Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 10:49 UK

Concerns over murder conviction

Sally Chidzoy
Home Affairs Correspondent, BBC Look East

Kevin Lane
Kevin Lane has always denied shooting Robert Magill

A man from Bedfordshire is in jail for a murder he did not commit, new information uncovered by a BBC Look East investigation suggests.

Kevin Lane was found guilty of using a shotgun to kill car dealer Robert Magill in Chorleywood 14 years ago.

Lane, who has always protested his innocence, has fresh hope that his conviction could be overturned after new sources spoke to BBC Look East.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is reviewing the case.

Mr Magill was walking his dog when two contract killers got out of their BMW armed with a shotgun.

A trial heard that it was Lane who pulled the trigger five times.

Questions raised

Involved in the police investigation was a corrupt officer, Det Insp Chris Spackman.

He was later jailed for plotting to steal £160,000 from Hertfordshire Police. It was money seized from criminals.

Spackman handled disclosure evidence in Lane's case and he had contact with other suspects and informants.

Questions have since been raised about his handling of Lane's case.

One source in criminal circles has told the BBC that an informant "had it in" for Lane.

"The informant has had a grudge with Kevin for a very long time, the same as the informant has had a grudge against Robert Magill," said the source.

"He laughed it was his revenge - somebody had done his dirty work for him with Bob, he hated him with a vengeance."

Local criminals Roger Vincent and David Smith were initially arrested for killing Mr Magill. Lane was arrested later.

Kevin Lane

Kevin Lane has always maintained his innocence

Smith was released but Vincent was charged along with Lane. The judge directed Vincent's acquittal and so Lane stood trial alone.

The jury could not agree a verdict, but Lane was convicted at a retrial.

There was no evidence to directly place Lane at the murder scene. The weapon used to kill Mr Magill was never found.

Author and miscarriage of justice campaigner Bob Woffindon said: "This was clearly a murder by very serious criminals, and did Kevin fall into that category?

"I think Kevin probably didn't. In the years since... various factors have come into the case to throw even more doubt and of course there was the conviction of the policeman.

"It was subsequently said at the Court of Appeal that he [Spackman] carried out complicated deceptions within a police environment."

Nine years after the shooting of Mr Magill, drug dealer Dave King was the victim of a similar gangland shooting outside a gym in Hoddesdon.

In August 2005 Roger Vincent, then 33, and David Smith, also 33, were found guilty at Luton Crown Court of his murder.

The BBC has spoken to sources, including those linked to the police.

One source told the BBC that he had concerns about the way the case was handled by Spackman.

Speaking a year ago, Lane pleaded with the CCRC to consider his case for a third time.

'Impartial investigation'

He said: "I need the CCRC to finally stand up and be counted and stop brushing my case under the carpet."

The CCRC is taking a fresh look at Lane's case.

The Crown Prosecution Service in Hertfordshire is also liaising with the CCRC.

Charles Ingham, of the CPS in Hertfordshire, said: "It's my view that anything further the BBC have, should be passed onto the CCRC and I have no doubt whatsoever they will carry out a very thorough and impartial investigation into any such material."

Lane's family and friends have continued to support him in his fight to clear his name and win his release.

Vincent and Smith have strongly denied being involved in Mr Magill's murder.

Lane says he will go on protesting his innocence until somebody listens.

The BBC could not make contact with the former police officer Chris Spackman.

Hertfordshire Police said: "All we can say about the management of police informants is there are very tight and regulated procedures and processes in place to protect the integrity of the system.

"The case against Kevin Lane has been extensively reviewed already and the conviction deemed safe".

Police added that every case which Spackman had been involved in had been thoroughly scrutinised.

One conviction was quashed after the case was ruled to be unsafe.



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