"Justice for Anthony Steel"
A victim of the British system of justice.
Steel's conviction was quashed in the Court of Appeal in February 2003
Anthony ( Tony) Steel was 22 years old when he was given a life sentence in 1979 for the murder in Bradford 20 year old Carol Wilkinson on the morning of October 10th 1977.
Steel was arrested 18 months later when his mother-in-law told the police he had done the murder and gave them a keyring in the shape of a fish to the police. They made inadequate checks - and decided that the murdered girl had owned the keyring.
Until then there had never been the hint of a keyring in the case.
Apart from two-timing his girl friends, Steel was a man of exemplary character. At the time of the murder he was working as a Council gardener on the Ravenscliffe estate where the victim lived.
He had been brought up in the area and had shared a house there with a girl friend there until just before the period of the murder.
Steel was convicted on two main points.
(i) Four youths who knew the victim had told the police that she had possessed a keyring very like the one the police had been given.
(ii) The police said that Steel had made a confession. The investigation was led by D.I. Norman Mould who bears responsibility for the errors made by the officers on his team
The alleged "confession" came after 36 hours of questioning. The police said Steel told them that he had been working in gardens on the estate with a mate - Eddy Hannon - and had decided to go to his former girl friends' house.
En route, he had seen Carol Wilkinson on her way to work. From the back door of his girl friend's house, he had seen Carol taking a route through the Fagley woods - called the "muck road" - at the end of the estate.
Taking the "muck road" meant crossing a stream, climbing a steep hillside, and negotiating a rough cobbled road.
The police claimed Steel confessed he had jumped over the back garden fence, got in front of Carol, waylaid her - but then remembered nothing except that he had taken the keyring from her.
The attack had taken place in a field at the back of the bakery where Carol worked - some quarter of an hour's walk from the estate. Carol had only walked to the bakery because of a bus strike; her best friend at work had heard her say she would not be using the "muck road" route which Steel was said to have described.
Steel's "confession" was such that even the Chief Superintendent on the case admitted in court that it was 'not consistent with what I knew had happened '.
But the confession, and the keyring, sent him to jail.
A complicating factor in the case had been that Carol had not died immediately - she had been found in a coma and only died three days later when the life-support machine that she was on was turned off. The law on this kind of medical practice had little in the way of precedent. Could it be argued that this was not a case of murder - because, in fact, the doctor's had killed Carol by turning the machine off?
At about the time Carol Wilkinson was murdered, the parents of a 23 year old American girl, Karen Quinlin, had had to go to court to obtain permission to have their daughter "switched off". Many thought what they were doing was tantamount to murder.
Just three years before Carol Wilkinson was killed a case had caused headlines in California on a similar topic. In a murder case - People v Lyons (1974) - the defence argued that doctors who terminated hopeless treatment broke the chain of causation; this meant that the attacker did not cause death.
That argument failed. But in the case of Carole Wilkinson, Steel's legal team thought they might set a precedent in English Law and earn for themselves a measure of legal fame.
Not only did this side-issue cloud the minds of people at the trial ( though the jury never heard the arguments)- but the legal team also took this argument to the Court of Appeal, where Lord Lane gave it short shrift.
The trial had other remarkable features. A woman wrote to the court. In her letter she claimed that her son had actually done the murder, but she would never give him up. She also phoned Steel's solicitor with the same story. She was never found.
In 1983 the BBC programme "Rough Justice" covered the case, producing important new evidence.
Steel's case was sent to the British Home Office in 1986 - but was rejected. The civil servants who recommended the rejection were in the notorious C3 Division. Their arguments against the Steel case were very dubious. They smelled of collaboration with the then Lord Chief Justice Lord Lane who set himself up against any allegation of miscarriage of justice.
In 1994 Steel was involved in a remarkable sequence of events in prison after he had been visited by journalist Peter Hill. After this, great pressure was put on him to confess - because at his trial he had denied the confession he had signed after police interrogation. He was told that he would never get parole until he did confess. But in fact he was released on parole in 1999.
Whilst Steel has been in jail, a lot of new evidence was discovered - attacking every aspect of the case against him. A petition went to the Criminal Case Review Commission.
The main areas of evidence it listed are first the evidence from the petition of 1987 which C3 at the Home Office rejected
(i) The fish keyring that the police produced as having belonged to the victim was not like the only keyring every seen in Carol's possession.
(ii) Carol was seen not far from her home when the police claimed she was being murdered by Steel more than a mile away.
(iii) The supposed confession was inaccurate. It failed to include significant "special knowledge" that only the murderer could have known. It also had the victim going a route which she would not have taken.
(iv) The trial jury was mis-led by photographs which appeared to show that Steel could have seen things he was said to have claimed to see in his confession.
(v) Tests and photographs produced by "Rough Justice" demonstrated that it was impossible for Steel to have seen Carol where the confession said she was - from the position the confession said he had been in.
(vi)The map of the area presented at trial was inaccurate, out of date and presented the path the victim was supposed to have taken in a position that fitted Steel's supposed confession better.
(vii) On the day of the murder, the victim was wearing a pair of new shoes with high wedge heels whihc made the idea that she would walk through muddy woodland paths , across a stream and up muddy hills ridiculous.
The new evidence, not presented before, but in the petition to the CCRC included:
i) Steel was not psychologically competent to handle the interviews he was subjected to and that his confession should consequently be set aside.
(ii) The evidence of the route the victim took to work was wholly misunderstood by the investigating officers of 1979 because of the nature of the 1977 investigation.
(iii) That evidence regarding Steel's journey home and return to work was completely wrong and that the jury was seriously mis-led.
(iv) Evidence about the victim leaving home suggests inadequate disclosure that did not allow Steel a fair trial process.
(v) The four youths who identified the key ring as belonging to the victim - Carol Wilkinson - were confusing her with another Carol they knew.
(vi) Certain scratches on the body of Carol Wilkinson could not have been made by Anthony Steel - he always bit his nails to the quick.
HIS CONVICTION WAS QUASHED IN FEBRUARY 2003.
The Chief Constable of West Yorkshire then sent a letter to Tony Steel, apologising for the errors made D.I. Mould's team.