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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK


'M25 Three' denied bail

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson deny the crimes

Three men fighting their conviction over a violent crime spree have been refused bail as they await a full review of their case.

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson have each served nine years of a life sentence for a murder and a series of violent robberies close to the M25 in Surrey.

The case of the "M25 Three" was referred back to the Court of Appeal in April by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which reviews suspected miscarriages of justice. The referral followed a new police investigation into the case.

[ image: Peter Hurburgh died of a heart attack after being beaten up]
Peter Hurburgh died of a heart attack after being beaten up
But on Monday Mr Justice Brian Smedley, sitting in private at the Court of Appeal, ruled that it would "not be right" to grant bail to the three, who were not in court.

Outside court Mr Jim Nichol, solicitor for Rowe, said he was "disappointed" with the ruling.

He told friends and family members that the judge had said: "Everyone involved in the case should do their best to get it on before the end of the year".

"We think that is impossible," Mr Nichol said.

Three masked men

Rowe, Davis and Johnson were jailed for life at the Old Bailey in 1990 for a series of attacks in December 1988, carried out around the London orbital motorway by three masked men armed with a machete and a gun.

[ image: Michael Davis: Fighting for freedom]
Michael Davis: Fighting for freedom
They have always protested their innocence over the crimes, which happened on a single night.

Hairdresser Peter Hurburgh was dragged from his car at gunpoint after being found in a field with his boyfriend. He was tied up and beaten, and died of a heart attack.

Another victim, Timothy Napier, 40, almost died after the three men broke into his father's house and stabbed him during a struggle.

[ image: Raphael Rowe: In jail for nine years]
Raphael Rowe: In jail for nine years
The case against the defendants was based largely on the evidence of three men, who began as suspects and ended up as prosecution witnesses.

No direct forensic or identification evidence linked the M25 Three to the crimes, while fingerprints found at the murder scene did not match any of the convicted men.

One of the victims of the attacks said two white men and one black man were involved.

Rowe, Davis and Johnson had appealed against their convictions, but their case was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in July 1993.

When the latest full appeal hearing is held, the men's lawyers will ask the court to quash their convictions.

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