Saturday, December 20, 2008



Babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth, who was previously found guilty of murdering her neighbour's two-year-old son by repeatedly banging the boy's head against a wooden banister, won an appeal against her conviction. She was granted bail after Court of Appeal Judges declared her conviction for the murder of a toddler "unsafe" in the light of new medical evidence.

Acting for Suzanne, Henry Blaxland QC of Garden Court's Crime team argued that new evidence showed she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice over the death of the two-year old boy. The Court of Appeal was told that they child had abnormalities which predisposed him to epilepsy.

Henry Blaxland QC said that the doctors who gave evidence at trial "got it wrong" and "collectively failed to diagnose" that the Kyle had a "highly unusual brain", which indicated three abnormalities, two of which predisposed him to epilepsy."

Henry Blaxland QC also stated that the prosecution's case at trial 'was based on expert medical opinion evidence to the effect that the child died from fatal brain swelling or oedema which was caused by a blow or blows of significant force.'

A jury was told in 2005 that the mum-of-two smashed the toddler’s head against a bannister with the force of “a car crash at 60mph," Yet Kyles's skull was unbroken and there was no evidence of hair, blood or tissue on the wood.

One of the experts who provided fresh evidence on behalf of the defence at Holdsworth's second trial, was forensic pathologist Dr. Christopher Millroy who participated in the Ontario Chief Coroner's Review of suspicious death of infant's cases involving Dr. Charles Smith and later testified at the recently concluded Goudge Inquiry;


There appears to be increasing recognition that the Holdsworth and Stagg cases - two black marks in British policing - are linked by incompetent police forensic work.

The link becomes apparent in reactions to a "leading article" published in the Independent on December 19, 2008, under the heading, "An incompetent police force."

"Robert Napper's guilty plea to manslaughter yesterday at the Old Bailey should have been an occasion for grim satisfaction," the leading article begins.

"A triple killer and serial rapist has been convicted, and he will be detailed indefinitely at Broadmoor hospital," it continues;

"But the primary emotion this outcome inspires is not satisfaction but revulsion at the incompetence and carelessness of police.

The investigation into the killing of Rachel Nickell, who was stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common in 1992, and which Napper finally admitted yesterday, was botched from the start.

The Metropolitan Police placed huge confidence in the judgement of a hired psychologist and went after a local oddball, Colin Stagg – apparently ignoring the possibility that they might have arrested the wrong man.

Officers went to extraordinary lengths to pin the crime on Stagg, resorting to constant surveillance and, as it turned out, illegal entrapment methods.

Meanwhile, the real killer, Napper, went on to murder Samantha Bissett, 27, and her four-year-old daughter, Jazmine, the following year.

Police had already missed several chances to bring Napper to justice even before the Nickell killing.

They failed to question him after his mother rang them in 1989 to say her son had confessed to a rape.

He was also questioned after a spate of sex attacks across south-east London in 1992, but was eliminated from the inquiries because of sloppy detective work.

Sadly, the incompetence did not end there.

Advances in forensic science should have been used by police to re-examine the DNA samples from the Nickell case.

It never happened.

It took a private forensic laboratory to look at the data again and link Napper to the killing.

There will doubtless be those tempted to cite yesterday's belated admission by Napper as a reason to ignore concerns about the headlong expansion of the national DNA database.

In fact, this sorry affair supports the opposite case.

It is when police fail to carry out basic detective work and rely heavily on new-fangled techniques that truly dangerous individuals are left at liberty.

The failure to catch Robert Napper earlier is not an argument for a police state – it is an argument for a competent police force."

And now for the link:

As one reader commented in a letter to the Independent:

"The police tell us there is no need for an inquiry because they have already learned from this case. Just as they have learned from the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Yorkshire Ripper, the Carl Bridgewater case, Evans and Christie, Bentley and Craig, Sally Clark - and that's a just a few of the most well known miscarriages of justice.

And will they learn anything from the Suzanne Holdsworth case? I don't think so: they have already refused to give the woman an apology.

To be sure, there are still many good coppers striving to do the right thing, but sadly the shallow political environment which they find themselves values quantity over quality. Hence lots of easy nicks with cameras, taking fines off harmless folk by post, and a lot less integrity and hard work."

Another reader pointed out to the Independent that the very same paper reporting the Stagg case contained a story in which, "the Cleveland Police are said to have failed in the case of the babysitter who was accused banging the baby's head against a wooden banister despite complete lack of forensic evidence...Time for root-and-branch reform."