THE STRANGE TALE OF THE PSYCHOLOGIST, THE SUPERGRASS AND THE ENGLISH ‘TEFLON DON’

By Chris Summers                                                   14 June 2022

This weekend, at the splendid Crimecon convention in London, I sidled up to Professor Paul Britton, eminent forensic psychologist and one of Britain’s first “offender profilers”.

I had met him before, in Leicester in 1997 shortly after he published his first book The Jigsaw Man, so that made an icebreaker.

britton

Prof Britton (pictured above, second from right on the stage) is 76 nowadays and has passed the baton over to his son Ian, who is also a forensic psychologist.

As we got chatting about various cases the “Jigsaw Man” had worked on, my jaw dropped when he mentioned a certain Arran Coghlan.

Coghlan – who was referred to by the Daily Mail as the “Teflon Don” last year when his brother Jason died of COVID-19 – has a unique record of being charged with three separate murders and never being convicted of any of them.

In 1996 Coghlan was acquitted of murdering Chris Little – a notorious drug dealer known as the “Devil Dog Mobster” because he used Rottweilers on his rivals – who was gunned down at a set of traffic lights in Stockport, Greater Manchester in July 1994.

barnshaw

Then in September 1999 another drug dealer, David Barnshaw, was abducted in the car park of the Moss Rose pub in Stockport, bundled into a car, driven off, beaten, torture and eventually set on fire.

Barnshaw’s friend, John Berry, was bundled into the boot of the same car and Barnshaw’s screams could be heard in the background as Berry spoke to a 999 operator on his mobile phone.

Barnshaw (pictured above) was said to have been killed over a £15,000 drugs debt.

Coghlan and several others were charged with murder in May 2001 but their first trial collapsed for legal reasons.

In the summer of 2002 I was working on the BBC’s news website when I decided to look into this strange case.

That was in the days before social media so it was harder to find people but somehow I got in touch with Coghlan’s girlfriend, Claire Burgoyne, and she agreed to meet me in Stockport.

claireburgoyne

I travelled up from London and interviewed her.

I remember she was a slim and attractive brunette with a fierce intellect and a complete loyalty to her man.

I’ve dug out my notebook from the time and I have a note of my interview with Claire (pictured above, with Coghlan).

“All witnesses are either drug users or dealers. Cokeheads,” I’ve written.

She told me the police were preventing her seeing Coghlan, who was on remand, “to mess with his head”.

Claire said there was DNA on the toilet doors which did not belong to Coghlan or any of his co-defendants.

She told me that after his acquittal for the Little murder Coghlan was followed by Greater Manchester Police “constantly”.

Claire said Detective Inspector Kenny Caldwell was determined to pin the Barnshaw murder of Coghlan.

“They’ve always been after him. He never did it in the first place,” Claire told me.

She said Coghlan made his money trading in cars and lending money.

“Not loansharking,” she added.

Claire referred to Berry as a “mad lunatic” and went on to say that Berry had “recovered” his memory of the incident – and claimed to recognise Coghlan’s voice from the boot of the car – after having “vivid dreams”.

And this is where Prof Britton comes in.

He had been contacted by defence lawyers in the Barnshaw trial.

They wanted him to consult on the evidence of supergrass John Berry.

When I met Prof Britton at Crimecon in June 2022 he told me how he had been asked to meet the police at a service station in the north-west of England.

He said he was taken on a long and circuitous route to the place where Berry was being held.

“The police were obviously worried that we were being followed by gangsters who wanted to kill Berry,” Britton told me.

When he eventually interviewed Berry he was able to tell almost immediately that his account was flawed.

In June 2003, eight months after the third Barnshaw trial began, it collapsed with the judge, Mr Justice Penry-Davey, criticising two police officers – DCI Caldwell, who had withheld key information about another suspect, Geoffrey Finlayson, and Detective Inspector Darren Shenton, who had failed to disclose information about Berry.

It also emerged that, while in the witness protection programme, Berry had called 999 and told an operator: “I was told what to say by the police.”

Britton’s role in the case has never before been revealed.

But that is not the end of the story.

coghlanbeardpa

In February 2010 Coghlan was charged with murdering Stephen Akinyemi, who was shot and stabbed and found in the bathroom of Coghlan’s mansion in the wealthy village of Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

Coghlan said Akinyemi was his friend but he said a fight broke out and he acted in self-defence.

He was cleared of murder…for the third time.

Two year later a court ordered Coghlan (pictured, with a beard) to hand over his £1 million mansion after the National Crime Agency said it was bought with the proceeds of drug dealing.

Coghlan appealed but lost and finally handed over the keys in 2016.

He still insists he is innocent of all charges and is a legitimate businessman.

As for Claire, she is still with Coghlan as far as I am aware, and in 2013 she was acquitted of perjury after being accused of lying over a speeding ticket.

 

2 thoughts on “THE STRANGE TALE OF THE PSYCHOLOGIST, THE SUPERGRASS AND THE ENGLISH ‘TEFLON DON’

  1. Many thanks to Blaine Pardoe and Victoria Hester for their hard work in researching and writing “A Special Kind of Evil: The Colonial Parkway Serial Killings.” The Colonial Parkway Murders families very much appreciate your support. For our friends in the FBI, National Park Service and the Virginia State Police, it is your move.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathy Thomas
    Los Angeles, CA

  2. Such a horrific attack on a mother-to-be and her child. Rage, jealousy and anger cause carnage; killing those they claim to love and leaving lives shattered.

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