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Monday, March 22, 1999 Published at 17:46 GMT


New trial hope for M25 Three

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson have served 10 years

Two men who have spent more than 10 years in prison for a murder they say they did not commit have been told by the European Commission of Human Rights they did not get a fair trial.

The BBC's Gillian Joseph: "Raphael's sister has campaigned against his conviction"
Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson, known as the M25 Three, were jailed for life in 1990 but they have always claimed they are victims of a miscarriage of justice.

[ image: Raphael Rowe is in Kingston prison, Portsmouth]
Raphael Rowe is in Kingston prison, Portsmouth
The trio were convicted of being behind a series of brutal robberies around London's orbital motorway in 1988.

A gang of three men dragged hairdresser Peter Hurburgh from his car at gunpoint, tied him up, beat him and doused him in petrol. He suffered a fatal heart attack.

The attackers then stole his car to carry out a series of violent robberies around the M25 south of London.

Public interest immunity

Rowe and Davis claimed their right to a fair trial was violated because the prosecution withheld evidence from the defence on the grounds of public interest immunity.

The European Commission of Human Rights has agreed with the pair's lawyers and is referring the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.

Raphael Rowe's sister Joanne: "What is the Criminal Cases Review Commission waiting for?"
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is currently deciding whether to send the case back to the Court of Appeal in London.

The pair's case has been supported by Liberty and the M25 Three campaign, whose spokesman Pauline Smith said they were pressing for all three men to be given bail pending a new trial.

She told BBC News Online: "I spoke to Raphael today and he is elated.

[ image: Peter Hurburgh...died of a heart attack]
Peter Hurburgh...died of a heart attack
"But he said 'Why the hell has it taken 30 European judges to come up with this? Why couldn't our own judges not have done it?'"

Undisclosed evidence

Ms Smith said the case hinged on undisclosed evidence, including secret interviews with several men who were originally treated as suspects but later turned out to be witnesses for the Crown.

She said the commission was also unhappy with the fact that the police never disclosed who received the 25,000 reward.

While only Davis and Rowe's case was considered by the European judges, Johnson also maintains his innocence.

Rowe's sister, Joanne, told BBC News Online: "The evidence pointed to two white men and a black man so God only knows how three black men were convicted."

She said: "Raphael was a petty criminal but there is no way he did this and the sooner he is out the better but the wheels of justice are very slow."

Miss Rowe said: "At the end of the day why should British people have to go to another country to get justice?"

Key legal principle

A Home Office spokesman said the case rested on the question of public interest immunity and he said the commission had, in another case, upheld it in principle.

He said: "The European Court will rehear all the issues considered and that will give us a chance to restate our position."

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