Beds, Herts & Bucks

Barri White: An innocent man 'rotting in jail'

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Media captionBarri White says he understands why Rachel Manning's parents would not want to speak to him

Rachel Manning's boyfriend Barri White, who was wrongly jailed for her murder in 2002, tells of his struggle to cope after one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the UK.

Barri White is a man who cannot escape his past. Or, more precisely, the events of 10 December, 2000, when he was just 21 years old.

It is also branded on his body. RACHEL, in capital letters, is scrawled on the inside of his wrist.

The tattoo was etched on his skin with an improvised "gun" in prison and is one of seven he received behind bars.

"I've got her permanently here," he says, pulling up his sleeve.

"I was going to ask her to marry me on Christmas Day. I had bought the ring.

"You never know, if she had been here today we might still be married and have two lovely kids.

"It's just a question now."

'Constantly got wrecked'

Rachel was Mr White's 19-year-old girlfriend when she vanished after a night out with him in Milton Keynes almost 13 years ago.

Image caption Barri says not a day goes by when he does not think about what could have been

Shortly before 03:00, she called him from a phone box to say she was lost and they arranged a lift home. It was the last time he heard her voice.

She never arrived at their meeting point, a Blockbuster store on a Milton Keynes estate, and was found strangled two days later.

But Mr White had no time to mourn. He was immediately considered a suspect and in 2002 was jailed for life for her murder.

For six years, he languished in prison for the murder of the woman he loved, torn up by the regret of leaving Rachel outside a nightclub and not sharing a taxi home with her.

To others, he was abhorrent; a ruthless killer of a defenceless teenager.

He was moved from high-security jail to high-security jail, once as far from home as the Isle of Sheppey, and requested solitary confinement because he feared for his own safety.

"I hated every minute of it, being looked at as a murderer... for something I hadn't done," says Mr White, who was allowed just four visits a month.

"The first couple of years are a bit of a blur. I constantly got wrecked.

"It was a release.

"When I was off my face I wasn't in my cell I was in a little world of my own. You just forget everything."

'Gave me hope'

At his trial, the jury was told Mr White had strangled Rachel after arguing with her all night. A rare combination of particles was said to prove her body had been in a van driven by Mr White's friend, Keith Hyatt.

But in 2005, BBC Rough Justice took up the case and showed the forensic science used to convict them was flawed and that no evidence existed to link them to the killing.

Image caption Mr White says he was a "bit of a lad" but not a violent person

Mr White and Mr Hyatt had to be innocent.

"That changed everything," said Mr White, who watched the programme in his cell.

"Inmates' attitudes towards me... everyone knew I was innocent.

"It gave me hope."

It still took several years, but Mr White's conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in 2007, and he was acquitted at a retrial the following year.

"I remember crying. Happy tears. Somebody actually listened to what I was saying.

"Walking out of prison.. the doors opening, it was amazing walking out of those gates."

'Still fighting'

But, to this day, Mr White has not received an apology from police and not a penny in compensation for his wrongful conviction.

On the contrary, he says he is still made to feel guilty by the stigma of the case and accusations made against him by the defence at Ahmed's trial.

It was the fourth time Mr White had been in a courtroom for the same murder, the fourth time he had heard of Rachel's horrific injuries, the fourth time he was tested about their final words to each other.

To gasps in the public gallery, he was told at Ahmed's first trial that Rachel might still be alive had he got a taxi with her.

Mr White stormed out of the courtroom after finishing his evidence. When he returned, his eyes were red with tears.

"I am still fighting, I have had enough of fighting," says Mr White.

"I deserve a life back.

"Getting compensation and an apology from police, that would be my justice.

"It was six years of my life, my whole 20s, pretty much.

"They're supposed to be the best years of your life but I was rotting in jail.

"Nothing can make up for that. No amount of money is going to bring my six years back."

'Life after life: Barri and Keith's story' will feature on Inside Out on BBC1 in the East at 19:30 GMT on Monday, and later on the iplayer.

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