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The BBC's Joshua Rosenberg
"At home with family and friends for the first time in nearly 12 years"
 real 28k

Jim Nichol, solicitor for Raphael Rowe
"There has always been a case to answer""
 real 28k

Monday, 17 July, 2000, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Appeal court frees 'M25 Three'
Raphael Rowe and Michael Davis
Raphael Rowe and Michael Davis will seek damages
Three men jailed for a series of brutal robberies close to the M25 motorway have had their convictions quashed at the court of appeal.

Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Randolph Johnson - known as the "M25 Three" - were jailed for life in 1990 for a series of robberies in 1988 which left one man dead.


We were innocent at the beginning and we are innocent today

Raphael Rowe
The men have always protested their innocence and last month launched their second attempt to overturn their convictions.

The judgement on Monday came nearly three weeks after the appeal hearing ended.

Speaking outside the court, Raphael Rowe said the men could never get back the years they had spent in prison.

"The judge said there was a conspiracy by the police and the witnesses in this case and I want the police brought to book," he said.

"We were innocent in the beginning and we are innocent today."

Michael Davis said in a statement, read by his sister Valerie Davis, that it had been a long, hard battle to prove his innocence.

"I am totally relieved of this nightmare and would like to thank all the people who supported me and stood by me," he added.

Innocent plea

The judges made their decision after the mens' lawyers revealed crucial evidence was withheld at the original trial.

It also emerged that a jury member had personally visited some key locations relevant to the trial, raising the possibility that his view of the evidence could have been unfairly altered.

Lord Justice Mantell, Mr Justice Blofeld and Mrs Justice Rafferty said the decision was not a finding of innocence.

Lord Justice Mantell said that in the court's view the case against all three appellants was "formidable", and against Mr Rowe "overwhelming".

Randolph Johnson
Randolph Johnson lost first appeal
But he added: "However, we are bound to follow the approach set out earlier in this judgement, namely assuming the irregularities which we have identified had not occurred would a reasonable jury have been bound to return verdicts of guilty?

"In all conscience we cannot say that it would."

The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously earlier this year that their trial had been unfair and the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred their case back to court.

Rowe's solicitor Jim Nichol said he was delighted with the judgement, "which has been a long time coming".

"There have been many problems and many liars over the years," he said.

"There has been a conspiracy by the police to give perjured evidence which led to the conviction of these men. I find this absolutely appalling."

Mr Nichol called for an inquiry into the whole affair and said the three men would be seeking compensation.

'Tainted'

Mr Rowe, Mr Davis and Mr Johnson have always protested their innocence. No scientific evidence linked them to the crimes.

They were jailed at the Old Bailey for a series of attacks on one night in December 1988, including the murder of hairdresser Peter Hurburgh.

He was dragged from his car at gunpoint with his homosexual lover, tied up and beaten - an attack which led to him having a fatal heart attack.

During the night, three men wearing balaclavas went on a crime spree around the motorway circling London armed with weapons, including a machete and a gun.

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

Jim Nichol
Jim Nichol: 'We need an inquiry'
The jailed men have consistently argued that three black males were arrested when four of the six victims of the robberies referred in police statements to at least one of the offenders being white.

At the appeal in June the men's lawyers argued that crucial information regarding first descriptions of the attackers was kept from the defence.

The men's first appeal seven years ago failed, but their defence team have since discovered that a key prosecution witness was a police informer who received a 10,000 reward.

The jury member's visit was also uncovered.

The Crown argued that the convictions should be upheld.

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17 Jul 00 | UK
A question of justice
17 Jul 00 | UK
Long wait for justice
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