SUMMING UP

POST TRIAL



APPEAL

TAPING

KEY PLANT





POST TRIAL – STRANGEWAYS

After the verdict Mr Ferguson QC told Thomas that the gun in Strangeways had “all the hallmarks of Superintendent Murray”. Murray was the officer in charge of the murder investigation but had retired by the time of the trial. Ferguson represented a businessman called Kevin Taylor a short time prior to Thomas’s trial. This involved a case in which a friendship between Mr Taylor and John Stalker became the subject of an official investigation. DCI Richardson and Chief Superintendent Murray were part of the team set up to discredit John Stalker. Ferguson was therefore well aware of Murray’s character and capabilities.

Ferguson also told us that we would need a new forensic report as our report turned up a day after the trial had started and he told us that it was too late to use it. However, he said that it did not matter as he could speak more “eloquently” than the forensic scientist.

As advised by Mr Ferguson, after the trial we made it our mission to find out the truth behind the smuggled gun in Strangeways. Over the years we have written hundreds of letters to the Prison Authority, to MPs, the CPS and various other organisations.

In the 15 years since this conviction new evidence has come to light which clearly demonstrates both how and why justice miscarried in this case. In particular the spotlight now falls upon Paul Cook, a customs officer who was actively seeking a Royal Pardon for two major Liverpool drug barons, John Haase and Paul Bennett. These men were on remand in Strangeways Prison in 1994 where Thomas was also on remand while being tried at Manchester Crown Court.


Haase and Bennett were tried in Southwark Crown Court in 2008 and convicted on 19th November 2008 of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice in relation to the planting of the gun in HMP Manchester in 1994 and several other gun plants. They received sentences of 22 and 20 years respectively. The sentences were so lengthy because their trial judge, Justice Cook, gave them back the 13 years that they would have served had they not been granted a Royal Pardon for their bogus information in 1996. The Royal Pardon resulted in them being controversially released from prison in 1996 having served only 18 months of an 18 year sentence.

At the request of Justice Cook, Haase and Bennettís Customs handler, Paul Cook, is currently under investigation by the IPCC for his part in this conspiracy.

Recent articles on the BBC website have mentioned the particular case of Thomas Bourke. The following link details how Haase and Bennett interfered with his trial.

How a home secretary was hoodwinked

The main reason Haase and Bennett were granted the Royal Pardon in 1996 was for averting a hostage situation in prison. They achieved this by arranging to have a gun planted in HMP Manchester in November 1994. They were told by their Customs handler, Paul Cook, that the authorities were suspicious that the guns and drugs they were informing on were actually their own. They needed a 'body'. Sadly this 'body' was Thomas Bourke.

With the help of their legal team and,incredibly,the prosecuting team,they entered into a deal with HM Customs.We now have documentary evidence of how this relationship developed including HM Customs’ arguments before a judge to persuade him that these two criminals had “prevented a hostage-taking situation at Strangeways Prison”.

Although we knew for many years from underworld sources in Liverpool that these men were behind the gun plant, we were unable to prove it. It was only in 2005 when Peter Kilfoyle MP had gathered enough evidence that an investigation by the Metropolitan Police into the early release of these drug barons took place. This investigation has resulted in several people, including both Haase and Bennett being charged with perverting the course of justice.

It is now known that these men merely used their drugs fortune to buy up dozens of illegal guns and explosives – and then tip off the authorities. In effect they were spending their ill-gotten gains to buy credit with the judicial establishment. And by deploying precisely the same modus, they planted the gun in Strangeways Prison and via their ever-helpful Customs handler Paul Cook falsely tipped off the court that Thomas Bourke was responsible.

Paul Cook, and Haase and Bennettís solicitor, Tony Nelson, were both aware on 30th November 1994, that the gun was in HMP Manchester. They did not alert the authorities until Thursday 1st December 1994 at a crucial time in Thomas Bourkeís trial. This was the day of the final speeches. They withheld the information until such time as it would do the most damage.

We now know that the counsel for the prosecution at Thomas’s trial, Mr Peter Openshaw QC (now Sir Peter Openshaw), had a secret meeting with Justice Sachs , before the Summing Up - possibly even before the Final Speeches. What he told him is now accepted to be a falsehood, i.e. that the gun was for Thomas. We have no way of knowing what else he discussed with the judge and there were no safeguards in place to protect Thomas’s rights to a fair trial. This meeting does not appear in the Court Log.

Neither man acted to halt the prejudicial effect on the fairness of Thomas’s trial and nor did either of them, presumably by agreement, inform the defence counsel. Indeed their failure to act, in effect, showed a total disregard to the inevitable prejudicial effect raised security and Press speculation would have on the jury and their deliberations.

We only found out about it in 2006 when Sir Peter Openshaw stated that a secret meeting did in fact take place.

It was formally acknowledged and accepted at the leave to appeal hearing that this gun was nothing whatsoever to do with Thomas.

Lord Justice Moses stated: The material advanced as a result of the researches of counsel, solicitors and the family seems to show that the gun was brought into the prison by a man called Haase and another man called Bennett at least with the knowledge, if not the connivance, of an Officer of Customs and Excise”.

Sir Peter Openshaw did not appear at the Appeal Hearing and has not come forward to comment about his role in respect of the Strangeways gun incident.

There can be no doubt now that the linked acts of official misinformation and misreporting – and the media storm it seeded - corroded justice and led to Thomas Bourke’s conviction. Even so, because the evidence was so weak, it was only by the slimmest of margins 10:2 – two jurors seeing through the fog of lies, false witness and prejudice.

The question remains, was Thomas a convenient fall guy whom the drug barons had met on the same wing in Strangeways? Or were they directed to his door because it served the interests of others keen to secure his conviction – and by implication mask their own guilt?

Towards the end of 2007, a document was obtained in which Haase and Bennettís Customís handler, Paul Cook, actually names the man believed to be responsible for the MOT murders.

This man is NOT Thomas Bourke – but a well-known figure from Manchester’s gangland.

It has long been known that this man and his gang are associates of the two drug barons. In fact it was this same man who organised for the gun to be smuggled into Strangeways.

It is also well known in Manchester’s criminal underworld that this man is closely linked to all three prime prosecution witnesses in the trial against Thomas Bourke.

To conclude - the motive for these murders remains unknown. But we now have a clear indication of who carried out this brutal double murder.

It was not Thomas Bourke.