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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 00:23 GMT 01:23 UK
Justice was 'a long time coming'
Reg Dudley graphic
Reg Dudley was portrayed by police as a "hard man"

Passers-by greet Reg Dudley, shake his hand and offer congratulations as he puffs on a roll-up cigarette outside a pub on a sunny street near his home in north London.

On Tuesday three Court of Appeal judges quashed his conviction and that of his co-defendant Bob Maynard.

Torso murders timeline
Sept 1974: Billy Moseley goes missing. His torso is later found in the Thames
Sept 1975: A shallow grave containing the body of Micky Cornwall is found near Hatfield.
June 1977: Reg Dudley and Bob Maynard are jailed for life
July 2002: Dudley and Maynard's conviction is quashed by the Court of Appeal
It brought to an end a fight for justice which has lasted a quarter of a century.

Dudley, now 77, and Maynard, 63, were jailed for life in 1977 for the murder of two London gangland figures, Billy Moseley and Micky Cornwall, after the longest trial in British criminal history.

Six weeks later Moseley's slowly thawing head was found in a public toilet in Islington.

Who had removed it from the deep freeze and put it there if his supposed killers were behind bars?

Cmdr Bert Wickstead (now dead)
Reg Dudley said Commander Bert Wickstead "had it in for me"
Despite this their convictions were upheld at an appeal in 1979.

Dudley admits he had been a career criminal but said he had been "retired" for several years.

But the Crown alleged at the trial that Dudley and Maynard were feared north London "hard men" who ran a gang called the Legal & General.

'Retired' criminal

The jury was told they decided to kill Billy Moseley in September 1974 after he had an affair with the wife of a friend, Ronnie "Ginger" Fright.

Bob Maynard
Bob Maynard...now a free man
Moseley's headless torso was found in the river Thames in 1974 and in September 1975 Cornwall's body was found buried on Lord Salisbury's estate near Hatfield, Hertfordshire.

Fright was eventually acquitted but Dudley and Maynard were convicted.

'Concocted'

The jury was told that Cornwall, known as The Laughing Bank Robber, was murdered when he started making inquiries about the death of his friend Moseley.

But Dudley said the story was concocted from the imagination of Commander Bert Wickstead in order to clear up the two unsolved murders.

Micky Cornwall pic in newspaper of the time
Micky Cornwall's body was found buried near Hatfield, Herts
Cmdr Wickstead, who was known at Scotland Yard as The Old Grey Fox, died last year.

Dudley told BBC News Online: "Wickstead hated me. It stems from years ago when a local villain had been arrested for a break-in and my wife gave evidence on his behalf. Wickstead never forgave her, or me."

Dudley said the Legal & General tag was simply a nickname they had been given because they wore matching anoraks like the characters from an insurance ad on TV.

Widow backed campaign

Maynard and Moseley had been best friends and the dead man's widow, Anne, campaigned for years for his release, saying she never believed he would have killed her husband.

Dudley and Maynard were arrested in November 1976 and despite being experienced criminals they supposedly made statements incriminating themselves in the murders.

Campaigners outside Scotland Yard
A campaign began not long after their conviction
These statements were never signed by Dudley or Maynard but were still presented as key evidence that led to their conviction.

Dudley said they were "classic verbals" which used terms which no self-respecting criminal would have uttered.

In the early 1990s the convicted men's hopes were raised when ESDA testing of interview notes was invented and helped to release the victims of several miscarriages of justice.

Interview notes destroyed

But when they applied for the notes they were told they had been destroyed...a month earlier.

Eventually the Criminal Cases Review Commission employed Robert Hardcastle, a forensic document examiner who proved the contemporaneous statements could not have been made in the time the police said.

Dudley explained: "The average person can write 140 to 150 characters a minute. One or two people can do 180 but 250 is impossible, and that is what the police officer taking down our statement is supposed to have done."

A key witness at the trial was Tony Wild who claimed Dudley and Maynard boasted of the murders while they were on remand with him in Brixton prison.

Wild claimed Dudley told him he had gone into a Brighton pub and showed the landlord, Oliver Kenny, Moseley's head.

"I was supposed to have said 'Your customers are always complaining their beer hasn't got a head on it. Why don't you give them this'," Dudley told BBC News Online.

Reginald Dudley
Reg Dudley dreams of owning an art gallery
Kenny had been arrested for an armed robbery and died while on remand and was unable to contradict Wild's damning evidence.

Wild, who has since become a born again Christian, later admitted he had made up all his evidence to avoid a long sentence for armed robbery.

Not bitter

Dudley, whose mother, sister, two brothers and an ex-wife all died while he was in jail, is surprisingly lacking in bitterness towards Wild.

He said: "There was a time when I wanted to strangle him but I knew there was the possibility that he would change and would tell the truth."

No amount of money could make up for what he has lost but he does have plans for the compensation - which could be around 1m - which he is expected to receive as a result of his conviction being quashed.

A talented and self-taught artist, he hopes to use the money realise his dream of opening his own art gallery to exhibit his own work and those of young students.

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