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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 October 2006, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
£300,000 pay-out for cleared man
Michael O'Brien

A man who was wrongly jailed for 11 years for the murder of a newsagent in Cardiff has received £300,000 in a settlement with South Wales Police.

The out-of-court award to Michael O'Brien is thought to be the highest pay-out of its kind in a case of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Mr O'Brien and two other men - who became known as the Cardiff Newsagent Three - were jailed for life in 1988.

South Wales Police said it did not admit liability in the case.

Phillip Saunders, 52, ran the newspaper kiosk in Cardiff central bus station and he was ambushed and beaten late one night in October 1987 as he returned to his home in the city's Canton area.

It is emphasised that this has been done without any admission of liability and in full and final settlement
South Wales Police

He died three days later when his life-support machine was turned off.

His killer has never been found.

Mr O'Brien, Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood - who is believed to have been awarded £200,000 - served more than a decade in prison before being cleared by appeal court judges in 1999.

Ever since, Mr O'Brien has pursued claims against South Wales Police through the courts - claiming the force fabricated evidence over the killing.

He will receive £300,000 plus costs in the out-of-court settlement following a civil action against the South Wales force.

Mr O'Brien said that despite being pleased with the amount of money he will receive, he believes a stain has been left on his character because he says the force has not admitted liability or made an apology.

He said: "I'm disappointed with the fact they haven't apologised to me, especially in the light of what I've lost in family terms which I can never replace.

Phillip Saunders
Phillip Saunders' killer has never been found

"I can't get on with life as if nothing has happened.

"The money doesn't mean that much to me. You can't compensate me for the loss of my daughter [when I was] in prison or the death of my father.

"Taking that with the fact my marriage split-up, I lost everything basically.

"They don't realise how much the apology means to me. The issue is taking responsibility for one's actions and that's all I'm asking South Wales Police to do."

He is now in talks with his lawyer about undertaking a private prosecution.

South Wales Police insists it did not admit liability in its final settlement with Mr O'Brien.

Deputy Chief Constable David Francis said: "South Wales Police has undertaken a substantial amount of work defending the allegations made by Mr O'Brien and which were subsequently adopted by Ellis Sherwood.

"Throughout, we have consistently maintained our position that the officers who worked on the investigation into the murder of Phillip Saunders did so in good faith and the force was not liable for malicious prosecution or misfeasance.

"However, as a publicly funded organisation, we have to be mindful of the cost of such cases and the unpredictability of the litigation process.

"Therefore in accordance with counsel's advice, payments into court have been made in full and final settlement of the claims of Mr O'Brien and Mr Sherwood.

"It is emphasised that this has been done without any admission of liability and in full and final settlement.

"Mr O'Brien and Mr Sherwood have chosen to accept the payments on that basis rather than going to trial."

Mr Francis added that Thursday marks the 19th anniversary of the attack on Mr Saunders and the force's thoughts were with the family, while the investigation into his murder was ongoing.


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