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Robert BROWN





Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Justice miscarriage
Number of victims: 1 ?
Date of murder: January 31, 1977
Date of birth: 1957
Victim profile: Annie Walsh, 51
Method of murder: Bludgeoned to death
LocationManchester, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1977. Released in November 2002 after having his conviction quashed on appeal

photo gallery


No charges over murder fit-up

BBC News

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Five former police officers at the centre of a murder inquiry which led to an innocent man being jailed for 25 years will not be prosecuted.

Robert Brown, from Glasgow, was 19 when he was jailed for life in 1977 for the murder of Annie Walsh, 51.

The former Greater Manchester Police officers were investigated over concerns about their conduct in the investigation and trial.

However, a complaints watchdog found insufficient evidence of misconduct.

The officers were investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which succeeded the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) on 1 April.

The IPCC said it possessed a "much wider range of powers" than its predecessor, but that there was no prospect of it undertaking a fresh investigation.

'Closed door'

A spokesman for the IPCC said: "We have conducted our investigation and find that there is insufficient evidence to consider any misconduct action against any remaining serving officer connected to Robert Brown's case.

"The IPCC has a much wider range of powers. But it's a closed door for any case which has been undertaken and concluded by the PCA. There's no possibility of it being reopened."

Five police officers were interviewed as a result of an appeal which saw Mr Brown's conviction quashed almost two years ago.

They are all retired and would, therefore, not be liable to disciplinary action under the police discipline code, but could have faced proceedings had the review uncovered criminal behaviour.

Two other officers involved in the original murder investigation have since died.

Mr Brown feels he has been let down by the justice system.

He told BBC Scotland: "I did think I could get on my feet and fight these people with the truth and let the truth be revealed and let justice prevail.

"But that's not going to happen. I've been let down and I'm disappointed but that's par for the course with miscarriages of justice.

"People like me learn to cope with it the best way we can because we know that there's no truth and justice out there."

Investigative journalist, Eamon O'Neill, who has long campaigned for Mr Brown, said officials had just added insult to injury with their decision.

He said: "He's been left in a terrible predicament.

"While he's out, the policemen who caused this whole miscarriage of justice are not behind bars, no-one has apologised and he now has been told he cannot ever pursue a prosecution against any of those policemen."

Mr Brown was jailed for the murder of Annie Walsh in 1977, who was bludgeoned to death in her home in the Hulme area of Manchester the same year.

'Corruption conspiracy'

He was released in November 2002 after having his conviction quashed on appeal by three judges in London who ruled that the verdict could not be considered "safe".

He would have been eligible for parole 10 years earlier, but instead maintained his innocence, claiming he had been bullied into signing a false confession.

The Court of Appeal heard of a "conspiracy of corruption" within Greater Manchester Police and that one of the police officers central to the case, former Detective Chief Inspector Jack Butler, was "deeply corrupt".

He was jailed in 1983 for four years for corruption and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice between 1973 and 1975.

Mr Brown met bosses at the PCA in June 2003 to call for an independent inquiry into his case.

He claimed at the time he was not happy about the review, as "the police should not be investigating the police".


25-year murder conviction quashed

BBC News

Wednesday, 13 November, 2002

A man who has spent 25 years in prison for murder has been freed by Court of Appeal judges after having his conviction quashed.

Robert Brown was jailed for life in 1977 for killing 51-year-old Manchester spinster Annie Walsh after confessing to the crime.

But Mr Brown, originally from Drumchapel in Glasgow, always claimed he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice because police had bullied him into signing a false confession.

Lord Justice Rose, sitting with two other judges in London, on Wednesday ruled: "In our judgment, this verdict cannot be regarded as safe.

"That is so because we could not possibly be sure on what we have heard that the jury, had they known what we know, would have reached the same verdict.

"It is, to put it at its lowest, a possibility that they might have reached a quite different verdict. Accordingly, this verdict is unsafe. It is quashed. The appeal is allowed."

Mr Brown showed no emotion as the conviction was overturned at the Court of Appeal, but his supporters stood and clapped.

He was led back to the cells after the announcement to await release, and afterwards he said: "I would have fought this for the next 25 years if I'd had to. It's nothing to do with freedom, it's to do with justice, liberty and truth."

'Desperately ill'

Mr Brown would have been eligible for parole 10 years ago if he had shown that he had "come to terms with his offending" by admitting the crime.

But the 45-year-old said the need to clear his name was more important.

He had also wanted to clear his name for his 75-year-old mother Margaret, who is now described as being "desperately" ill.

Mr Brown was convicted of battering to death Ms Walsh at Manchester Crown Court in October 1977.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and had an application for leave to appeal against conviction refused by the Court of Appeal in 1978.

His solicitor Robert Lizar said: "I will be urging Manchester police to reopen the investigation into the murder because the family of Annie Walsh have not been properly served by the justice system in any way."

'Utmost seriousness'

The Greater Manchester force later released a statement which did not rule out such a move.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Green said: "We have noted the initial findings of the court and will now re-examine the three main areas of concern raised at today's appeal."

And he added: "No decision has yet been made whether to reinvestigate the murder of Annie Walsh or to review other cases investigated by the officers involved, but we would like to reassure the public of Greater Manchester that this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and the appeal findings will be thoroughly examined."

Mr Lizar also claimed his client could be entitled to "very substantial" compensation which he estimated would run into millions.

However, Mr Brown said he would have to sit down with his lawyers before deciding whether to pursue a claim.

The appeal hearing before Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Gibbs and Mr Justice Davis, which was expected to last at least a day, took a dramatic twist on Wednesday morning after submissions from Julian Bevan QC, for the Crown.

Mr Bevan said that if asked whether the fresh evidence now in front of the court "might reasonably have affected the decision of the jury to convict this appellant I have to say on behalf of the Crown that it might".

After Mr Bevan outlined the Crown's stance, emphasising that the final decision on the safety of the conviction was for the court, the judges said they had no need to hear further argument on behalf of Mr Brown.


Murder conviction quashed after 25 years

By Dan McDougall - The Scotsman

November 14, 2002

AS NEWS of her son’s release from prison reached her hospital bed in Glasgow last night, Margaret Brown’s mind would inevitably have strayed back to the afternoon in Manchester in October 1977 when she watched him deprived of the prime of his adult life.

On that day, Robert Brown’s last recorded words in public after he was convicted of the murder of Manchester spinster, Annie Walsh, were simple. As he was taken down the steep narrow staircase into the cells of Manchester Crown Court, he repeatedly screamed: "I am innocent, I am innocent."

Mrs Brown, now 75, has never forgotten her son’s shouts echoing around the packed public gallery.

For more than two decades, Mr Brown’s claim of innocence was ignored by the authorities.

Robert Brown’s journey from the Drumchapel housing estate in Glasgow to Manchester began in 1975 when he fled south to escape a life of physical abuse in children’s homes around his home city.

No stranger to the wrong side of the law, Mr Brown, at 17, was already a drifter who struggled to hold down a job. Manchester, he hoped, would offer him a clean slate.

Once there, Mr Brown struggled to fit in but after two years of scraping by he had found himself a girlfriend, a part-time job and a run-down flat in the Hulme area in the south of the city. For the first time in his life he was making plans for the future.

In Hulme in early 1977, the street talk in the notorious red-bricked slum was dominated by one topic - the murder of a local spinster, Annie Walsh, who was bludgeoned to death in the front room of her terraced home on 28 January.

As the police investigation of the Walsh case intensified, Mr Brown’s attention was brought to a series of wanted posters for the murderer featuring an artist’s impression of a spiky-haired youth which led him to joke that the police were hunting for the rock star Rod Stewart.

By Manchester CID’s own admission, the artist’s impression of a known local criminal was "a flyer". They were more interested in the testimony of another neighbour who told the police that shortly before the murder she had heard the victim speaking to a man with a Scottish or Irish accent.

On the morning of 18 May, nearly four months after the murder of Annie Walsh, detectives set out early to apprehend another individual who had come to their attention. It was Mr Brown, then 19, whom a local police mole claimed "had a history of violence".

Following his arrest, Mr Brown later claimed that six policemen took 30 hours to break him down; and that he was threatened, intimidated, mocked, refused access to a lawyer, made to strip and shown a pair of unfamiliar, blood-soaked jeans allegedly taken from his home which he was told proved his guilt.

At the end of the ordeal, during which he claimed he was denied sleep, a printed confession was placed in front of him. Half blind from fatigue, he scrawled his name on the sheet and collapsed on the table.

Mr Brown’s trial at Manchester Crown Court was, by all accounts, a farce, but the judge told the jury that to find in his favour would be to accuse six policemen of lying. On the strength of the confession alone, the jury found Mr Brown guilty and the judge sentenced him to a minimum of 15 years. For the next quarter of a century Mr Brown was to be the victim of Britain’s longest-running miscarriage of justice.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Mr Brown’s solicitors continued to argue not only that a confession had been forced out of their client under duress but that no valid motive was given for the crime during the trial. Despite police claims that robbery had been the main reason behind Miss Walsh’s murder, her purse and an envelope containing her wages had remained untouched at the murder scene.

Even when he was eligible for parole in 1988, Mr Brown refused to apply for his freedom and continued to plead his innocence. Like Stephen Downing, he was classified by the Home Office as being IDOM - in denial of murder - and not even an impressive list of prison governors, guards and psychiatrists supporting his claims of innocence looked like winning him parole.

But earlier this year dramatic new academic evidence emerged to support Mr Brown’s claims that his "confession" was indeed the result of a question and answer session conducted under duress. Professor Malcolm Coulthard, a linguistics expert based at the University of Birmingham, was commissioned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine the case.

In his report, Prof Coulthard concluded: "In my opinion, it is likely that the statement was produced, at least in part, by a process of police questions and Brown’s answers being converted into and written down as monologue." Mr Brown’s lawyers also uncovered evidence of a "culture of corruption and cover ups" within Greater Manchester Police around the time of his arrest, focusing on one of the arresting officers, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Butler, later convicted of corruption.

Mr Brown’s case for freedom was sealed yesterday when, on the strength of reports of police corruption within Greater Manchester Police and the evidence of Prof Coulthard, he was dramatically freed by three judges at the Court of Appeal in London, who ruled that the guilty verdict against him "could no longer be regarded as safe".

As she continued her battle against cancer in a Glasgow hospital, Mrs Brown heard her son speak as a free man for the first time in 25 years - nurses at her bedside claimed the widow was too overwhelmed to speak on the phone, she just listened to her son’s cries of jubilation.

High-profile releases

THE most recent high-profile miscarriages of justice have all come under the scrutiny of the Criminal Cases Review Commission:

1991: The Birmingham Six, Paddy Joe Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker, were freed after spending more than 16 years in prison for the murder of 22 people in 1974. The Court of Appeal quashed their convictions after finding that evidence against them had been fabricated.

2001: Three people convicted of killing newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater in 1978, James Robinson, Michael Hickey and Vincent Hickey, were released after it emerged the fourth suspect, who later died in jail, had been tricked by police into signing a confession.

2002: In January Stephen Downing had his life sentence quashed after spending 27 years in prison for the 1973 murder of Wendy Sewell in Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Downing, who was 17 when he was convicted had been found guilty by a jury on the strength of his own confession. The decision was later over-ruled when appeal judges were told Downing had a mental age of 11 when he signed his admission.


'Corrupt police behind false conviction'

BBC News

Wednesday, 13 November, 2002

The Court of Appeal has been told police corruption was behind the unsafe conviction of a man who was jailed for 25 years for murder.

On Wednesday Court of Criminal Appeal judges brought one of the UK's longest running miscarriages of justice to an end after being told of the corruption involved.

Scotsman Robert Brown, now aged 45, was jailed for life in October 1977, after being convicted of the murder of 51-year-old spinster Annie Walsh in her Manchester flat.

Mr Brown always denied his was guilt and on Wednesday he had his conviction overturned Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Gibbs and Mr Justice Davis.

Benedict Emmerson QC, acting for Mr Brown, told the appeal judges a confession had been obtained by "violence and threats of violence" and he was the victim of "subsequently concocted accounts".

Earlier, Mr Emerson told the court: "The prosecution case against the appellant at trial essentially depended on the truth and reliability of a series of disputed confession statements the appellant was alleged to have made to the police.

"Each of these confessions was said to have been contemporaneously recorded.

"The appellant's case is, and always has been, that the only document ever recorded in his presence was a written confession statement.

'Concocted accounts'

"He gave evidence at trial that this statement was the product of the officers deliberately putting words into his mouth - that none of the information contained in the statement came from him and that none of it was true.

"He said that he was intimidated into signing the statement by threats of violence and a number of actual physical assaults; and that the other confession statements which the officers claimed were contemporaneously recorded were nothing of the sort.

"They were subsequently concocted accounts based on the single confession statement that he had been intimidated into signing."

Mr Emerson also told the judges: "The axis of credibility between the appellant on the one hand and the police officers on the other, thus lay at the very heart of this case."

Three principal grounds for the appeal were advanced on Mr Brown's behalf.

Two related directly to the reliability of the confession evidence.

The third related indirectly to that issue and concerned the failure of the Crown to disclose evidence of a positive match between a fibre found on the coat of the deceased and a jumper seized from a different suspect, Robert Hill.

Counsel said fresh evidence concerned the integrity of one of the central officers in the case, Detective Chief Inspector Jack Butler.

'Culture of corruption'

He told the judges: "Unknown either to the trial judge or to the jury, Mr Butler was deeply corrupt."

Mr Emerson added: "Not only had he been involved in serious corruption himself, but he had presided over a conspiracy of corrupt police officers under his direct control at Platt Lane police station (Manchester) between 1973 and 1979.

"The evidence strongly suggests that these officers had engaged in a pattern of corruption amounting to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice over a period of years, which both pre-dated and post-dated the appellant's arrest."

In March 1983 DCI Butler was jailed for four years after being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice and accepting bribes.

Mr Emerson said: "We submit that if the jury had known not only of the fact, but of the level of Butler's corruption, it could hardly fail to have influenced their verdict."

Lord Justice Rose, in his ruling, said it was apparent from a report, the contents of which were disclosed last week, that there was a "culture of corruption" at Platts Lane between 1973 and 1979 over which Butler "had presided in a senior role".

Mr Emerson said the second principal ground arose from expert linguistic analysis of the confession statement and there was now evidence before the court to the effect that it was more likely than not that the account given by officers in evidence was untrue.


Freed Scot 'fancies a jacuzzi'

BBC News

Wednesday, 13 November, 2002

Robert Brown stressed he was not bitter as he walked free 25 years after being jailed for a murder he maintained he did not commit.

The 45-year-old's conviction was quashed on Wednesday by Court of Appeal judges who ruled that it could not be regarded as safe.

As he left the court Mr Brown, originally from Drumchapel in Glasgow, said he was looking forward to rebuilding his life as quickly as possible.

"I'm a pretty well-balanced, level-headed individual," he told waiting reporters.

"I'm going to take things easy - I fancy a jacuzzi."

Mr Brown was jailed for life in 1977 for killing 51-year-old Manchester spinster Annie Walsh after confessing to the crime.

However, he always claimed he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice because police had bullied him into signing a false confession.

Speaking outside the London court where he won his freedom, he said: "It has been like living in an abyss of hell.

Depth of anger

"It has been an absolute nightmare. That is a bit of a cliché, but words cannot convey what I have been through and what other miscarriage of justice cases are going through."

However, he stressed: "I am not bitter. I am not angry.

"I had a depth of anger and it has diminished.

"The truth prevails and I think over the last 12 or 15 months the whole of Britain knew I was innocent.

"Every prisoner in every prison in Britain knew I was innocent.

"The support I have had from prisoners and some prison staff have been overwhelming."

Mr Brown said he would have to sit down with his lawyers before deciding whether to pursue compensation.

"Money will not compensate me for the loss of my life.

"It will not compensate my mother and it will not compensate the victim or the victim's family.

"They have been forgotten in all this, they have not received justice," he said.

Buried documentation

"Today was not a victory for justice.

"My conviction is an indictment against the whole criminal justice system.

"They buried documentation for almost 20 years that could have cleared my name."

Mr Brown said he would never have given up trying to clear his name.

"I would have fought this for the next 25 years if I'd had to.

"It's nothing to do with freedom, it's to do with justice, liberty and truth."

Mr Brown also paid tribute to his 75-year-old mother Margaret's "loving strength".

"I have just spoken to her. She's overwhelmed by emotion but she's happy and looking forward to us spending some time together.

"They could have let me out on bail in July but they didn't show me any compassion, any humanity even during my mother's illness - and that absolutely disgusted me."



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