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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 16:00 GMT
Coroner questions bail for killer
By Ben Ando
BBC Crime Reporter

In legal terms, it is case closed.

A coroner has ruled that Metropolitan Police inspector Garry Weddell took his own life and the lives of his wife and mother-in-law, whom he killed unlawfully.

Gary Weddell
One in ten murder suspects are granted bail, official figures show
But the awkward question remains - why was Garry Weddell free to kill his mother-in-law, and himself, when he was awaiting a murder charge?

Weddell, 47, had been due to stand trial in May, accused of murdering his wife Sandra.

She was found hanged at the family home in Dunstable in early 2007.

Initially, Weddell said his wife had killed herself - using a cable tie to hang herself in the garage and leaving a typed suicide note.

But when police checked, they found that no-one else had used a cable tie to kill themselves in this way, and the suicide note was actually typed on the family computer at a time when Mrs Weddell, a teacher, was known to be invigilating at an exam.

Immediately following his arrest, Weddell was refused bail.

However, at a subsequent hearing in July 2007 it was granted.

Borderline decision

Transcripts of that hearing show that the judge, John Bevan, listened carefully to the evidence of a psychiatrist who suggested that Weddell was not a danger to himself or others.

Granting bail, admitted the judge, was not "by any means an easy decision, balancing the gravity of the case on the one hand with the fact that the defendant is undoubtedly a professional man".

Addressing Weddell directly, the judge warned him it was "a very borderline" decision - and that the bail conditions had to be adhered to strictly.

Those conditions included payment of 200,000 put up by his brother Geoffrey Weddell, a barrister, and that he did not enter Bedfordshire except to attend court.

Yet, in a case management hearing in November, the court was told those bail conditions had been breached after hearing that Weddell had met his mother in a pub in Bedfordshire.

Judge Bevan said he was unable to deal with it, and Woking magistrates agreed that since the pub was barely 70 yards inside the Bedfordshire border, this counted only as a "technical" breach, and bail remained.

Two months later, Weddell killed his mother-in-law, before taking his own life.

Implications probed

The Ministry of Justice has promised to examine the "implications" of this case, and if it changes in the law are considered necessary, they will be made.

But it has emerged that Garry Weddell is not the only murderer released on bail.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that on 31 January, more than one in 10 of the 455 people charged with murder had been given bail.

Speaking last month, shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said tougher bail laws were needed to "ensure public safety comes first".

However so far there is no indication from the government as to who is considering whether the law is adequate, and what changes, if any, might be made.

The inquest also heard, from Det Ch Insp Sean O'Neill, who led the enquiry, that Weddell had more cartridges and seemed to be heading towards the place where his family were staying when he decided to take his own life.

Coroner David Morris says he will now look at the evidence again and may decide to write to the Ministry of Justice urging that the guidelines for judges when considering bail be changed.



SEE ALSO
Officer unlawfully killed family
18 Mar 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
'Killer' policeman breached bail
31 Jan 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Weddell photographed breaking bail
31 Jan 08 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
MPs to investigate bail questions
18 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
Officer bailed on murder charge
27 Sep 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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