

2.3 A witness who gave evidence at trial (or at a previous appeal) will not

normally be interviewed unless there is reason to believe they are in

possession of some new information or evidence, or their credibility has

been called into question

The CCRC witness credibility policy 23 (CW-POL-23 Witness Credibility Checks version 1.0) issued on 15 July 2021 closely follows the law officers guidance and states very clearly that all such cases need to be properly investigated:

False Allegations and Retractions

6.1 False Allegations

The Head of Investigations will be consulted in all cases where there is

particular reason to believe that the witness has or may have made a

false allegation, i.e. alleging a crime that had not, in fact, been

committed. Evidence that the witness had previously made an

undisclosed false allegation or made one post-rial and/or post-appeal

might have a significant impact on the witness’s credibility. Any

suggestion of a false allegation will, therefore, be fully investigated.

Conducting police checks is one line of enquiry that could produce

evidence indicating that the witness may have made a false allegation.

Particular regard will be had as to whether there is evidence that the

allegation was, in fact, false (the unsubstantiated opinion of an

individual will not be sufficient).

6.2 Retractions

6.2.1 Victims of crime can suffer the effects of the crime for many years.

An interview with a witness must only be conducted where it is

‘necessary and reasonable’. The Head of Investigations must be

consulted in all cases where it is said that the witness has retracted

his or her trial evidence.

6.2.2 The CCRC receives a number of applications with a clear indication

that the witness (most often a complainant in a sexual offence case)

is now willing to say that his or her evidence was untrue. In these

circumstances the CCRC will normally interview the witness or

arrange for the witness to be interviewed. The purpose of such an

interview is firstly to confirm that the witness is, in fact, retracting

their evidence, and secondly to look for any supporting evidence that

might indicate which of the witness’s accounts is true.

6.2.3 Most typically, retractions have been made to third parties. These

will normally be followed up by interviewing the third party. If this

interview produces credible evidence that the witness has retracted

their trial evidence, then the witness will normally be interviewed


It is worth noting that the CCRC procedure is littered with conditions and frequent reference to the “necessary and reasonable” test (see 6.2.1 above) and they will probably seek to use this as an explanation of why they took no action. In fact, there is no such test, or at least no test that any court would understand. Footnote 2 in Policy Note 23 makes this clear:

“The ‘necessary and reasonable’ test is mentioned many times in this policy. It is not possible to define exactly what this term means because it is dependent on the facts of each individual case.”

In other words the “test” is whatever the CCRC determine it to be according to any individual case they are considering and whatever they determine to be the issues. The CCRC also repeatedly use the word “normally” in the procedures and we can expect them to argue that in some way, Taylor’s retraction was not normal.

Whatever their justifications, the CCRC need to answer specific questions:

  1. Was the CCRC Head of Investigations ever consulted on this case/the Taylor retraction as unequivocally required in Policy 23?

  2. Did the Head of Investigations sign off that “Any suggestion of a false allegation” (in this case Mr. Taylor’s testimony at trial) had been “fully investigated”. (Policy 23) If so, how did such an investigation take place without interview?

  3. a) What if any advice was sought or contact made with the police or CPS either to act as agents on behalf of the CCRC or to clarify the CCRC obligations in the light of the Law Officers’ guidance in respect of the Freeman case/Taylor retraction?

  4. If none, how does this square with their obligations under the Law Officers guidance?

For each answer, documentary evidence (emails, case papers need to be provided) to prove what happened as this will be required if a judicial review is sought on these grounds.

NOTE: If it is decided to seek formal investigation of Mr. Taylor’s retraction, Mr. Freeman’s solicitor must be absolutely certain that, in connection with the 1996 retraction, no inducement or pressure was ever exerted or suggested by anyone working on behalf of Mr. Freeman. If such pressure was proven or even suggested, this would undoubtedly harm Mr. Freeman’s case as a whole.

Other witnesses

  1. There are two other witnesses whose stories need to be pursued (I cannot do this work) and are referred to in Mr. Freeman’s POE.

  1. The man “Del”. Mr. Freeman describes Hardie coming back to the flat early in the morning with a man named “Del” and demanding money. Mr. Freeman has since described this man as looking like “Young Steptoe” - presumably he looked like Harry H. Corbett – a well-built man, probably taller than Hardie, with dark unkempt curly hair and a mobile expression. The identity of “Del” has never previously been tested.

I believe there is now clear evidence that “Del” is in fact Trevor Percy Hughes, a known associate of Hardie, who we now know often called himself Terry. Hughes appears a couple of times in the witness statements: Hardie’s nephew refers to him (“Terry Hughes”) as often being at Hardie’s address. The police showed the nephew a photograph of a man who he identified as Terry Hughes (so they almost certainly knew that Hughes referred to himself as “Terry”). Hughes also gave an interview to the police. In Hughes’ statement, Hughes claimed he hadn’t seen Hardie for some time but then suddenly started trying to get into Hardie’s accommodation. He even tried to borrow a neighbour’s key to see if it would fit (it didn’t). He waited for some time, and eventually taped a note to the outside of Hardie’s door. Hughes states this happened about three weeks before the interview – which places him at Hardie’s house possibly the very day after the fire. All this fits with a man worried about whether his friend had got out of a fire safely but doesn’t want to incriminate himself. So the question is – how could Hughes have known there was a problem unless he himself had been there? In London, “Terry” is commonly shortened to is “Tel”. For Freeman, under pressure with two strangers in his flat and Hardie’s broad Scots accent, “Tel” could easily be mistaken for “Del”.

It seems reasonable to speculate, based on Freeman’s POE, that both Hughes and Hardie were drunk in the flat at the time of the fire (Freeman’s POE says the spare room door was shut while he was there and he didn’t look in there – normally the door was never shut because it had a tendency to stick…)

Hughes died in Lowestoft in 2014 and the papers describe him as also being known as Terry Hughes. He would have been 65. There is every chance that he had associates there (it is a small, somewhat remote town) and there is at least a possibility that he described to associates there the time he got caught in a fire with his friend Hardie (or “Sandy”). While I am sure the CCRC will try to dismiss this as hearsay evidence, it could bolster Freeman’s account and cast further doubt on the Crown case. We believe there is prima facie evidence that Hughes perjured himself to the police and in doing so, condemned Mr. Freeman to prison. Mr. Freeman believes he could even now identify Hardie’s accomplice to the police from a photo “lineup”

In light of this new evidence/argument it incumbent on the CCRC to:

  1. Treat Mr. Freeman’s POE account as credible in all main points

  2. Admit it as part of an urgent and thorough investigation by the police of this case and the material we have provided

  3. Ask the police to verify the key facts raised including:

    1. Mr. Freeman to “pick out” Hughes’ face (a face he only ever saw once when Hardie and Hughes elbowed their way into his flat)

    2. Hughes may have left DNA evidence at the scene (only fingerprint evidence was available to the police at the time). A forensic re-examination of all items taken the flat and/or used in evidence is required. This would include the iron bar and Hardie’s shoes, as well as the various glasses and bottles

    3. Associates of Hughes in London, prison since 1988 or Lowestoft (where he died) should be asked to confirm whether Trevor Percy Hughes habitually called himself “Terry” and whether he or others referred to Hughes as “Tel”

    4. Associates to confirm whether Hughes ever discussed the circumstances of his friend’s death and/or whether he himself had nearly been caught in a fire

    5. Re-interview of Mr. Freeman and ask him to provide an updated statement to cover fully all the events set out in the original POE for the dates in question, particularly as it relates to Mr. Hardie and Mr. Hughes (including any further information on appearance etc.)

    6. To use that material to support an urgent referral to the Court of Appeal by and with the CCRC

  1. The woman “Sharron”. In his POE, Freeman describes Sharron/Sharon as Colin Hart’s girlfriend. Hart was a close associate of Freeman and appears to have known both about his plans to return to Rhodesia and that intruders had forced their way into Freeman’s property. Hart disappeared after Freeman’s arrest and it seems possible that Colin Hart was an alias. According to Mr. Freeman, previous attempts to trace Hart all failed. Sharon is significant on several fronts:

    1. She helped break the news to Freeman by phone that there had been a fire at Freeman’s house and there was a police enquiry. This makes sense of Freeman’s subsequent actions and ties in exactly with the sort of evidence which the judge explained – had it been available to the Court – would have explained some of Freeman’s actions/leaving the country

    2. She could lead to Hart or at least explain his role/identity

    3. She might also be able to corroborate Freeman’s story prior to checking into the Trebovir – that there were people in his flat and Freeman spent the night drinking alone in Earl’s Court, looking for his friend Colin who had promised to but never showed up. Does Sharon know where he was?

Freeman had been to Sharon’s flat in Baron’s Court several times and remains confident that – with appropriate maps etc. in front of him – would be able to pinpoint where Sharon lived. Even though the trail is some 35 years cold, it is possible that enquiries there might yet lead the defence team to “Sharon” and to evidence which would help bolster Mr. Freeman’s defence/alibi.

Building a winning submission

  1. We must expect the CCRC to challenge any further submission rehearsing the same approach and arguments they have used before, in particular that:

  • Shepherd’s evidence somehow has little relevance because of the way the CCRC interpret the judge’s summing up. As long as this interpretation stands they will argue that even the evidence of Kroll and Karch does not “prove” that Mr. Hardie died of natural causes and is therefore insufficient grounds for referral and

  • The retraction by David Taylor has been dealt with previously and, in their view, would not be accepted as credible by the Court of Appeal

Evidence and argument from Mr. Freeman’s solicitor alone, however well phrased, will fall on deaf ears: the CCRC has every reason to defend a position it has held (incorrectly and perversely) for twenty two years. We therefore have to do something very different to “win” the argument – something that strikes at the heart of these two CCRC errors and is extremely uncomfortable and difficult for them to simply brush aside.

The following steps seem imperative:

  1. Get an MP on board. Mr. Freeman has never had the backing of an MP (who can ask questions in the House of Commons, get support from legal experts, mobilise support in the Lords and the Commons and generally make life difficult for the CCRC). Without that support Mr. Freeman has no chance of challenging “the system”.

There are clear protocols for getting an MP to represent a prisoner. That prisoner can only go to the MP whose constituency covers where he was living/where the crime took place (Neil Coyle, MP Labour covers Rotherhithe) or whose constituency includes the prison where he is now located (I believe Sir Geoffery Clifton-Brown, Conservative, covers Leyhill). There is no point approaching any other MP until that is done. On balance I think Mr. Freeman might prefer Mr. Coyle but that is entirely his choice

  1. Brief the MP. This document or a simplified version of it might serve as such a brief. The MP needs to understand the case to a sufficient point where they can ask the right questions and not make errors of fact (which the CCRC would be only too eager to point out). The MP is unlikely to immediately campaign for innocence/release. They can however put their weight behind a challenge to the CCRC on its interpretation and treatment of the case and help get the necessary expert opinion to help support such a challenge and case for referral

Engage the Charity “Liberty”

  1. Liberty UK helps challenge unjust laws and their application. We believe that they are likely to be interested in the CCRC’s actions in this case. It would be useful if, in briefing the MP, Mr. Freeman’s representative could explore whether the MP would wish to lead engagement with Liberty or whether they should be contacted separately so that they can express an opinion in this case in an aligned way

  1. Seek expert legal opinion from “Appeal Experts” to challenge the CCRC As we have seen, the CCRC continues to brush aside defence submissions. I would suggest that we need two sets of legal opinion dealing respectively with:

  1. the challenge to the medical evidence (see in particular, the possibility test and The full picture test in Why has the CCRC refused to refer)

  2. The challenge to the way that Taylor’s evidence was handled (see in particular The retraction of Taylor’s evidence in Why has the CCRC refused to refer)

If we had to prioritise these I would work on the medical evidence.

That “expert opinion” needs to come from people with actual experience of implementing referrals for Appeal, otherwise the CCRC will not listen. That would include High Court judges, members of the Court of Appeal Criminal Division (current or retired) and senior figures who have had direct or indirect responsibility for the CCRC/criminal justice system such as previous attorney generals, home secretaries etc. The Law Society may also be willing to review the material. I imagine that this might create a long list of up to fifty people to whittle down. I reiterate that I cannot and will not do that research. An MP – or MP’s office – however should be able to help with that work (if only acting as a point of contact and coordination for example)

Of course, many of those contacted will not want to get involved if they believe they are just being asked to lobby on Mr. Freeman’s individual case. However, they are much more likely to be engaged and offer their opinion if it is put to them that it appears that the CCRC is itself creating a miscarriage of justice by unfair and unjustified interpretation of evidence, failure to properly investigate/take expert advice and failure to reasonably exercise their powers of referral to the Court of Appeal.

  1. Example questions for expert “Appeal” witnesses

Each potential expert legal witness would be:

  1. Provided with an overall brief

Given all the relevant papers

  1. Asked to comment on specific questions for opinion (rather than asked for just an open, unstructured response) although of course they can add any additional comments afterwards

The following example questions cover the case as a whole. In practice it might be decided to ask slightly different questions of different experts:

  1. The CCRC states that the Judge advised the Jury that they could convict Mr. Freeman “irrespective of whether or not [they] accepted Dr Shepherd’s conclusions” and “even if they did not accept Dr Shepherd’s conclusions as to cause of death.”. In your expert opinion is that a fair and balanced reading of what the Judge actually advised the Jury? Is it a fair and balanced reading of what the Appeal Judge said about the case?

  2. Do you believe that the Trial judge advised the jury that they would need to consider the medical evidence as part of the “full picture”? If so, do you believe that a fundamental change in the credibility of that medical evidence would inevitably change the “full picture”?

  3. “Do you consider David Taylor’s eyewitness testimony concerning Mr. Freeman’s location on the night in question to be part of the “full picture”?

  4. If so, given Mr. Taylor subsequent retracted his evidence, do you believe that this would of necessity change to some degree the “full picture” the Judge advised the jury to consider?

  5. The CCRC dismissed Mr. Taylor’s retraction without interviewing him or making further enquiries. Their dismissal seems solely to have been based on rereading the submissions, the court papers and the witness statements. Do you believe that this is a reasonable approach when the CCRC had powers and resources to investigate his retraction more thoroughly and, as a minimum, could have had Mr. Taylor found and interviewed (a simple enough task for the police) before coming to any judgement on relevance or admissibility?

  6. The CCRC appear to claim that they are basing their decision to reject Mr. Taylor’s retraction on the grounds of “similar cases” the Court of Appeal has considered. Do you believe it was incumbent on them to a) explain to the defence what those cases were and b) what points of similarity existed to justify their decisions (for example, concrete examples of cases where the Court of Appeal rejected a retraction of an eye witness who had no emotional or psychological relation to the accused)?

  7. In your experience of appeals, if it were proved that the testified cause of death by the prosecution in a murder case was impossible and against current scientific knowledge would that, prima facie, be grounds for referral to Appeal? Would you expect the Court of Appeal to at least consider such a challenge?

  8. In a matter where the CCRC has no medical in-house expertise, would you expect them to exercise their powers to call an expert witness to advise them on the credibility of such a medical challenge and its impact on the evidence that the Court was asked to consider?

  9. Would you consider it proper practice that, faced with challenges on medical grounds, a) the only person the CCRC interviewed was the Police Pathologist whose evidence is being challenged and b) that interview took place without any discussion with or support from an independent expert pathologist

  10. Do you believe, based on the evidence available to you, that there is sufficient material – taken as a whole - to pass the judicial interpretation of the real possibility test set out by Lord Bingham in R v Criminal Cases Review Commission (ex parte Pearson) namely :

“The 'real possibility' test […] denotes a contingency which…is more than an outside chance or a bare possibility, but which may be less than a probability or a likelihood or a racing certainty [and] there is at least a reasonable prospect of a conviction, if referred, not being upheld.”


  1. There is an understandable desire to rush out another submission to the CCRC based solely or primarily on the evidence of Professors Kroll and Karch. However, this paper argues that the CCRC will reject it because they have a long-held (and in our view totally incorrect) reading of how the judge instructed the jury to consider the medical evidence and its relation to the full picture. In a nutshell, the CCRC think they are on safe ground to say that any and every challenge to the medical evidence in this case can be set aside unless it can be proved that Mr. Hardie died of natural causes (what we have called a “silver bullet”). We believe that the CCRC’s view is not substantiated by the Judge’s instructions nor by the comments of the judge at the Court of Appeal. Their “test” is therefore unreasonable, excessive and prejudicial to Mr. Freeman. In other areas – both medical and the retraction of his witness statement – the CCRC has failed to investigate in any normal sense of the word, reaching decisions without interviewing, or seeking expert advice from, the right witnesses. This is more than an individual case: it is a failure of due and proper process.

The CCRC will reject these arguments if unsupported and continue to defend what seems an indefensible legal interpretation. This paper has argued that the only way to get the CCRC to change its position is to:

  1. get an MP on board to help represent Mr. Freeman and help challenge the CCRC

  2. Ask that MP (possibly working in tandem with the Charity Liberty) to assemble expert opinion (from Judges, Lawyers, ex Home Secretaries, Liberty and the like) which overturns the CCRC reading of the case and their basis for non-referral

Once the Kroll and Karch material is supported by an MP and expert, influential legal opinion it has at least a chance or winning through. If the CCRC then reject the submission we have all the material needed for a judicial review (which would have to be raised quickly should the CCRC reject again).

We understand that Mr. Freeman may be considering a petition to parliament. While an understandable idea, I do not believe any such petition would be correctly framed or get the level of support required without an MP behind it. At this stage, such a petition looks like a red herring which would only raise false hope for Mr. Freeman and divert energy from the challenge before us.

I have explained that I cannot do any more work (calls, emails, revisions, further argument etc.) on this case. Hopefully however this paper sets out a roadmap which can be worked on and improved.

I would like to thank all those who contributed to the production of this paper, including all of Mr. Freeman’s friends and my old work colleague, Chris Yapp, who generated some of the ideas.

I wish Mr. Freeman every success in his challenge going forward. This is my final contribution to the case.

Bruce McNicol

28 January 2023


  1. The “alibi” defence and the POE

Mr. Freeman’s defence team ran an alibi defence, based on the fact that he was sleeping off a night of drinking in the Trebovir Hotel. Mr. Freeman did not take the stand. The CCRC seem particularly exercised that the POE connects Freeman and Hardie and would in some way further incriminate him. In fact, Freeman never denied that he had met Hardie: in his interview with the police in Australia, he describes the events of that night but starts where he was asked to – early in the evening i.e. as he was leaving the flat. His barrister may well have made the claim that there was no evidence that linked Hardie and Freeman. “Show me the evidence” is of course a perfectly legitimate line of defence and in any event, Mr. Freeman himself never claimed he had not met Hardie.

The prosecution case rested on the narrative that Freeman found a loner, Hardie, to kill as part of an insurance scam; set up a complex alibi (the Trebovir Hotel); somehow lured Hardie back to his flat; killed him; was seen and heard leaving the scene; returned across London; and managed to get back into his hotel undetected. The new evidence supporting Mr. Freeman’s account –which places Trevor Percy Hughes at the scene with Hardie – strikes at the very heart of the prosecution case.

The consideration of a just and fair treatment of the evidence vastly outweighs any potential incrimination which might arise by Mr. Freeman’s admitting to having met Hardie. Indeed, Mr. Freeman has appealed from the outset to the CCRC that the POE be taken into account and is more than ready to deal with any incrimination argument in front of the Court of Appeal. The CCRC’s claim that, if he wanted to introduce such evidence, then it should have been done at trial, is specious. There was no such obligation on him as a defendant to do so at that time.

POE and witness evidence

  1. The extract from the POE is provided. We also submit that Mr. Freeman’s handwritten notes on that document are also relevant and admissible. It is worth noting that Mr. Freeman wrote his original POE long before he saw any crown evidence against him.

Careful examination of the witness evidence shows that, for all general intents and purposes, they dovetail with and corroborate Mr. Freemans’s account. We are relying on the Judge’s summing up at this time although we believe that (with the exception of David W. Taylor’s retraction of his identification of Freeman in the small hours of Saturday 16 April) the written witness statements dovetail with Freeman’s account. It is worth noting that the judge repeatedly misdirected – and probably confused the jury - as the to the timeline. He repeatedly referred to the events taking place in March when in fact they took place in April.

Events before the fire

  1. On the Thursday night (14 April), according to Mr. Freeman’s POE, he met Hardie at a bar in Victoria station. There Hardie got drunk and also took drugs he had saved up to get a “buzz”. This ties in with the findings of diazepam in his bloodstream (described by the toxicologist at court) and has been demonstrated as part of a potentially lethal cocktail when considered with the levels of alcohol in his blood.

Freeman, playing the good Samaritan, eventually took Hardie back to his flat. Hardie fell many times, sometimes bringing Freeman down on top of him. They staggered up the stairs together into the flat. Mr. Freeman places this after 11.30pm. Mr. Taylor (See Summing up p132) placed this around the same time and in court claimed that one of the men had a slurred Irish accent (Hardie was a Scot but that is an easy mistake to make).

Mr. Freeman goes on to explain that he settled Hardie in the bedroom, gave him a drink and cooked him a chop. He eventually found that Hardie had urinated on the bedroom floor. Hardie also saw that Freeman had a very large amount of money. There was an altercation which seems to have started in the bedroom and then moved into the hall. Freeman pushed Hardie. Eventually, Freeman opened the front door and gave Hardie £5 before telling him to leave.

On Friday morning (the 15th) very early around 6a.m. (see POE p31) Hardie and another man shouldered their way into the flat when Freeman answered the door. This man was described as “Del” and was tall, dark and in his thirties. Mr. Freeman has since described him as looking like “Young Steptoe”. “Del“ and Hardie tried to get Freeman involved in financing a drugs deal, probably an effort at deception or demanding money with menaces. Freeman diverted them with drink and slipped away with his bag and money.

The next time Freeman saw Hardie, was back in the flat after 5pm. He was breathing but unconscious. Hardie was on the sofa and Freeman was suspicious because the spare room door was shut (he never shut it because it jammed). He thought “Del” might be in there. When Freeman’s daughter turned up he ushered her into the kitchen and then sent her to get some drinks. When she returned they went back onto the kitchen. He said nothing about Hardie etc. (POE 35a and following). An argument over smoking resulted in her leaving (Summing up 134). As far as his daughter was concerned, her father had been alone.

Freeman left shortly afterwards and never went back to the flat.

Mrs. Henry gave evidence. We do not have – and need from the police – her witness statement. It is reasonably clear from the way the Judge talked that Mrs. Henry’s evidence was confused. She (or he) seemed uncertain as to the dates concerned (the 15th / 16th) but if – as appears - she is actually describing the early hours, the 15th would be very early on Friday Morning, and the 16th the very early hours of Saturday. The judge explains that she heard an argument, scuffling and sounds on the 15th (p139). This, we submit, was Freeman ejecting Hardie out of the flat and onto the landing. She also described hearing a man coughing as he left the flat. It also seems entirely plausible that, either in her witness statement, or on the stand, Mrs. Henry conflated the events of the early hours of Friday (the scuffle) and the events of the early hours of the Saturday (the “loud bang, see below). Her witness statement may or may not help clarify that. Ultimately her evidence supports the case that Freeman threw Hardie out of the flat and that a man, probably an associate of Hardie, left the flat coughing.

The mysterious “Del”

  1. The identity of Del was pondered over several times over the years. There were several witness statements about Hardie (particularly that of his nephew, Graeme Hardie Rutherford and a friend Trevor Percy Hughes). However neither mentioned a friend called “Del” or Derek. It was only in 2019 that a researcher suggested that “Del” might in fact be a mishearing of “Tel” short for Terry – Graeme Hardie Rutherford mentioned and identified to the police a friend of Hardie’s called “Terry Hughes”. A connection with Trevor Percy Hughes was considered but there was no evidence. Rutherford and Hughes could not be traced. It was only in early 2023 that a google search produced clear evidence from local media that Terry Hughes – a man with a temper – was the one and the same man as Trevor Percy Hughes. Hughes had died suddenly in Lowestoft in 2014 and police explained that he was also known as Terry Hughes. The abbreviation for Terry (particularly in the London region) is “Tel”. It would be all too easy for the disoriented Freeman to have heard “Tel” as “Del”. Phonetically they are almost identical and coming from Hardie – a man with almost no teeth – the sounds would be to all intents and purposes identical to a Rhodesian like Freeman.

Trevor Percy Hughes was buried at public expense.

After Freeman left.

  1. We cannot know what Hughes and Hardie did after Freeman left in the morning. Most probably, they stayed there waiting for Freeman to return. But Freeman didn’t come back. At some point they searched the premises (see Freeman’s note that the pictures provided in 1994 showed the spare bedroom had been ransacked, POE 35A/2). Freeman thought they might have used the spare key to go out at some point but this seems unlikely. Freeman was a well-built man; they must have thought it would both of them to handle him if he returned. We do not know how long Hardie had lain on the couch when Freeman found him. His suspicion that “Del” might be in the other room seems well founded.

Based on Professor Birch’s assessment, Hardie was in a coma for some hours before death. He may have rolled off the couch of his own accord at some point after 5.45 (when Freeman left) but this seems unlikely and would not in any event have upended the couch. More probably, Hughes emerged at some point and tried to rouse his friend, little realising that Hardie was either dead already or near death. When he couldn’t wake him, he realised there was one place they hadn’t searched together for the money – under the couch his friend was lying on. He moved Hardie onto the floor and upended the couch but found nothing. Exactly what happened next is unknown but the probability is that, thwarted, Hughes had a cigarette. In doing so he either discarded a match or cigarette end (being a non-smoker it is unlikely that Freeman provided ash trays or indeed that Hughes would have bothered using one). Hughes then returned to the spare room to sleep it off a bit more and wait for his friend to wake up.

The fire broke out under a table. Such fires are slow burning and take a considerable time to develop. Hardie was already dead by this time. At some point there was a loud (and unexplained “bang”) This might have been many things, but it is possible this was Hughes forcing open the bedroom door that had jammed on him or slamming a door to keep out smoke. He would have found the flat full of choking fumes. Black smoke had probably filled the living room by this time, making it difficult to see into the room let alone find his friend. Hughes had to escape. He ran out of the flat slamming a door behind him. He probably didn’t even know whether Hardie had got out before him or not. Mrs. Henry heard a man going downstairs and coughing outside her flat. An arsonist does not wait around to get caught in their own fire. They light the fire and leave. But a man caught in a fire accidentally is likely to inhale a lot of smoke before they get out.

The Hughes interview

  1. The police interviewed Hughes a few weeks later (note we only have four pages of a six page statement). He probably guessed that the police were after Freeman, not him. He told them that he hadn’t seen Hardie for six weeks. He did however admit that he had been to Hardie’s flat recently and had made extensive efforts to get in. He tried borrowing a neighbour’s key. He waited in the stairs. He even taped a message to the front door. But Hardie of course had never turned up. Hughes said nothing about the fire. And when did he say he went to the flat? “About three weeks ago.” His statement is signed 8 May. That would have placed him at Hardie’s with a day or so after the fire. He may even have gone later on the day the fire took place. Of course, the very last thing Hughes wanted was to try and explain to the police what he had being doing there or how he got involved in a fire or an unexplained death. Lying would have seemed his best option. And that lie condemned Freeman to prison.

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