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1997: 'Bridgewater Three' freed
Three men who were jailed 18 years ago for the murder of 13-year-old paper boy Carl Bridgewater have been released after the Court of Appeal ruled their convictions unsafe.

Since they were jailed in 1979, the men have always protested their innocence but it has taken six separate police inquiries and three full appeals for them to walk free.

We're not child-killers
James Robinson
After a dramatic day in court, James Robinson and cousins Vincent and Michael Hickey got their first heady taste of freedom when they emerged from the courtroom.

Michael Hickey bent down to kiss the ground.

Jubilation turned quickly to anger, and at a news conference later the men expressed their bitterness at having been unjustly incarcerated since 1979.

"People didn't want to know," said Mr Robinson at a press conference after the appeal.

"The long, lonely years that we've cried and wept and despaired and people have looked at us with hate and contempt in their eyes and called us child-killers.

"We're not child-killers."

Carl Bridgewater was shot while delivering a newspaper during a robbery at Yew Tree Farm in Staffordshire in September 1978.

The men's murder conviction rested largely on a confession by a fourth man, Patrick Molloy, who was convicted of manslaughter and died in prison in 1981.

Police accused

Today, Michael Mansfield QC accused two police officers from the Staffordshire force of fabricating and forging a statement purporting to come from Vincent Hickey.

Mr Molloy had said he had been tricked into making a confession after he was shown this "ghost" statement.

Electrostatic document analysis (ESDA) tests later proved police had created such a statement with Vincent Hickey's forged signature on it.

Mr Molloy also said the police had beaten him up and deprived him of food, drink and sleep during the investigation into the murder.

The Crown conceded the disputed confession, retracted soon after it was made, should have been ruled inadmissible.

In April the men's full appeal will be heard and their lawyers will highlight other legal flaws which led to this miscarriage of justice.

Now, the question of who killed their son and why still haunts Carl's parents, Janet and Brian.

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James Robinson (far left), Vincent Hickey (in sweater) and Michael Hickey
The three men are jubilant after years of incarceration

'Bridgewater Three' finally taste freedom

In Context
The three men had all convictions quashed once and for all in July 1997.

Nobody has ever been convicted of Carl Bridgewater's murder.

The "Bridgewater Four" group demanded the officers in charge of the case be brought to justice.

But in December 1998 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute four former police officers involved in the investigation due to lack of evidence.

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