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 Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire : Monday January 26, 2004

MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE?

Artist's impression of the murderer
Championing the case for freedom

In 1997, Derek Christian was found guilty and jailed for life for an horrific murder. Inside Out examines the evidence presented by those campaigning for his freedom.

On a February afternoon in 1995, 66-year-old Margaret Wilson was brutally murdered in a totally random attack whilst walking in a country lane in Burton Fleming.

She had her throat cut with a knife.

Evidence, from eye witnesses, confirms that a man ran down the lane after her, killed her and then drove off.

Margaret Wilson
Margaret Wilson, a victim of a motiveless murder

Margaret Wilson had no enemies, only friends. To this day, no-one knows why she was murdered.

Some two years later Derek Christian, a local man, was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

But on re-visiting the evidence, there may have been two injustices.

The vicious killing of Margaret Wilson is one - a shocking crime in itself, but another is the growing campaign supporting Derek Christian's claim of innocence.

Is an innocent man in prison and a killer still on the loose?

Witness

One witness in the trial was Wendy Price.

She was riding her horse about 10 miles away from Burton Fleming when a man in a car followed her down a track.

He drove passed her and then pulled in, waiting for her.

Wendy Price
Wendy Price did not see Christian in the dock

She explained that she was in no doubt he meant her harm, "His eyes just glared right through me and my defence mechanisms told me to get the hell out of here."

Wendy Price gave her evidence in court, but was never asked whether she could identify the man in the dock - Derek Christian.

"They never asked me in the court whether I could identify Derek Christian, they never said 'Is this the gentleman that followed you'? - I was never asked that, she insisted.

"I know that the gentleman I saw in the court that day was not the gentleman I saw out riding," she says.

Clean shaven

This could mean there are two possible explanations...

  • Either the man who followed Wendy Price was not the killer - but a different man out to do harm in the same vicinity on the same day

  • Or he was the killer, and it was not Derek Christian

Eye witnesses also helped draw up two photo-fit pictures.

Both illustrations depicted a clean shaven man. But Derek Christian had a beard.

Would it have been possible for him to have grown one in three days?

Kevin Christian
Kevin Christian, 'The police were under pressure'

Derek's brother Kevin is pivotal to the campaign for Derek's innocence and freedom.

He organises it from Germany, where he works as a translator.

He maintains that the fact that Derek had a beard similar to his own, the heinous crime could not have been carried out by him.

"The murderer was known to have been clean shaven and Derek had a pronounced goatee beard, like mine, a mere three days after the murder, and this has been documented by the police," he maintains.

He added, "The police were under pressure when they first arrested Derek, they had no major leads for a year, nothing had happened, they were undoubtedly under pressure to make an arrest."

Common knife

The murder weapon, a knife, was left at the scene of the crime with no finger-prints on it. But it did have a stain left by the repeated cutting of vegetables.

Thousands of this particular type of knife are in circulation, being used by vegetable farmers and food processing factories throughout the country.

A knife similar to the murder weapon
The murder weapon was a very common style of knife

There is no doubt that this type of knife was the murder weapon.

Derek Christian worked at the McCains frozen chip factory in Scarborough and had access to one of these knives, but is that firm evidence or just coincidence?

When Derek Christian was arrested, his work clothes were seized to establish whether fibres from them had been transferred to those of the victim's.

In court the jury were told that the fibres found on Margaret Wilson's clothes were "microscopically indistinguishable" from 78 fibres found on Derek Christian's clothes.

That sounds conclusive - but is it?

Alison Duberry, a fibres expert, explained what is meant by that term, "Microscopically indistinguishable does not mean the 'same as'."

She continued, "In terms of their colour, their appearance and how they look down the microscope, it doesn't mean that they definately came from the same garment."

Police statement changes nothing

Meantime, with his brother in a maximum security prison, Kevin Christian's campaign for his brother's freedom goes on.

Prison wall and wire
Christian is inside, but the campaign goes on

And with Derek refusing to admit his guilt, there is no eligibility for parole.

The investigating police force, Humberside Police, have added little comfort to any positive sign for Derek's freedom.

They say, "The enquiry into the murder of Margaret Wilson was a long and complex investigation in England and abroad. Forensic evidence was also an extensive part of the investigation.

"The case was reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service and a senior barrister before Derek Christian was charged with the murder of Mrs Wilson. He appeared before a jury who after hearing the evidence found him guilty of murder."

See also ...

Inside Out: Yorkshire & Lincolnshire
More great stories

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: Trauma of wrongly-jailed victims

On the rest of the web
Criminal Cases Review Commission
Beyond Reasonable Doubt

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

W Mc Fetridgesize
As someone who has been involved in these type of cases I wasn't at all surprised to hear of another one. Once someone has been convicted it normally takes years to prove their innocence but we have a duty to right the wrongs which are all to frequent in our legal system.

I would be willing to try and help Kevin christian in proving his brother's innocence. We as a society have a right to the "truth" no matter how long that takes.



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