By Chris Summers 14 April 2022
The late 1980s was among the darkest of times when it came to miscarriages of justice and police corruption and incompetence in Britain.
Police forces all over the country were “fitting people up” for crimes they did not commit – the M25 Three, the Cardiff Three, the Tottenham Three, TC Campbell and Joe Steele in Glasgow – and were failing to catch the real culprits.
In 1989 the Guildford Four walked free after the Court of Appeal quashed their convictions and two years later the case against the Birmingham Six collapsed.
In 1992 the Cardiff Three – Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller – were cleared by the Court of Appeal. They had been convicted of the murder of sex worker Lynette White.
Michael O’Brien, who has written a new book called The Dossier, said South Wales Police were among the worst culprits and he told Totalcrime: “There was a pattern of behaviour going on between 1982 and 2016.”
Mr O’Brien, now 54, was wrongly convicted of another murder in the Welsh capital, a case which became known as the Cardiff Newsagent Three.
Mr O’Brien (pictured below, in the centre), his brother-in-law Ellis Sherwood (left), and 18-year-old, Darren Hall, were found guilty of murdering Phillip Saunders, a newsagent who was bludgeoned to death with a garden spade in the Canton district of Cardiff on 12 October 1987.
They were convicted largely on the bogus confession of Hall and in April 2022 Mr O’Brien said: “Hall made 14 confessions in all and all were difficult. The police just picked one and that was the one which involved me. It was like a lottery.”
Mr O’Brien said Hall had a history of false confessions.
“He once confessed to stealing cars and the case was only dropped because his solicitor pointed out that at the time it happened Hall was sat in his office,” said Mr O’Brien.
He said Hall’s confession was riddled with mistakes and he did not even know what the killers had used as a murder weapon.
Mr Saunders was beaten to death with a garden spade as he returned home and £5,000 in takings was stolen.
“The police were using a dragnet and pulling in anyone who had a criminal record, which is why my brother-in-law and Hall were arrested,” Mr O’Brien recalled.
In 1986 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) came into law and it was designed to ensure that everything was above board when suspects were being questioned by police, including police interviews had to be audio-taped to avoid people being forced to sign written “confessions” which were false.
“In our case there were 115 breached of PACE. Hall’s interviews weren’t recorded on tape, we were interviewed off the record and we were handcuffed to hot radiators,” Mr O’Brien recalled.
It was not until 1999 that the Cardiff Newsagent Three were cleared by the Court of Appeal.
Unlike the Cardiff Three case, which was solved by new DNA tests by forensic scientist Angela Gallop, the Saunders murder remains unsolved.
Mr O’Brien says: “I’ve been banging on about the victim’s family for years. People lose sight of the fact that they are still seeking justice. I’ve been championing their cause ever since I was released.”
He claims the family of Phillip Saunders (pictured, above) were lied to by South Wales Police.
In The Dossier Mr O’Brien lists a number of other miscarriages of justice in South Wales and he hopes it will lead to a full judicial inquiry.
He also claims Jeremy Bamber – convicted of the White House Farm murders in Essex in 1985 – is also innocent but he says he is “no fool” and has met many people in prison whose claims to be victims of miscarriages of justice are untrue.
Among those who he claims is lying is Tony Antoniou – former boyfriend of 1990s singer Gabrielle – who was convicted of the murder in 1995 of Walter McCarthy, who was stabbed and beheaded near Cut Throat Bridge, outside Sheffield.
“I met Antoniou in prison and he tried telling me he was innocent. He showed me his file and I said ‘pull the other one’. I have no time for people who try to pull the wool over my eyes. When people have been rightly convicted I will say so,” said Mr O’Brien.
He said he does not know if the real killer of Phillip Saunders will ever be caught and he pointed out that key evidence – a half-drunk whiskey bottle with a fingerprint on it, and a pile of clothes – that was found near the crime scene has mysteriously gone missing.
Mr O’Brien will be appearing in a new documentary on Sky Crime, British Injustice, in May.