Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Rob Webb’s sister, Laura, was murdered in the July 7 bombings. As he grieved Rob, a well-known PR officer in Wales, found himself at the centre of the biggest news story in the world.

Rob is in London today, remembering Laura and the other victims. I found this interview with him in my archive. In it, he discusses Laura, the bombers and how his PR skills helped him deal with the media in the aftermath of the terror attack.

 

WHEN PRIVATE GRIEF IS WORLD NEWS

First published in The Big Issue September 12-18 2005

 

After the London bombings Rob Webb spent days doing media interviews in a desperate search for his sister. He tells Greg Lewis how it felt to mourn her death under the glare of the media spotlight.

 

MOHAMMAD Sidique Khan made his horrific mark on the world at 8.51am on Thursday, July 7.

That morning he got up to kill as many people as he could and to change the lives of hundreds more. Among them, Rob Webb and his family.

Rob arrived at work that day at the usual time, around 8.30am. He spent the first hour going through emails at his office in Cardiff’s County Hall.

At 9.30am he attended a daily briefing and got back to his desk by 10am.

On the internet he read the first reports about a ‘power surge’ on the London Underground. Trains were being stopped and stations evacuated. Like many others Rob thought of friends and family in the city.

He wondered about his sister, Laura, a personal assistant in central London.

He rang her mobile phone but it went to voicemail. “There was no way I could know it but Laura was already dead,” he says now.

As the full horror of what was really happening became clear, Laura’s family began their desperate search for their loving sister, daughter, girlfriend.

Thinking she could be lying unidentified in a hospital or walking around the city in a daze, they began a massive media campaign – and public relations man Rob found himself at the uncomfortable heart of an international news story.

The family’s fears were already growing by lunchtime on the day of the bombing. Laura had neither got to work nor returned to her home in Islington. She was not the kind of person to forget to call: she knew people would be worried.

Rob – who lives in Cardiff – contacted the missing person’s bureau and then, after a discussion with brother David, decided to make an appeal through the press. Over the next week, the 39-year-old, who writes press releases everyday, had to write the two most heartbreaking of his life.

“At 6am on the Friday I wrote a press release saying Laura was missing and sent it out with a photograph taken at Christmas,” he says. “It showed her smiling, a happy beautiful woman. It would be used on television and on the front of a national newspaper.

“We just wanted to get it out there because we knew she could be in a hospital somewhere. We knew there were injured people who weren’t identified. We had everything to play for. We had to do something.”

Rob distributed the picture through his contacts in the Welsh media and then, through a friend, to the newsdesks of newspapers and television stations in London.

On the Friday, as well as featuring on the front of the South Wales Echo, he began to do interviews for the London press.

“In these situations you look at what you can do,” says Rob. “Often when it comes to helping your family PR comes fairly low down the list of skills – it’s not like I’m a plumber or something.

“David and I wanted to do as many interviews as possible. We would never give up on Laura. Never. The police were giving us no indication either way as to whether they thought she was alive or dead. We would do her a disservice if we didn’t do everything we possibly could.”

The brothers spent an hour-and-half outside King’s Cross – the unofficial meeting place for desperate relatives and journalists – on the Saturday, speaking to UK and then foreign crews.

“It started off alright but some of the overseas crews became too much,” he says. “I’m used to doing photocalls and organising other people to be interviewed. David and I were on our own. In the end my partner Bethan jumped in to help us. It was just a scrum.”

Some British crews drove David around from hospital to hospital. “We would hear rumour after rumour and we followed them all up,” he explains.

In the meantime Rob’s family – including his parents and Laura’s partner Chris Driver – were appointed family liaison officers by the police. Rob says the officers are amazing and he remains in contact with them now.

“However, the longer time went on, when the police would call, we felt it was more and more likely they would be bringing bad news,” he says.

It was at 6pm on the following Wednesday that the police arrived at the family home in Kingston-on-Thames, where they have lived since the early 1970s, to bring the news they had dreaded.

Using a DNA swab from her parents, the police had identified Laura. The bomb at Edgware Road carried by Khan – the ‘quiet terrorist’ who worked with special needs pupils and deprived teenagers in his home community of Leeds – had killed the 29-year-old instantly.

Rob says of that meeting: “It was horrible.”

The police then drove Rob to break the news to Chris.

“It was heartbreaking,” he says. “I will never forget that day and never want to go through it again.”

Rob then had to sit down and write his second press release of the week, confirming the death of a “kind, loving and beautiful” young person – their Laura.

Fifty-two innocent people died in the four explosions on July 7 in London. Seven hundred were injured, with many left with horrific wounds.

In the weeks since there has been much debate about what caused the first suicide attack on British soil. The invasion of Iraq – which Rob now reveals Laura marched against – has been blamed.

Rob, though, is emphatic: “The only people responsible were the people who carried the bombs and the ones who supported them.

“It’s too simplistic to say the bombings are about Iraq. The bombers aren’t showing any interest in innocent Iraqis that are dying. A million people marched against the war on Iraq but a million people aren’t going out suicide bombing.

“Laura cared about moral rights and wrongs. She actually went on the march against the Iraq war. I’ve never spoken about this because I knew the news angle would be: ‘the tragic irony’.

“Well, no, it’s not irony. The bombings were indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter if Laura was in favour or against the Iraq war. The fact is she got up in the morning, went to work and got killed on the way there by a maniac.

“These people got up in the morning with the intention of killing people. Anybody.”

Rob – who had announced his engagement to Bethan only weeks before Laura’s death – knows there are still tough times ahead for the family. A National Memorial service in November. Christmas, Laura’s favourite time of year. The anniversary of her death and of her private funeral on July 22 (which 500 people attended).

But they have been sustained by a faith in God and in humanity.

“It was an act of evil by four bombers that killed Laura and the other innocent people,” he states. “But hundreds of people took the time to text our family, to ring us, to send us cards – they filled our home with flowers. That shows me the world isn’t a bad place. Good outweighs evil.”

 

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Described as “explosive” by the Irish Post and an “important” book by the Guardian ‘The Death of Justice’ continues to get five-star reviews on Amazon.

This is the inside story of a brutal murder as revealed by Michael O’Brien, one of the men wrongly jailed for more than a decade. The miscarriage of justice which followed sent shock waves through the British legal system.

The book contains a detailed analysis of the murder and police inquiry, a no-holds-barred view of life in jail and an essential guide for anyone trying to prove their innocence.

“An extraordinary, shocking and moving tale that climaxes in the triumph of the ordinary man against an incompetent and complacent Hydra-headed monster of society.”   Western Mail

‘The Death of Justice’ is now available not only in paperback but as an e-book on Amazon. It is published by Y Lolfa.

'The Death of Justice'

‘The Death of Justice’

A SELECTION OF THE FIVE STAR REVIEWS ON AMAZON:

5.0 out of 5 stars By Christina J. Jenkins
This is a book everyone should read. It tells the story we do not want to really think is possible. How does an innocent person end up in prison? The police behaviour is undefendable. A very readable, unputdownable, book.
*****
5.0 out of 5 stars

By

Dr. Charles Smith
EVERYONE should read Michael’s book. You’ll be appalled at the things the police did, but don’t believe their story about ‘bad apples’. This behaviour was systemic, and recent events indicate that the CPS to this day is ill equipped to cope with it.

 *****
5.0 out of 5 stars By Jo Martin
It is definitely the most informative book I have EVER read about our British Justice System.
The book describes in detail how easy it is for any one of us to be falsely accused by our ‘trusted plod’
Huge eye opener but what a fantastic read, I will never look at the justice system the same ever again.
*****
5.0 out of 5 stars By Sandra Lean
For anyone in doubt about the terrible damage done by a justice system which gets it wrong, this book is a must read.
For anyone fighting a wrongful conviction, Michael’s book offers hope, and the encouragement to never, ever give up.
For anyone who thinks British Justice is the best in the world, this book will open your eyes.
An incredible story, and a remarkable man.
*****
5.0 out of 5 stars 

By

Trish Byrne

I think that the content of the book would be beneficial to anyone who is helping to fight a wrongful conviction, as out of this harrowing story there is hope and encouragement. It would also be an eye opener to law students and those interested in the judicial system in our country. The only way we will learn and gain knowledge of how things can and do go wrong is by listening to and reading the accounts of those who have walked the walk, when the system gets it completely wrong.

 The Wales This Week special ‘The Bullseye Killer’ has won a British Academy Cymru Award (Bafta Cymru).

The hour-long documentary won a Bafta in the Current Affairs category of the awards at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The programme documented the crimes of John Cooper, one of the most notorious criminals in British history.

Cooper burgled, raped and murdered during a 15-year reign of terror, which included four executions by shotgun. And, far from keeping a low profile between crimes, he even took time to appear on the gameshow Bullseye.

ITV Wales had exclusive access to the police enquiry and the forensic science which finally trapped Cooper.

‘The Bullseye Killer’ was transmitted the night Cooper was jailed in May 2011.

The man who advises both the Crown and the UK Cabinet on the law has expressed his “huge regret” at the collapse of the Lynette White police corruption trial.

The UK Solicitor-General Edward Garnier QC was answering questions from MPs about the collapse of a trial of eight police officers accused of perverting the course of justice during the 1988 hunt for the murderer of Lynette White in Cardiff.

The trial collapsed in December and the officers were acquitted after the judge ruled they could no longer get a fair trial as certain documents were thought to have been shredded.

Then, last month, IPCC commissioner Sarah Green released a statement to say they had not been destroyed after all and were still in possession of South Wales Police.

This week, Media Wales reported that former barrister and Conservative MP Robert Buckland tackled Mr Garnier about the decision to let South Wales Police investigate itself.

Mr Buckland asked: “Is not the lesson of the disclosure debacle in the Lynette White case this: when criminal allegations are made against police officers in one police force, disclosure should be handled by officers from an entirely independent police force?”

Mr Buckland called on him to ensure “such reforms take place so that such a disaster does not happen again”.

The Solicitor-General said: “Clearly – particularly in large and complex cases such as the one we are talking about – the need to get disclosure right is key.”

But he added: “[Mr Buckland’s] point about other police forces dealing with the disclosure in such cases must, surely, be a matter for the chief constable of the relevant police area.”

Mr Garnier stressed that an inquiry into the Lynette White case is underway with the Independent Police Complaints Commission carrying out a review of police conduct; he also noted that the Director of Public Prosecutions has “separately asked the inspectorate of the Crown Prosecution Service to carry out a review of the actions and decision making of the CPS in relation to disclosure in that case”.

Cynon Valley Labour MP Ann Clwyd said: “There is considerable shock at the conduct of this case, in south Wales and elsewhere. In the past, there have been a particularly high number of miscarriages of justice under the South Wales police force.

“Is the Attorney-General aware of any other similar cases in which the disappearance and re-emergence of key evidence has led to a retrial?”

Mr Garnier said: “Off the top of my head, I am not aware of any such cases, but the right honourable lady is right to point out that the collapse of the Lynette White case in South Wales just recently, which affects her constituents and neighbours… is a matter of huge regret.

“It is now being subjected to two inquiries. Once they have been completed, further announcements will be made.”

Blaenau Gwent Labour MP Nick Smith asked what assessment had been made by the CPS about the prospects of a prosecution and reminded the Commons of the scale of the case.

He said: “It took nearly 10 years and cost the taxpayer about £30m to bring eight former South Wales police officers to court on charges of perverting the course of justice and fabricating evidence. The case collapsed when the key documents were thought destroyed, but they have now been found.”

The Solicitor-General said the CPS “will not make an assessment until the two inquiries are completed”.

Important documents, whose disappearance led to the collapse of Britain’s biggest ever corruption trial, have been found in boxes held by South Wales Police.

Yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, ordered a full inquiry into the collapse of a trial of eight police officers accused of perverting the course of justice during the 1988 hunt for the murderer of Lynette White in Cardiff.

The trial collapsed in December and the officers were acquitted after the judge ruled they could no longer get a fair trial as certain documents were thought to have been shredded.

Then later yesterday IPCC commissioner Sarah Green released a statement to say they had not been destroyed after all.

“The Independent Police Complaints Commission has now verified that the documents that the Lynette White trial at Swansea Crown Court on 1 December 2011 was told may have been destroyed have been discovered and were not shredded as first thought,” she stated.

“The court was told that some enquiries had been made about documents relating to complaints made to the IPCC itself and that it seemed that these documents may have been shredded on the orders of South Wales Police  Senior Investigating Officer Chris Coutts.

“The documents were found in the original boxes that the IPCC had sent through to SWP as part of the trial disclosure process in 2009. These boxes were still in the possession of SWP and have subsequently been verified.

“The IPCC investigation has not yet concluded and will also need to establish what happened to these two files of documents. The IPCC will also continue to liaise with the review being carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We have of course informed the Director of Public Prosecutions about the discovery of these documents.

“The IPCC will of course publish its findings in due course.”

A friend of one of the men originally accused of Lynette White’s murder during the botched investigation told The Guardian: “The whole thing gets more bizarre by the minute. Did this whole trial collapse because they lost a box or two of documents? It beggars belief. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so depressing.”

And a close friend of another of the men, Tony Paris, who was wrongfully jailed for the murder and had given evidence to the police corruption trial before its collapse, said: “This is just unbelievable. How much pressure can they put these men under? It all defies belief.”

The question for the authorities now is whether, following the discovery of the “shredded” documents, the police officers can be re-tried.

A major review has been ordered into the way the prosecution in a police corruption trial was handled.

Eight officers were cleared of perverting the course of justice after a judge at Swansea Crown Court ruled they could not get a fair trial.

It had been alleged that the former South Wales Police officers had manufactured the case against five men – three of whom were jailed for life before being released on appeal.

The retired officers all pleaded not guilty to the charge and were cleared after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offered no evidence against the defendants.

It emerged that files relating to complaints by a murder trial defendant had been destroyed – a revelation which called the trial’s disclosure process into question.

The trial – relating to the 1988 hunt for the murderer of Lynette White in Cardiff- had already been sitting for five months when it collapsed in December and had cost an estimated £30m.

Today, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, ordered a full inquiry into the trial.

“Shortly after the collapse of this trial I initiated a full and detailed review of the circumstances in which the decision to offer no further evidence was made,” said Mr Starmer. “I asked leading counsel for the prosecution to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the reasons for the decision.

“I have now considered that analysis and as part of the review have decided to ask Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, an independent statutory body, to consider the way in which the prosecution team conducted the disclosure exercise in this case.”

Mr Starmer said the HMCPSI’s “independent review” would consider:

*Whether the prosecution team (CPS and counsel) approached, prepared and managed disclosure in this case effectively, bearing in mind the history, size and complexity of the investigation and prosecution;

*Whether the prosecution team complied with their disclosure duties properly, including all relevant guidance and policy relating to disclosure, in light of the extensive material generated in this case;

*And whether the existing legal guidance is appropriate for cases of similar size and complexity.

HM Chief Inspector, Michael Fuller, said: “It is important that the public can have confidence in the way the CPS conducts its cases and the Inspectorate will examine the issues with the utmost thoroughness. Inevitably this will take time but will be completed as soon as is practicable and a report prepared for the DPP.

“South Wales Police has decided to refer their part in this matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and we will work in tandem with the IPCC inquiry into what happened. Both organizations are committed to sharing all relevant information with each other and arrangements are being made to ensure there is meaningful liaison between the two inquiries.”

Welsh serial killer Peter Moore will be kept in jail for the rest of his life, judges at the European Court of Human Rights have ruled.

Moore and two other convicted killers – Jeremy Bamber and Douglas Vinter – had asked the court to rule on whole life sentences.

The murderers said condemning them to die in prison amounts to “inhuman or degrading treatment”. They argued all sentences should be regularly reviewed.

When convicted the applicants were given whole life orders, meaning they cannot be released other than at the discretion of the Secretary of State on compassionate grounds, for example, if they are terminally ill.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, all prisoners whose tariffs were set by the Secretary of State are able to apply to the High Court for review of that tariff.

Cinema owner Peter Moore, from Bagillt in North Wales, was convicted of murdering four men for his sexual gratification during a bloody three-month crime spree in 1995.

During his trial he was described by prosecutor Lord Carlile as the most dangerous man ever to set foot in Wales. He was jailed in 1996.

The High Court found that his case involved the murder of two or more people, sexual or sadistic conduct and a substantial degree of premeditation and that there were no mitigating circumstances.

The European court has now held that in the case of each of the three men the High Court had decided that an all-life tariff was “required, relatively recently and following a fair and detailed consideration”.

All three applicants had committed particularly brutal and callous murders, said the court, and it did not consider that these sentences were grossly disproportionate or amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment.

There had, therefore, been no violation of Article 3 in the case of any of the applicants.

Bamber, who was jailed for shooting five members of his family dead in Essex in 1986, has always protested his innocence, claiming his schizophrenic sister shot the victims before turning the gun on herself at their farmhouse at Tolleshunt D’Arcy.

Douglas Vinter, of Normanby, Teesside, killed both his wife and a work colleague.