Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

By Mark Leech

Harry Mackenney

Like any parent I can’t even begin to understand the heartache of Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen McCourt, who has no idea where her daughter’s body is located because the person convicted of her murder, Ian Simms, refuses to say – insisting he is innocent of the crime.

Now, under new laws announced this month by the Justice Secretary convicted killers who refuse to reveal the location of their victim’s body may spend longer in prison. The planned law change, to be known as ‘Helen’s Law’ in her memory, will in future compel the Parole Board to take account of a failure to reveal the location of a victim’s remains when considering a killer’s release.

To any sane person it seems reasonable, I mean if anyone knows where the body is, then it has to be the convicted killer, doesn’t it?

Or does it – what happens if juries get it wrong?

What happens if they convict an innocent person?

What happens when juries believe a liar?

It has happened before – and I was involved.

On 30th November 1980, at the Old Bailey, Harry ‘Big H’ MacKenney and Terry Pinfold were convicted of six contract killings and sentenced to life – MacKenney getting a Whole Life tariff. Both men insisted they were innocent and knew nothing about any of the alleged murders.

It was a curious case.

There was no dispute that each of their six ‘victims’ had existed, nor that each and every one of them had suddenly vanished into thin air. But the involvement of both MacKenney and Pinfold in their disappearances depended on the word of just one man: John Childs.

Childs, originally arrested and questioned by Flying Squad detectives for an armed robbery, a crime he admitted, went on to tell them a bizarre story of six contract murders which, Childs claimed, had each been procured by Pinfold and then carried out by himself and MacKenney.

So where were the bodies?

Childs told detectives each of the six bodies had been dismembered in his east London flat, after which he attempted to mince the victims remains with an industrial three-phase electrical mincing machine.

When that failed, claiming the three-phase machine “would not turn at all” when connected to the flat’s two-phase electricity supply, the dismembered bodies he said had been cremated and reduced to ash in the flat’s fire grate – with the ashes then being dispersed into the wind at numerous rural locations.

Flying Squad detectives, led by Detective Superintendent Frank Cater, were dumbstruck by the story.

MacKenney was a man they knew well, having arrested him many times for a string of armed robberies but, despite standing over 6’4″ tall and being placed on over 60 of the Flying Squad’s Identity Parades, MacKenney had not been picked out even once.

MacKenney’s one previous conviction was for punching a bus driver in the early 1960’s – hardly the monstrous murderer portrayed by Childs, but Cater, and his boss, Chief Superintendent Tony Lundy, threw everything they had into the investigation.

It came to nothing.

No bodies of any of the alleged victims were ever found.

Despite months of examinations not a single piece of forensic evidence was ever discovered linking either Pinfold or MacKenney to any of the alleged crime scenes – nor any evidence at all linking even Childs himself to the crimes apart from his claims.

No blood was ever found in the flat occupied by Childs, where the bodies were said by him to have been dismembered, and despite detailed searches no trace of the industrial mincing Childs claimed to have used unsuccessfully to mince the bodies, well no trace of that was ever found either.

Despite a trawl through three years worth of Exchange and Mart newspapers, from which Childs claimed Pinfold had purchased the mincer, no such machine was ever discovered that could to be linked to MacKenney, Pinfold, or Childs himself.

A detailed a month-long forensic search of the domestic fire grate in Childs’ flat, where he claimed each of the six dismembered bodies had been burnt to cinders, produced not a single speck of forensic evidence to support his claims.

Thorough forensic searches of the various locations where Childs claimed to have disposed of the victims’ ashes, also revealed nothing; not a single piece of evidence.

The Crown themselves were forced to confront this when Childs himself appeared for sentencing having pleaded guilty to the six murders. John Matthew QC, prosecuting, told Mr Justice Lawson at the Old Bailey that, frankly, the only reason Childs was before the court at all was due to his admissions: “Without the admissions of this defendant the Crown could not have brought a prosecution in respect of any of these murders.”

So how could Pinfold and MacKenney have been convicted – and how did I ever become involved in this case?

In 1994 I was nearing the end of a 14 year sentence for robbery in Scotland when I received a letter from ‘Big H’, who I knew from Parkhurst earlier in my sentence. I was writing feature articles on the prison system for The Guardian newspaper at time and he had read one and decided to get back in touch and ask for my help. “I’m innocent” he said.

After all the time I’d been in jail I was no stranger to claims of innocence, we’ve all heard them, but there was something different about Harry’s case, it was just so incredible that I wanted to know more so I asked Harry MacKenney to send me details of his case; four weeks later five large egg boxes stacked with trial papers arrived and with nine months of my own sentence still to serve, I sat down to read.

It was truly astonishing.

Soon after my release in March 1995 I took the case of Harry MacKenney to Michael Levy, a Manchester solicitor I respected and asked him to take the case on, he agreed and employed me as the Case Consultant. With the advice and guidance of Edward Fitzgerald QC, a barrister I had known and respected for well over 20 years, I got to work.

It was obvious that getting to the bottom of this case meant dismantling the evidence of Bruce Childs. Childs was a psychopath, that much was known from a report available at the trial of Pinfold and MacKenney, prepared by Mr Barry Irving.

Irving held a Master’s Degree in Social Psychology and was a member of the permanent research staff at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, he wrote: “I believe Childs to be severely psychopathic insofar as he shows an abnormal lack of reaction to social pressures, he will not exhibit to the court any of the normal externally observable signs of fabrication upon which the jury depend to detect lying from the witness’s demeanour.”

In short, Irving was saying Childs was so disturbed no-one could tell from watching him in the witness box that he was lying, he wouldn’t show any signs of it – but the trial judge, Mr Justice May, ruled Irving’s report could not go before the jury.

“It is for juries, not psychiatrists or psychologists to determine whether a witness is telling the truth” he ruled. On the law as it stood at the time, he was absolutely right in his ruling.

Since then however the law had changed – although that of itself was not a sufficient ground of appeal.

I turned to Professor Morgan, a professor of Electrical Engineering at UMIST – the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology – and a world leader on three-phase electrical machines. Sitting in his office I came straight to the point: Why would a three-phase industrial mincing machine, when connected to the two-phase domestic electricity supply in Childs’ flat, not work?

Answer: it would work.

In direct contradiction to the evidence of Childs that the mincing machine he had used ‘would not turn at all’, Professor Morgan explained that it would definitely turn, it might lack power, certainly, but it would definitely turn. Why had no one at the trial checked?

Next, I needed a fire expert. Inquiries I had made revealed crematoria need 1600-1800 degrees to reduce a body to ash – could a fire in a domestic council flat grate produce such temperatures – and what about the smell? Neighbours of Childs questioned in 1979 all said his behaviour was bizarre, but none of them said anything about the smell of burning flesh.

I turned to Paul Williamson, an Assistant Chief Fire Officer with 35 years service. He was adamant about two things; firstly a fire in a domestic grate would not exceed 1000 degrees, you need a fuel injection system to get beyond that and 1000 degrees was way below the temperatures needed to reduce a body to ash – and secondly you could not burn six bodies without the smell of burning flesh being obvious.

“We all know how the smell of a bacon butty lingers in a kitchen for an hour” he said, “the smell of burning flesh is unmistakable, you can’t burn six complete bodies and no one notice a thing without powerful extraction fans.” Childs had never claimed to have extraction fans.

More worryingly, evidence we found in police files, but not disclosed to the defence at the trial, revealed that one of the alleged victims, Terry Eve, had actually been tracked down by police, living under an assumed name in south London, three years after Childs and the Crown alleged he had been murdered – and the Detective Chief Inspector who had been told this was still alive and able to corroborate it.

Finally Childs himself admitted, in a sworn affidavit, the whole story was fictitious from start to end, he had taken the details from newspaper reports – MacKenney and Pinfold he said were innocent.

From inquiries we made it also became clear that Childs had a long history of bogus admissions to crimes. At various times, in addition to the claims he made about MacKenney and Pinfold, Childs had told police he was responsible for:

The killing of an inmate when he was at Rochester Borstal in 1958/9. The police had conducted a full investigation of this confession and they concluded that, although he had given a truthful account of his violent behaviour at Borstal, he had embellished it by making up a totally fictitious account of the murder of an inmate.

A murder at the Kray Brothers Club in Holloway in 1964/5. In this case Childs claimed that with criminal associates he acted as Judge and “tried” a person alleged to be an informer, and acting as Jury he convicted the man, and as Executioner he claimed to have then shot him. The police again conducted a full investigation and concluded that it was extremely unlikely that this ever happened.

There were further claims of a robbery and shooting at the Soho Club in 1966/7, stabbings in public houses in Hillingdon and drive by shooting too; the police could trace no record of any of these.

A murder in Poplar High Street in 1978 of a vagrant whom Childs then claimed to have dismembered and burnt. The police could find no evidence to support this at all.

In July 2001 the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) having spent 18 months considering MacKenney’s application, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal.

More than two years later, in October 2003, the Appeal Court finally quashed the convictions of Harry MacKenney and Terry Pinfold and both men, after spending 24 years in prison, walked free.

But pause here now for a moment.

What if none of this had happened?

What if Helen’s Law, or something similar, had been in place at this time?

How could Pinfold or MacKenney, or anyone convicted of a murder they knew nothing about, reveal the location of a deceased whose death or disposal they had nothing to do with?

Juries do get it wrong, the case of MacKenney and Pinfold proves that six times over – and what happens even when juries get it right?

What happens when the Parole Board, forced to employ Helen’s Law comes up against someone genuinely guilty of a murder? Someone who admits their part in it, who is remorseful, has made good progress in custody, whose risk of harm can be safely managed in the community – but who genuinely asserts the body was disposed of not by them, but by a third party, who are themselves now deceased, and they have no idea where the body of the person they killed is located?

Are they to be denied release?

And what of those killers who don’t care about getting out, what of those who after decades in prison have nothing to go out to?

What of those who will see this as a sick game, who wish to inflict even greater pain on the victim’s families – families who may well over the years have constantly abused the prisoner in the media whenever their case was mentioned – and who now demand their help?

What if killers deliberately mislead by identifying as ‘burial sites’ what are today major buildings, motorways, or railway lines; saying these are the final resting place of the deceased?

What if a person claims the body is buried in what is now Canary Wharf, the Port of Dover, Heathrow or Gatwick Airports?

How many times are these places to be shut down, sites excavated, and all in vain – raising a family’s hopes, only to have them trashed and dashed once again?

What happens if it is claimed the body was buried at sea – how does the Parole Board even begin to unpick that one?

It is understandable why any parent wants to locate the body of their child, brutally slain and left to rot in some godforsaken place they know not where.

But this is a difficult and complex area, one that politicians interfere with at their peril. What seems to them like an opportunity to gain political kudos may well, in reality, bring nothing but unforeseen and untold distress to the victim’s family who have surely already suffered more than enough.

We may be dealing here with some killers who have no feelings, serial killers especially rarely do, and the end result of Helen’s Law, however well-intentioned, may be that the victim’s families must endure even greater pain.

Who knows what may happen when juries, families or the Parole Board, believe a liar?

Mark Leech, is the Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales.

He tweets as @prisonsorguk:

Mother ‘Elated’ Helen’s Law Will Deny Killers Parole Until Bodies Are Found

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

The mother of murdered Helen McCourt said she is “elated” laws are to finally change so killers are denied parole if they refuse to reveal where they hid their victim’s body.

Marie McCourt has begged murderer Ian Simms to tell her the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains ever since the insurance clerk vanished on her way home from work in 1988.

But the pub landlord, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of the 22-year-old’s abduction and murder and is still in jail, has always maintained his innocence.

She campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he helped lead police to her daughter’s body.

MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016 but it had yet to receive Government backing, until Justice Secretary David Gauke announced the move on Saturday.

Helen’s Law will make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer’s failure to disclose the location of their victim’s remains when considering them for release.

Mrs McCourt, from St Helens, Merseyside, said she hoped it would stop the “torture” of killers “calling the shots” and realise they need to co-operate.

If they do help, it should not automatically mean they can be released, she added.

She told PA: “I feel really elated and quite relieved that it’s finally happening.

“I really can’t believe it. I have been trying for so long

“It has been a terrible stress on me since I started the petition in 2015. It was voted for in Parliament but then it was delayed after the general election.

“I just know Brexit took up too much time in Parliament.

“This law will help so many other families.”

When she marks what would have been her daughter’s 54th birthday later this month, she said it would be with her “heart lifted” in light of the news.

But she said it was still agony being denied the chance to recover her daughter’s remains, adding: “I wrote to him, begging him ‘please, please just tell me and you will not hear from me again’.

“I still hope he will remain in prison until he tells me.

“I hope one day I will know.”

She thanked her “amazing” MP Conor McGinn and Mr Gauke for their support in the campaign and said the wait for change was long but worth it.

Parole Board guidance already says offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could therefore face longer in prison.

But Helen’s Law will for the first time make it a legal requirement to consider this withholding of information when making a decision on whether to release an offender, the Ministry of Justice said.

It is hoped the legislation will be brought into force as soon as possible.

Courts can also hand down tougher sentences for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.

Mr Gauke said: “It is a particular cruelty to deny grieving families the opportunity to lay their murdered loved one to rest and I have immense sympathy with Marie McCourt and others in her situation.

“Those responsible should know that if they choose to compound this further through their behaviour, they will be held accountable.”

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

Victims can challenge Parole Decisions- but without a ha’penny of Legal Aid to help them, and members of the public are banned!

Justice Secretary David Gauke has unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the Parole System designed to help Victims challenge legally defective decisions – but they won’t get so much as a ha’penny in Legal Aid to help them. 

Victims will for the first time be able to challenge decisions to release the most serious criminals without having to resort to costly and complex court battles, but critics have said expecting victims to understand complex legal arguments without legal assistance is ‘miserly and meaningless’.

Furthermore, it is only victims who can use the new ‘reconsideration mechanism’ – members of the public unconnected with the case, are barred from making use of it.

Ministers announced details of the shake-up just over a year after the Parole Board sparked a backlash by ruling that Worboys, one of the country’s most notorious sex offenders, was safe to be freed after around a decade behind bars.

Mr Gauke said: “Taken together, these reforms will help ensure that the mistakes made in the John Worboys parole case would not happen again.

“We owe that to victims, and I am determined to rebuild society’s trust in this system.”

Under the new reconsideration mechanism, victims who believe a decision to be fundamentally flawed will submit their concerns via the Justice Secretary.

These applications will be assessed by a dedicated team within the Prisons and Probation Service.

If officials conclude there may have been a legal flaw or significant mistake in the process used to reach a decision, they will then be passed to a senior judicial member of the Parole Board, who will decide whether the case should be looked at again.

The Government emphasised that the measure is not aimed at decisions which are “challenging and unpopular”, but which comply with legal requirements and standards of practice.

Victims will not be entitled to legal aid to help them prepare their application, which must be lodged within 21 days of notification of a decision.

There will be no fee for seeking to have a decision reconsidered.

The Government had considered opening up the scheme to the wider public, but following a consultation concluded it should be restricted to the parties in the case.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) noted that its decision to limit the process to release decisions relating to prisoners serving indeterminate or extended determinate sentences may not go as far as some may have wished.

But it said a broader criteria would not be “workable”.

The department also concluded that public hearings for parole processes were not currently “viable”.

The new mechanism, earmarked to be in place by the summer, is expected to cost £1.3 million in the first year and £1.2 million annually going forward.

Officials estimate that in 2019/20, approximately 3,400 parole decisions will be eligible for reconsideration.

It is thought the Justice Secretary may seek to challenge between 1% and 5% of release decisions, while prisoners may seek to challenge between 13% and 16% of decisions to keep them in custody.

The MoJ estimates that the mechanism will generate around 25 to 90 additional oral hearings a year, and will have a “minimal” impact on the prison population.

Kim Harrison, a lawyer from Slater and Gordon who represents a number of Worboys’ victims, welcomed the announcement as a “step in the right direction” but added: “Much needs to be done to support victims, including introducing better counselling and mental health services and properly funded legal advice to help them appeal.”

In other measures, the Parole Board will create standard practice documents to clearly set out the approach expected of panel members, including how they should assess wider allegations of offending which may not have led to a conviction, and an in-depth review will consider possible root-and-branch reforms of the parole process.

Worboys, 61, became known as the “black cab rapist” after attacking women in his hackney carriage.

He was jailed indefinitely in 2009 with a minimum term of eight years after being convicted of 19 offences relating to 12 victims – one count of rape, four counts of sexual assault, one count of attempted sexual assault, one count of assault by penetration, and 12 counts of administering a substance with intent.

In March, the Parole Board’s release direction was quashed by the High Court following a legal challenge by two women.

The original decision was later formally overturned after the case was examined by a new panel.

The Parole Board assesses whether serving prisoners in England and Wales are safe to be released into the community or moved to open conditions, considering around 25,000 cases a year.

Following complaints the body’s processes were shrouded in secrecy, ministers have already scrapped a rule banning it from disclosing information about the reasoning behind its panels’ findings.

Mark Leech, Editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales, called the lack of legal aid ‘miserly and meaningless’.

Mr Leech said: “I welcome the ability to challenge defective parole decisions, it brings speed and balance to the Parole process – but to expect legally unqualified victims to recognise complex legal issues within what would otherwise be a judicial review in the High Court is miserly and completely meaningless.

“What’s more denying members of the public, who may be legally qualified and able to recognise legal defects in a particular decision, from making use of the new reconsideration mechanism, shows what a complete nonsense the whole thing is.

“As we see so often with this Government, they purport to give with one hand and then immediately snatch it back with the other.

“As a solicitor who understands how complex in law the concept of illegality, irrationality and procedural impropriety are, Guake should be ashamed of himself.”

Victims to get new powers to challenge Parole Decisions

Crime victims are to be given new powers to challenge the release of violent offenders after a parole system review sparked by the case of black cab rapist John Worboys.

Rather than launching a costly and time-consuming court challenge to Parole Board decisions, they will be able to apply directly to the Justice Secretary to overturn them, current minister David Gauke said.

The challenge system, which has to be launched within 21 days of victims being notified of a decision to release, will only apply to the most serious of offenders serving lengthy jail terms.

The review came after a decision to release former taxi driver Worboys in 2018, after almost a decade behind bars, was only overturned following a judicial review.

He had been jailed indefinitely in 2009, with a minimum term of eight years, for 19 offences relating to violent sex attacks including rapes on 12 victims.

The new power is among a series of reforms to the parole system due to be announced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) this week.

Mr Gauke said: “This landmark reform will for the first time empower victims to hold the Parole Board to account for its decision and help restore public confidence in the important work that it does.”

The new system will apply to Indeterminate Sentence Prisoners (ISPs), which include those serving a life sentence and those, like Worboys, sentenced to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).

It would also apply to those serving extended sentences – where prison terms are bolstered by ordering the convicted criminal to serve more time on licence afterwards than would usually be the case.

The MoJ said that the challenge threshold would be “similar” to that of a judicial review, focusing on “illegality, irrationality and procedural unfairness”.

The request would be first considered by a team at the Prison and Probation Service and could then be passed to a named Parole Board judge who could order the original panel to review its decision or order a fresh hearing.

It is understood that the Worboys case would meet the review threshold under the “procedural unfairness” provision.

Controversy was sparked in January last year when it emerged the Parole Board had decided Worboys was safe to be freed.

In March, the release direction was quashed by the High Court, following a legal challenge by two women.

As a result Worboys, 61, was kept behind bars until the case had been reassessed by a new panel, which later decided he should remain in prison.

Mark Leech, Editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisons in England and Wales, said the new powers ‘strike the right balance’.

Mr Leech said: “The very concept of justice requires balance, fairness to both sides, as this isn’t to be a political decision but a judicial one it therefore strikes the right balance.

“Victims must have a say when it comes to early release decisions, too often in the most serious cases they have been left bewildered by release decisions.

“It will still be open to victims to seek a judicial review of any Parole Panel’s decision referred to it under these new powers, this just provides a speedier route of challenge and to that extent it is to be welcomed for providing speed and clarity to victim and offender alike.”

Parole Board Chair Expresses ‘Significant Concern’ over diversity of Parole Board Members – where just 13 of 240 Members are from BAME backgrounds

Unconscious bias in the recruitment process is feared to have led to the Parole Board having no black members, according to its chairwoman.

Caroline Corby said it was of “significant concern” to her, adding that the approach to recruitment will change.

Ms Corby also outlined how the board, which assesses whether serving prisoners in England and Wales are safe to be released into the community or moved to open conditions, had suffered a “loss of confidence” following the John Worboys case.

She said it was hard to measure if members were more risk-averse following the case, although she noted that the release rate was usually around 49% but decreased to about 42% in the immediate aftermath and has since increased to 46%, with more adjournments and deferrals.

The Parole Board sparked huge controversy in January by ruling that Worboys, known as the black cab rapist, was safe to be freed after around a decade behind bars.

The board’s release direction was quashed by the High Court in March and changes were made, including a transparency drive over its decision

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Corby said of the board’s diversity: “I am a little bit concerned about this.

“Of our 240 members, 13 currently have a BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) background and I want to do better than that.”

She added: “At the moment we have no black Parole Board members and that’s of significant concern to me. But in terms of addressing this issue, we’re very keen to have as many people with a BAME background apply to us as possible.

“We have learnt lessons from our last recruitment round because we actually had the same objective and we weren’t successful so I am determined to learn lessons from last time around.”

Asked why, Ms Corby said there were not enough applicants from BAME backgrounds and those who did apply did “very poorly” in the first two stages of the five-stage process for “reasons we don’t entirely understand”.

She added: “But I think there must have been some kind of unconscious bias in those processes. We’re not going to have those processes next time around.”

On the impact of the Worboys ruling, Ms Corby said: “It was obviously a very difficult period for the board.

“We saw the departure of our previous chair in difficult circumstances, the board was subject to unprecedented amount of publicity, the like of which we haven’t experienced before, and I think there was a loss of confidence amongst ourselves a little bit, perhaps a loss of confidence in the wider public and that was something I am very keen to repair.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said: “Its absolutely right the Parole Board recognise this huge gap between its membership and the diversity of service users whose release they are considering – justice demands understanding.

“The Parole Board has just 5% of its membership from BAME backgrounds, yet over 26% of the prison population identify as BAME – what does that say for justice?”

Latest Prison Population Diversity Statistics July 2018

Jane Andrews to be released say Parole Board

The Prisons Handbook 2015 – out now  /  Home Page  /  Converse Prison Newspaper

janeandrews

Former royal aide Jane Andrews, who was jailed for stabbing her boyfriend to death in 2001, is to be released from prison, the Parole Board has said.

She flew into a rage when he told her he had no intention of marrying her and, while he was asleep, battered him with a cricket bat and then stabbed him to death.

The Secretary of State will now rule on her release date.

A spokesman for the Parole Board said two men and one woman made the decision and added: “We can confirm that a three member panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Jane Andrews.

“The decision to release is a matter for the Board, which is independent – arrangements and the date of the release are a matter for the Secretary of State for Justice.

“We are unable to comment further on the details of this case.”

The killer will be bankrolled into new found freedom – with a nest-egg from property sales she made in jail.

She is now set to use the cash windfall to fund her eventual release.

Last night a shocked relative of her victim warned that the former flunkey was still volatile, and posed a serious threat to men if her future relationships imploded.

Tom’s older brother Rick Cressman, aged 64 years, insisted that Andrews had never shown remorse.

And he recently warned the Parole Board examining her freedom bid not to be swayed by any belated apology she might make to achieve it.

Rick had previously said Andrews should be accompanied by a public health warning, like those on cigarette packets.

Friends are understood to have alerted his family, who wanted Andrews to stay in jail, to prepare themselves for her release which the three man Parole Board yesterday approved.

Rick insisted yesterday: “Her getting parole is against our wishes and is a devastating blow to all of us.”

Andrews has already served an extra two-years on top of the 11 year life sentence tariff imposed at the Old Bailey in 2001.

She subsequently lost a previous freedom bid on the grounds that she remained a danger to the opposite sex.

Now aged 46 years, Andrews stabbed her ex stock broker partner with a kitchen knife and battered him with a cricket bat before fleeing – leading to her former boss, Sarah Ferguson, appealing for her to surrender.

While serving life at HMP Send, near Guildford, Surrey, she sold her flat overlooking Battersea Park, London, two-years-ago, making a reported £300,000 profit.

This enabled her to buy another dwelling, a terraced house in Angmering, near Worthing, West Sussex, costing around £300k – which again she sold recently.

It means that the working class girl from Grimsby, the ambitious daughter of a joiner and a social worker mother, is likely to be switched to an open prison in preparation for her release.

She now has a healthy bank balance, either to invest, or help her get back on to the property ladder, when she is finally released.

Rick claimed Tom would have helped her to buy the London property, or at least made contributions to her mortgage payments, before she murdered him.

“Andrews is still devious and her personality hasn’t changed,” he insisted last night.

The volatile ex-royal aide has made three suicide attempts. Her first was when she was 15, after her mother discovered her truancy. She made a second bid after trashing the home of the son of a Greek shipping millionaire who had dumped her.

Her final bid to end her life came after she fled Tom’s murder and went on the run, hiding in her getaway car in a roadside lay by in Cornwall.

Andrews married aged 17 but divorced five years later claiming she had been abused.

Strangely, she was never punished for escaping from a previous open prison, East Sutton Park, Kent.

The £19,000 a year Royal servant, who saw Fergie’s job advertised in The Lady magazine, was jailed following a sensational trial at the Old Bailey, in which she dressed every day, head to toe, in black as if to show the jury she was in mourning.

Following his wedding snub, she murdered her partner at his home in Fulham, West London, following a holiday in Italy.

Kenneth Noye gets parole hearing

Kenneth Noye
Kenneth Noye

Double killer Kenneth Noye, from Kent, could be freed after getting a parole hearing, sparking anger from the parents of one of his young victims.

Noye, 67, was jailed for life in 2000 for the murder of electrician Stephen Cameron, 21, in a road rage attack.

The career criminal had earlier stabbed to death an undercover officer outside his mock Tudor mansion after the £26 million Brink’s Mat bullion heist but successfully pleaded self-defence.

Stephen’s father Ken branded his son’s killer “evil” and said he should die in jail.

Mr Cameron told The Sun: “He left my son dying in the gutter and fled to Spain. I don’t believe for a minute he has changed his ways, it’s a load of old rubbish. He’ll always be a dangerous man.

“Noye should never be allowed out of prison. He is an evil man and has never shown any remorse for what he did.”

Noye stabbed Stephen in the heart and liver with a nine inch knife as the electrician’s 17-year-old fiance screamed for help following a punch up on the M25 Swanley interchange in Kent in May 1996.

He fled to Spain, becoming Britain’s most wanted man and sparking a massive manhunt. He travelled on a false passport and went into hiding for several years, but was eventually tracked down to southern Spain and in 1998 was extradited back to the UK.

The gangster stood trial at the Old Bailey where a huge security operation was put in place amid concerns key witnesses and jurors could be intimidated.

He was found guilty and jailed for life, and was later given a minimum tariff of 16 years.

Noye had already become one of Britain’s most notorious criminals after he was involved in a notorious gold bullion heist at Heathrow Airport in 1983.

The gang stole 6,000 gold bars, diamonds and cash in what was dubbed the “crime of the century”.

Police launched an investigation, which soon focused on Noye’s mansion in Kent. It was in the grounds of this house that Noye stabbed to death undercover officer Detective Constable John Fordham in 1985.

He was cleared of murder after claiming he had killed the officer in self-defence, but was jailed for 14 years for handling stolen bullion.

Mark Leech editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse said the release of life sentence prisoners was a carefully managed process.

Mr Leech said: “Life sentence prisoners have the lowest reconviction rate of any group of former prisoners because their release is a carefully managed process spread across two or three years.

“Of course the families of victims want to see the killers of their loved ones die in jail, I would too, but you can’t base release decisions on that kind of understandable emotion, justice demands impartiality and Kenneth Noye has a right to expect that too.”

Former probation union chief Harry Fletcher told The Sun: “It is unusual for a lifer to be released after the first Parole Board hearing. But it paves the way for their freedom.”

A Parole Board spokeswoman said: “His case has been referred to us.”

Noye was jailed in 2000 and ordered to serve a minimum of 16 years. However, he could be freed by the Parole Board this April because his sentence took into account time he served on remand while standing trial.

The spokeswoman added: “The Parole Board can only direct the release of a life sentence prisoner if it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for him to be detained in order to protect the public from serious harm and, if it is so satisfied, it is required to release the prisoner.

“Each case is assessed on its own individual merits.”

She said cases such as this were regularly referred to them for consideration once a prisoner has served the minimum term, which Noye now has.

Cop Killer Harry Roberts Released

Harry Roberts - right
Harry Roberts – right

Police killer Harry Roberts has been released from prison, despite calls from relatives of his victims, politicians and senior police for him to stay behind bars.

The 78-year-old, who was jailed for life for shooting dead three unarmed policemen in 1966, was released from Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire on Monday night, The Sun reported.

Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation John Tully said on Twitter that he thought Roberts’s release was “sickening”.

Roberts spent 45 years in jail after murdering Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, 30, Detective Constable David Wombwell, 25, and Constable Geoffrey Fox, 41.

The revelation that he was to be let out of prison sparked anger last month.

Mandy Fox, the youngest daughter of Pc Fox, branded the decision a “disgrace” and said she was “sickened” that Roberts was being released.

Gillian Wombwell, the widow of Mr Wombwell, said: “Our sentence is for life and so should his be.”

The prospect of Roberts being set free also drew strong criticism from Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said a life sentence should have been just that.

Home Secretary Theresa May and London mayor Boris Johnson added their voices to the chorus calling for Roberts to remain behind bars.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last month defended the Parole Board which decided on the release, saying such a decision is not about “feelings” but “how the justice system works”.

He said: “If you want to run the system according to the latest emotion you feel, fine, but that would be a disaster.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We do not comment on individuals.

“Offenders on life sentences are subject to strict controls for as long as their risk requires them. If they fail to comply with these conditions they can be immediately returned to prison.

“Offenders managed through multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) are monitored and supervised by probation, police and other agencies.”

Judges will no longer chair life sentence parole boards

paroleboard

Judges will no longer be required to chair Parole Board hearings for life sentence prisoners and those detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, Justice Minister Lord Faulks has said.

The chairman of the Parole Board will now be able to appoint any member of it to chair such panels for oral hearings.

This could include sitting or retired judges.

In a written ministerial statement, Lord Faulks said: “This approach will enable the Parole Board to adopt a flexible approach in assessing which of its members are best able to sit on and chair oral panels involving life sentence prisoners.

“Oral hearing panels, which do not include sitting or retired judges, already consider determinate cases and cases involving sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). These cases can be just as difficult and complex as the cases of life sentenced prisoners.

“The Parole Board already assesses non-judicial members as to whether they possess sufficient skills and experience to be effective in chairing IPP cases.

“Following the amendment of the 2011 rules, the process of assessment and additional training will be extended to all members in respect of serving on and chairing life sentence panels.

“This Government regards the protection of the public as a priority and this change will help us create a more effective and efficient criminal justice system, and will allow greater flexibility, given the demands on a sitting judge’s time.”

Duchess of York Lifer – Freed in Weeks?

Jane Andrews
Jane Andrews

A murderer who once worked as an aide to Sarah Ferguson could be freed from her life sentence within weeks after applying for early release – but one prisons expert argues it will be at least another three years before she is in any realistic position to be freed.

Jane Andrews, 46, who stabbed her wealthy lover Thomas Cressman to death in a row over marriage, has reportedly applied for release after reaching the minimum 12 years in prison recommended as part of the life sentence she was given in 2001.

Although she will still have to convince a parole board that she is no longer a danger to society, Andrews, who had a similar release request turned down in 2012, could be back on the streets within weeks.

Andrews became a close friend and confidante of the Duchess of York during nine years as her employee – joining her on royal duties both in the UK and abroad.

In 2000, after Mr Cressman refused to get married, she clubbed the 39-year-old businessman unconscious with a cricket bat at their home in Fulham, west London. She then stabbed him to death.

During an argument in the hours before the murder, Cressman called police saying ‘somebody is going to get hurt’, but officers decided not to attend the scene.

Andrews attacked her boyfriend just a few hours later while he was sleeping.

Shortly after the killing, Andrews contacted her ex-husband Christopher Dunn-Butler and sent out text messages to friends inquiring about her lover’s whereabouts and well-being.

She claimed to have had no involvement in Cressman’s death and said she believed he was being blackmailed.

After she disappeared for several days during the police investigation, officers launched a manhunt and finally located her in Cornwall, where she was found overdosed in her car.

After her recovery and a subsequent police interrogation, Andrews was arrested for murder.

During her trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard Andrews had a history of depression and violent mood swings, and had made several suicide attempts and threats.

Speaking to Jeremy Armstrong at the Mirror, Mr Cressman’s brother Rick said he was ‘disappointed’ Andrews was applying for early release.

He said: ‘She remains a seriously dangerous individual and shouldn’t be freed… we have to live the rest of our lives without Tommy. That’s our life sentence.’

Expressing his anger that Andrews was applying for early release again despite being  turned down two years ago, Mr Cressman added: ‘The justice system allows for people who have committed heinous crimes the opportunity to have parole. As a family we can’t do anything about that.’

Andrews is understood to held at Send Prison in in Surrey, having been moved for East Sutton Park open prison after absconding in 2009.

Andrews spent two days on the run before being returned to the prison, although the Crown Prosecution Service said she would not face additional charges after considering psychiatric reports.

The Parole Board confirmed their review was ‘currently ongoing’, adding that Andrews remained in ‘closed conditions’.

Born to a working class family in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, Andrews was 21 when she answered a personal advert in The Lady for a personal dresser.

She was hired by the Duchess of York six months later and was a trusted member of her inner circle until being made redundant in the late 1990s as part of a Buckingham Palace cost-cutting exercise.

Andrews’ murder trial attracted huge media attention at the turn of their millennium, seemingly as much for the glamorous circles she moved in over the previous decade as for the brutal killing itself.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he thought it ‘highly unlikely’ that she would be freed any time soon.

Mr Leech said: “It is highly unlikely she will be freed any time soon even though she is now post-tariff – that is, has served in excess of her minimum term.

“She remains in closed conditions following her abscond from East Sutton Park in 2009, and that in itself is a huge indicator that she is not yet considered suitable to be trusted.

“Realistically I suspect we are looking at a minimum of three more years before she is in any realistic position to be released – and she will have to be tested in an open prison again for at least a couple of years before release becomes any kind of possibility.”