A major plank in the appeal application was new evidence in respect of covert recordings of both Thomas and Walter Bourke in police cells.   Although transcripts exist of recordings between both men and family members and between Walter Bourke and his solicitor – those between Thomas and his solicitor were suspiciously absent.  Thomas’s legal team had uncovered documentation for a series of tapes that had never been disclosed to the defence.

In the month following the Directions Hearing, the Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell, who was junior prosecuting counsel to Peter Openshaw QC at the trial in 1994, was asked about his recollection of covert recordings. He stated:

I have taken the opportunity of discussing with Mr Openshaw the question of whether there were any PII [Public Interest Immunity] applications in relation to covert recordings of Thomas Bourke’s dealings with his solicitors.  Both our recollections are we were never informed of any covert recordings of Thomas Bourke and his solicitor.  We are sure that if such a recording had been brought to our attention, we would have remembered it because it would be so obviously important and highly sensitive”.

On Wednesday 24th November 1993, David Mitchell and Howard Ridgeway were taken to Stockport police station.  At 10am, DCI Richardson decided to start covertly taping their conversations. 

Ridgeway and his wife were taken to a senior officer’s room that was already rigged for covert taping. 

Mitchell was taken to an interview room in the custody area.  This room was also fully operational for covert taping.

Both Mitchell and Ridgeway were then covertly taped all that day.  The room where Mitchell was taped also happened to be the room where suspects spoke to their solicitors before interview by the police.  By 12pm on 24th November 1993, Detective Superintendent Murray decided to apply for authorisation to covertly tape Mitchell but, strangely, not Ridgeway.  He also applied for authorisation to covertly tape an interview room in Stockport police station.

We know that certain parts of Stockport police station were permanently bugged due to the fact that the police were already taping Mitchell and Ridgeway before they applied for authorisation.

When Thomas and Walter were arrested on 24th November 1993, they were placed in separate cells.  On 25th November, as there was no evidence with which to charge them, they were taken to Stockport Magistrates Court for a warrant of further detention.  When they were returned to Stockport police station they were, somewhat surprisingly, placed in the same cell.

It was accepted by Lord Justice Moses at the leave to appeal hearing on 18th October 2007, that the reason they were placed together was that it was the intention of the police to covertly tape their conversation.  He also accepted that Thomas was seen by his legal team in the same cell, yet it did not seem to offend his sense of justice or propriety that four cassette tapes were destroyed by GMP after Thomas’s appeal was lodged.  He made no reference to this fact in his judgement.