To the best of our knowledge, the visit by the DoT inspectors that afternoon was in relation to a complaint about the issuing of a re-test certificate.  Superintendent Rod Murray later said in a TV report that it appeared to be a murder for a paltry £6.50.  However by the time the case came to trial, Peter Openshaw QC for the prosecution said that this was a “motiveless crime”.

Walter Bourke, Thomas’s brother, held the head lease of the premises of Chestergate Motors – the scene of the crime. Walter sub-let the garage to David Watson.  Thomas had, as was agreed by the prosecution, no link to the garage.  However in his summing up, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Sachs, said “you may wonder why he did not go to see the powers that be”.  This was completely prejudicial to the jury.  Sachs had no right to say this when a fact had been agreed.  It was one of many factual errors and misleading statements in his summing up.

Watson rarely attended the premises and employed David Mitchell to manage the garage.  Mitchell employed his trusted friend Howard Ridgeway as a mechanic and he also employed Darren Fox who was related to him.

Mitchell, with Watson’s permission, tended to use the name Watson when speaking to people on garage matters.  By doing this Mitchell was falsely trying to give the impression that Watson worked at the garage. In fact Watson was rarely at Chestergate and, like most of Mitchell’s cronies, was a criminal linked to the Manchester underworld of guns, racketeering and drugs.  Mitchell gave evidence in court that he had used Watson’s name in his dealings with the Department of Transport and, in particular, when speaking to Mr Singleton.  He also fraudulently signed cheques in Watson’s name. 

Mitchell had many connections in the criminal underworld and both he and Watson used the garage as a front for criminal enterprises such as credit card and cheque fraud.  Crimes for which neither man has ever been charged. 

Mitchell had a personal grudge against Mr Singleton, one of the murdered DoT Inspectors. This dated back to Mr Singleton’s refusal to authorise a garage that Mitchell owned as an MOT centre.  His refusal resulted in financial difficulties for Mitchell.

On the morning of 22nd November 1993, Mr Singleton telephoned Chestergate Autos and spoke to Mitchell, who pretended to be Watson.  Mr Singleton told him that he would be visiting the garage later that afternoon.   The conspiracy to murder Alan Singleton at Chestergate Motors begins and ends with Mitchell.  He took his call and he was present at his death.  

A few hours later, between 3.30pm and 3.40pm, Mr Alan Singleton and his colleague, Mr Simon Bruno, were shot dead in the garage.  Almost certainly, Simon Bruno was murdered simply because he had accompanied Alan Singleton. 

The police questioned Mitchell and Ridgeway later that night but their clothes were not seized at this time.  Neither man was arrested and both were allowed to go home.   At trial Senior Investigating Officer, Superintendent Rod Murray, told the court that he did not take their clothes for forensic analysis as in his 25 years experience he has never known a murderer stay at the scene.  This is patently untrue. 

A passing photographer,arrived on the scene within minutes of the murders.  He took contemporaneous photographs of Mitchell and Ridgeway sitting on the steps outside the garage in the immediate aftermath.  When Mitchell and Ridgeway’s clothes were eventually seized two days later on 24th November 1993, they were not the clothes Mitchell and Ridgeway had on at the time of the murders.  This only became clear several years after the trial when Bob Duffield, an investigator for Channel 4’s Trial and Error programme, went to the Forensic Science Laboratory to examine official records.  For further details click on the link clothing

Howard Ridgeway did two things on the night of the murders :-

1:      He was desperate to dispose of a rifle that he was keeping for Mitchell. He admitted taking this firearm to a local tip when giving evidence during Thomas’s trial in December 1994.  He has never subsequently been charged with any firearm offence.

2:      He then went to the house of Bob McGahey – a childhood friend and another key witness given immunity by the police in return for testifying against Thomas.  Ridgeway was anxious to know if McGahey had wiped his fingerprints from the alleged getaway car – a red Ford Sierra previously in McGahey’s possession.  To this day it is not known how Ridgeway knew that McGahey had the car or why he wanted to ensure that his fingerprints were removed.  

Despite the above, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Sachs, passed Ridgeway off in his summing up as an “independent witness”.   This  is a long way off the mark – Ridgeway admitted lying to police, and was a key part of the Mitchell-McGahey axis which set out falsely to incriminate Thomas.  It is unlikely that Sachs would have used this term had he not been party to a secret meeting with prosecuting counsel towards the end of the trial.  He did not use the term throughout the trial.

Bob McGahey, it transpired, was keeping a bag of guns owned by Mitchell.  During the trial McGahey said that these belonged to Thomas.  However Ridgeway admitted in open court that the guns had, in fact, been supplied to Mitchell by a man known as  Big Jimmy”.   This was accepted to be the truth.  Despite the fact that DS Thompson – a key member of the Stockport murder squad - knew the real identity of ‘Big Jimmy’ the gun supplier, his identity and connection to Mitchell has never been disclosed to the defence.

Even though Sachs passed Ridgeway off as an independent witness, he gave a strong direction as to the characters of Mitchell and McGahey and went so far as to call the pair accomplices to the murders.

In spite of this, David Mitchell subsequently received in excess of £17,000 in criminal injuries compensation.  Howard Ridgeway applied for and received a reward, which was somewhere in the region of £30,000, within days of the trial’s conclusion.  Mitchell also applied for the reward but his application was rejected.  McGahey was given Crown Immunity.

Mitchell’s bag of guns contained what was believed to be the murder weapon, four balaclavas, boxes of ammunition and a host of other firearms.  It was McGahey who hid this bag of guns following the murder and it was McGahey who, having struck a deal with the police, led to its recovery.

There was nothing in this bag forensically to connect Thomas Bourke to the weapons, ammunition or clothing.  A fingerprint belonging to David Mitchell was found on a box of ammunition recovered from the bag of guns.  The balaclavas contained hair and saliva but there was absolutely no DNA match to Thomas Bourke.  To the best of our knowledge Thomas was the only suspect ever DNA tested. Two years ago Greater Manchester Police destroyed these balaclavas, along with other evidence.   They did this in the full knowledge that Thomas’s leave to appeal aganist conviction had been lodged.  It was also brought to our attention in 2005 that a box of significant papers relating to the original trial in 1994 have gone missing from Manchester Crown Court.  All attempts by the defence team have failed to locate this box. 

The morning after the murders, Tuesday 23rd November 1993, David Mitchell and Bob McGahey met up in Stockport to make sure that their stories matched, before being re-interviewed by the police.  They calculated that if all else failed, putting Thomas in the frame would take the heat off them.

Mitchell was then taken to the police station for further questioning.  On the afternoon of Wednesday 24th November 1993, Mitchell did a deal off-tape

On Wednesday 24th November 1993, the police arrived at Walter and Thomas’s house in Stockport, where DI Kenny Caldwell asked both brothers to attend the police station as witnesses.

They voluntarily attended but at around 4.30pm they were both arrested on suspicion of murder due to the later statements that Mitchell and Ridgeway had made.

On Thursday 25th November 1993, Walter and Thomas were taken to Stockport Magistrates Court for a warrant of further detention, as there was not enough evidence to charge them.  Investigating Officer DI Kenny Caldwell said that Thomas had murdered the two inspectors with Walter as the getaway driver – part of the fiction cobbled together by Mitchell and Ridgeway the previous day. It should be noted here that Caldwell was subsequently investigated for corrupt practise on another unconnected case.  He later resigned and goes down in GMP history as one of the most corrupt officers ever to have served in the Force.

Whilst they were at the Magistrates Court, two other officers under DI Kenny Caldwell’s command, DC Gary Smith and DS Steve Horrocks, planted a key on Thomas’s key-ring to create an evidential link between him and the recovered bag of guns.  See key plant  for an explanation of this. 

On the afternoon of Friday 26th November 1993, Thomas was charged with double murder.

By this time Walter had given an aibi statement and this is when the case against the brothers started to falter.  Much to the police’s chagrin, the notion that Walter had been the ‘getaway driver’ very quickly disintegrated because a truly independent witness gave him a rock solid alibi.  It should have been as clear as day that Mitchell and Ridgeway were lying to save their own skin. Yet the police had already decided that Thomas was their man and had little choice but to stick with their motley crew of self-serving liars.  The defence team has never actually seen the statements allegedly made by Ridgeway and Mitchell.  However, once it was accepted that Walter’s alibi was irrefutable the charges against him, at least, had to be dropped.

Walter was charged with allegedly knowing that Thomas had committed an offence but not reporting it.  We later found out that this charge does not apparently exist. 

On Saturday 27th November 1993, Thomas and Walter’s sister Jo was contacted by DS Steve Horrocks who asked if she wanted to see her brothers later that day and told her that she could bring them a change of clothing and a toothbrush, etc.

Jo and her daughter Andrea visited the brothers in the interview room at Stockport police station.  They were not allowed to hand in the clothing and toiletry items.

The conversations with the family and both Walter and Thomas were covertly taped by the police (see covert taping). This was, of course, the real intention behind DS Horrocks’ invitation to the family to attend the station.  It later transpired that Walter’s legal team was also covertly taped when the CPS inadvertently sent a copy of the transcript to the defence.  This covert taping took place in the same cell where Thomas had just met with his solicitor.  Among the items destroyed by GMP after the appeal was lodged were four unmarked cassette tapes.

On Monday 29th November 1993, Walter and Thomas were sent to HMP Manchester (Strangeways).

When Thomas and Walter were allowed separately to talk to their family, they both reassured them and said that there was nothing to worry about.  They said that they would be cleared as soon as the results came through of the forensic tests on the recovered guns, balaclavas, fingerprints, clothing and the car used in the incident.

When the forensic test results came back, none of the DNA or fingerprint evidence found matched Thomas or Walter.  The charge against Walter was dropped in early February 1994 and the family expected that the charges against Thomas would also be dropped.

To our cost, our faith in the system was shattered later that year on 7th December 1994 when Thomas was convicted of both murders.