Eddie Gilfoyle says that he got back from work to his house in the Wirral, Merseyside on June 4 1992 and found a letter from his wife, Paula, in the kitchen. He started reading, and believed the note said she was leaving him. It would not have been the first time they had separated. They had been together for four years and had been living together for three of them. She was eight and a half months pregnant, and had recently told him she didn’t think the baby was his; that she had been having an affair with another man and wanted to leave him for her lover.
- Thanks to One Hand Clapping magazine, Simon Hattenstone and Eric Allison for allowing us to reproduce the article on the Justice Gap. The article originally appeared here.
- There is a chapter on the case of Eddie Gilfoyle in Guilty Until Proven Innocent (Biteback 2018) by Justice Gap editor Jon Robins.
But they appeared to have got over this. “I’d made her a promise that we could move out of the area”, Gilfoyle told us. “I’d bring the baby up as my own, nobody would know. So when I read the first few lines of the letter, I was devastated.”
Gilfoyle, then a theatre assistant at a private hospital, had bought a house for them, which he was doing up. But Paula had refused to move in when he was working on it, mainly living with her parents for the last months of her life. “We spent the odd night together”, Gilfoyle said, “but we weren’t living like a married couple.”
Unable to find his wife, Gilfoyle drove round to his parents’ house 10 minutes away and told them about the letter. They returned to his home. His father Norman phoned his son-in-law Paul Caddick (the husband of Eddie’s sister Sue) and asked him to come round to Gilfoyle’s house. Caddick, a police sergeant at the local station, was off duty. At 7.10pm, he arrived at the house.
“When I got there Eddie said, ‘We can’t find Paula, she’s left this letter'”, Caddick told us. “The first few lines, I presumed she’d buggered off somewhere and then when I got further down I thought, this isn’t a leaving letter, this is an ‘I’m going to do myself in’ letter. I said to his dad, you need the police involved here.”
The letter started: “Dear Eddie, I’ve decided to put an end to everything and in doing so ended a chapter in my life that I can’t face up to any longer. I don’t want to have this baby that I’m carrying. I wish now I had got rid of it.” She told Gilfoyle it was not his fault, and that he must not “be afraid to tell people the truth … I’ve caused all your pain and heartache. I’ve destroyed you and your life.”
The letter continued: “Eddie, I’ve done some things in my life that I’m not proud of but I got through somehow, but this is just too much. I can’t face up to my problems anymore. I had packed a bag and even moved some of my clothes already but I can’t run anymore, it’s the end of the line for me on this earth.” She asked him to explain things as best he could to the family and hoped that one day he would find it in his heart to forgive her. The letter concluded: “I apologise for all the pain and suffering I have caused by taking my own life. I don’t mean to cause any problems for anyone, no one is to blame except myself.”
Caddick called his station and asked for an officer to be sent round. When PC James Tosney arrived at 7.30 pm, Caddick told him Gilfoyle’s wife was missing. He said he would give him addresses to check, friends’ houses where she might have gone. PC Tosney went into the house. At that point, Caddick opened the garage door and found Paula hanging from a beam.
“I shut the door straightaway”, Caddick said. “I leant on the porch sort of bent over double talking to the uniformed lad, and he said, ‘Are you OK?’ and I said ‘Somebody ought to tell Eddie’. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I was a coward. So his mum went in and told him. He misunderstood her at first, thinking we’ve found her. Not found her dead, just found her. So at one point he’s up in the air, ‘Great!’ and the next he’s outside wailing.”
The death was not initially regarded as suspicious. But a chain of events was set in motion that would lead to what some claim is an unprecedented miscarriage of justice. If this story were a movie, they say, it may well be dismissed as too outlandish – in order for Gilfoyle to have killed his wife, she must have co-operated with her own murder. Campaigners for Gilfoyle believe that procedural irregularities and the failure to disclose vital information ruined several careers and at least three people’s lives.
Gilfoyle was caught up in suspicions that destroyed his mental health, and an investigation that took away his freedom for 18 years. Although he was released from jail in 2010, he says that he is still not a free man – and that he won’t be until he clears his name.
The first officer to arrive after Paula had been found was the coroner’s officer, PC Brian Jones, who assumed the role of investigating officer. With the help of PC Tosney, PC Jones cut the rope and laid Paula’s body on the floor. No photographs were taken of the body as it had been found or of the rope. These were the first of many irregularities in the investigation into the death of Paula Gilfoyle. PC Jones later told investigators that his action was taken to “preserve her dignity”. When two CID officers arrived, the coroner’s officer told them “There’s nothing for you”. He had already decided Paula had killed herself. The police surgeon attended the scene but failed to take Paula’s temperature, which could have established the time of death – a factor that was later to be crucial.
The next day a post-mortem was carried out. There was no sign of struggle, or suggestion that Paula had been restrained in any way. The coroner’s officer would have normally been at the post-mortem, but he had a migraine. In his absence, the mortuary assistant incinerated the rope. Another disastrous decision.
A subsequent police review of the response to the death criticised the cutting down of the body, stating that the action possibly destroyed valuable evidence. The report also criticised the lack of photographs of the body and the scene.
Soon after Paula’s death people began to talk. Why would a woman eight and a half months pregnant commit suicide? The police asked 17 women – family, and friends at the factory where she worked – whether she had shown signs of depression. No, they replied, she was looking forward to the arrival of her baby; Paula was a chirpy character and never more so than now. The police asked what they knew about the state of Paula’s marriage. There were rumours of problems, her friends said.
Paula had a complex personality – lively in front of others, but often silent and withdrawn with Eddie. She had had a number of troubled relationships with men. Her first serious boyfriend, Mark Roberts, was convicted of rape and murder when she was 16 years old. At the time she was engaged to Roberts. She continued seeing him for more than a year after he was jailed.
Four days after Paula died, her closest friend Julie Poole went to the police station to say she did not believe Paula had committed suicide. She said Paula had told her that Gilfoyle had asked her to write fake suicide notes for him – initially she said it was for a project, then later said it was for a course at his work. It was only hearsay (though there had been discussion about Gilfoyle doing NVQ courses at work, he had yet to do any) but it was damaging. Two other friends told the police they had heard a similar story.
After Paula’s death, Gilfoyle went to stay at his parents’ house. At 8pm on June 8 (the same day Paula’s friends went to the police) there was a knock on the door. “The officer sat down in front of Eddie and said, ‘I’m arresting you on the suspicion of murder'”, Caddick says. “That was the first idea we had that they thought there was anything untoward in Paula’s death.” As Gilfoyle was being arrested, his home in Grafton Drive was being searched. The police found the beginnings of another suicide letter in Paula’s handwriting in a footstool.
After Gilfoyle’s arrest, Caddick was told he had to go to the police station to give a statement. Right from the beginning, he says, his senior officer told him that Gilfoyle had killed Paula. “I said, ‘Are you saying Eddie was complicit with her suicide?’ And he said ‘Oh no it’s a murder’.” He said that Gilfoyle had pretended to be on a suicide course at work, and that he had asked Paula to write fake letters. “He said, ‘He’s in serious shit now’.”
Caddick admits there was a point when he thought Gilfoyle could have been guilty. Immediately after Paula’s death, he felt his brother-in-law was acting suspiciously; as if he was withholding something from him and Sue. A few days later Gilfoyle took Caddick aside and told him he had to tell him something. “I said to Sue he might just tell me he’s murdered her. She said ‘So be it, but better we know’.” That night Gilfoyle broke down and told Paul about the baby, and the fact that he had promised Paula he would not tell anybody it probably wasn’t his. Caddick told him he had to go to the police and make a statement about it. On June 11, a week after Paula’s death, Gilfoyle was re-interviewed and told the police that Paula had been having an affair.
By now the police were becoming more suspicious. Why hadn’t Gilfoyle told them this earlier? After a DNA test it was proved that Gilfoyle was in fact the father of the baby. So had he been lying about the affair? Had he simply presented it as an “alibi” – a reason why his wife might have taken her own life?
On June 23 the police attempted to reconstruct Paula’s death at Gilfoyle’s home in Grafton Drive. Later that day, a police constable searching the garage discovered a rope that was tied into a noose in a drawer. Surprisingly, this had not been discovered on June 8 when the same drawer has been searched. It has never been explained why the scene had not been secured or why the police were searching the garage again so long after Paula’s death. This was just one of many irregularities surrounding the policing of the scene of Paula’s death. There were so many, in fact, that Merseyside Police began its own internal inquiry. But the findings of the inquiry were kept secret – and remained so for more than two decades.
Meanwhile, rumours spread that Gilfoyle had faked the suicide. In August 1992, a noose was thrown at the front window of Gilfoyle’s parents’ home. His mental health was already suffering because of the stress he was under, and now he had a breakdown. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. In September, officers came to the hospital to arrest him. He was charged at the police station and taken into custody until the trial, which didn’t start for another nine months.
The trial was disastrous for Gilfoyle. His defence was simple: Paula had killed herself. His legal team called no witnesses for the defence. Even Gilfoyle did not give evidence. He says he was in no state: he had been on medication for depression for 10 months, but HMP Walton had failed to administer his drugs during the trial.
Witnesses for the prosecution testified that Paula was not a suicide risk. The 17 women who had given evidence to the police told the jury that she was delighted about the baby and there was no way she would kill herself. By now, a DNA test had proved that Gilfoyle was the father of Paula’s baby, so the prosecution dismissed his story that Paula believed the baby belonged to her lover.
A motive for murder was produced.
Gilfoyle was said to be having an affair with Sandra Davies, a colleague at the hospital where he worked who was also having marital difficulties, and in October 1991 had invited her to move in with him. (Gilfoyle says he did ask her to move in with him after he and Paula temporarily separated – but this was eight months before her death, they never embarked on a relationship and, shortly after, he and Paula had reconciled. Davies was called by the prosecution and confirmed they had never had a sexual relationship.)
At the trial, the pathologist said that it would have been impossible for Paula to have hanged herself if she had been alone; that she was not tall enough and was too heavily pregnant to put the rope around the beam several times and tie it when standing on the aluminium step-ladder. The following scenario was proposed to the jury: first Gilfoyle had cajoled her into writing the suicide note; he had then dramatised the fake hanging for his fictitious NVQ course; he had encouraged Paula to act it out by putting her head through the noose, and then had crept up on her, grabbing her legs from behind and holding them up until she died. The prosecution said he had placed her feet on the lower rungs of the ladder with her legs crossed to create a suicide scene.
The rope allegedly found in the search of the garage was produced in court to dramatic effect. “When they walked into court with it I said to my solicitor, ‘That’s not what was put in front of me in the police interview'”, Gilfoyle said. “His exact words back to me were, ‘Don’t worry about it, this trial isn’t going much further’.”
But by now his sister and brother-in-law were not so confident. “They paraded the rope through the court and said, ‘This is the rope he used to practise tying nooses'”, Caddick says. “Sue’s sister Linda said to me outside court, ‘That’s awful; that looks really bad’.”
At Liverpool Crown Court On July 3 1993, Gilfoyle was found guilty of murdering his wife, and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended tariff of 17 years.
In November 1993, superintendent Graham Gooch of Lancashire Police was appointed by the Police Complaints Authority to re-investigate the case, after Gilfoyle’s sister Sue Caddick prepared a dossier detailing over 100 complaints against Merseyside Police. Gooch interviewed PC Cartwright, who had conducted a search of the garage four days after Paula’s death, and reported: “PC Cartwright is adamant that the [practice] rope was not there at the time.”
He discovered a key alibi witness who contradicted the prosecution’s narrative that Paula had been killed in the morning between 11 am (when a door-to-door market researcher called Maureen Brannan had called round to the house and interviewed Gilfoyle and Paula about wine) and 11.30 (when Eddie arrived at the hospital where he worked). A woman called Maureen Piper had told Merseyside Police she had spoken to Paula in Moreton Post Office at 12.40 pm, more than an hour after Gilfoyle had supposedly murdered her.
Astonishingly, the police had told her she must have mistaken Paula for her sister Susan Dubost, and scrubbed her statement. Piper had walked to work with Dubost for 15 years, and said the idea that she had mistaken the two sisters was “absurd”. “One was eight and a half months pregnant, the other was built like a racing snake”, Gooch says. “She couldn’t possibly have been mistaken.”
As far as Gooch was concerned, that meant, if Gilfoyle had killed Paula, he must have slipped out of work to do it in the afternoon. “That afternoon there were 27 people Eddie Gilfoyle worked with in the hospital. Merseyside Police interviewed five. When we spoke to the other 22, we could piece together an alibi.” Between them, they showed that he had been at work all afternoon.
In the 25 years since Paula’s death, only Piper claims to have seen her in the post office that afternoon. Gilfoyle’s team has always hoped that others would come forward to corroborate her evidence. Interviews with Merseyside officers involved in the original investigation also revealed they knew that Paula doubted the baby was Gilfoyle’s, as he had claimed.
Gooch’s PCA file was returned to Merseyside Police with a view to disciplinary action against 13 officers – none was taken. Merseyside Police claimed Public Interest Immunity over the report, and the full version has never been made publicly available, but in July 1994 the Police Complaints Authority issued a press release saying it had concerns over the safety of Gilfoyle’s conviction.
A year later, in September 1995, Gilfoyle was granted an appeal. The appeal was more notable for the evidence the judges refused to consider than that which they did. Gilfoyle’s team hoped to use the evidence provided by Gooch, but the appeal court judges ruled that it was inappropriate because there were still ongoing investigations into Merseyside Police over the original investigation. The court rejected an application to receive evidence from renowned pathologist Professor Bernard Knight, who did not believe that two small scratches on Paula’s neck were the result of foul play, as the prosecution had claimed; he argued that they could have been caused in the first post-mortem.
Knight later said it would be virtually impossible to hang a conscious person against their will without leaving marks indicating a struggle and that, with a single possible exception, he had not come across an instance of murder by hanging in 38 years’ practice.
After Paula’s death, Merseyside Police had asked psychologist Professor David Canter to examine the suicide note. He stated that on balance he believed Paula had not killed herself, and that the suicide note read as if it had been dictated. Although his evidence was not presented at trial, it formed a vital component of the prosecution. After being provided with more evidence, Canter concluded that the circumstances of Paula’s death pointed strongly to suicide. But the appeal judges refused to hear his new evidence.
At the appeal, the judges once again considered whether the evidence from the three friends who said Gilfoyle had made Paula write fake suicide letters was admissible. This time they ruled that it was, but surprisingly concluded that it was “not in the interests of justice to require the three witnesses to attend to give evidence”, which meant that Gilfoyle’s legal team could not challenge the story in cross-examination. This only left Piper’s evidence. The judges agreed that she was unlikely to have confused Paula for her sister but concluded that she had got the date wrong and said she “could have seen Paula the week before”. The appeal was dismissed.
At his second appeal, five years later in 2000, Gooch’s report was turned down once again, this time on the grounds of it being old evidence, even though it had never been put before a court. At the trial much was made of the fact that pregnant women were unlikely to kill themselves. At the second appeal consultant psychiatrist Dr John Weir provided a report revealing that suicide was actually a relatively common form of death for pregnant women and said he believed that Paula was “phobic about labour” – but the court refused to hear his evidence. The defence demonstrated that Paula could not have been standing on the ground as the jury had been told. The judges accepted this, but concluded, “It is immaterial precisely how he killed her”. It was not for the judges to prove that Gilfoyle had killed Paula, simply to rule whether there was enough new evidence to undermine the safety of the original conviction. They ruled that there was not.
The judgement concluded that Paula was a compliant victim in her own death and that she died at the hands of her husband. In April 2001, four months after his second appeal was dismissed, Gilfoyle changed his name by deed poll to Innocent Edward Gilfoyle.
Gooch is still angry about what happened to his report. Sitting in the Grand Members Room at Preston Town Hall, where he is now a Conservative councillor, he reels off the flawed aspects of the initial investigation: the failure to seal off the scene, the destruction of vital evidence, the failure to look for alibis, the sudden appearance of the practice rope. “The investigation was grossly incompetent”, he says.
In 2001, at the age of 51, he quit the force and went to university. “I decided I didn’t want to go any further in the police. When you look back, the whole of the criminal justice system dumped on Eddie. One of the things this made me do is read for a law degree.” He went on to become a lecturer in law.
He believes his report would have enough weight to clear Gilfoyle at a further appeal. “It would be enough to spread such doubt on the conviction that it would be overturned. I would go as far as to say I don’t think he did it. I don’t think he’s a murderer.”
In prison Gilfoyle refused to do “rehabilitation” courses. He believed there was nothing to rehabilitate. When he was finally released on parole in 2010, after 18 years in custody, it came as something of a shock to him. Prisoners serving a life sentence who continue to protest their innocence are rarely released on or around their tariff date because they are not regarded as having addressed their offending behaviour.
Paul and Sue Caddick were even more surprised. “We were sitting in the waiting room waiting to go into a counselling session with the psychiatrist”, Caddick says, “and the phone went, and he told us and….” Suddenly all the pent-up emotion gets the better of this broad-shouldered former sergeant, and he wells up. He apologises. “It’s a long time since I’ve got upset… We never thought he’d get out.”
On his release, Gilfoyle discovered a highly unusual gagging order had been placed on him. The Parole Board ordered that “he must not contact press or media either personally or through a third party” as a condition of his release on licence. “If I spoke to the press, I’d go straight back to jail. That just destroyed me.” He looks at Sue and Paul. “Up until the day I came out of jail I was reasonably all right, wasn’t I? It took three months to get the gagging order quashed.” In January 2011, the Parole Board lifted the order after being advised that the conditions were not lawful. At the time, a spokesman said: “Any licence conditions that the Parole Board imposes are for the sole purpose of safely managing the risk that the offender poses in the community and preventing re-offending.”
Although Gilfoyle won that battle, he was in pieces, he says. An exclusion order prevented him being in the Wirral, so he could not visit his mother who has dementia. He was in no fit state to work. Today he doesn’t see anybody but Sue and Paul, and is in bed every night by 7pm. “I’d probably be dead now if it wasn’t for these two.”
He is a wisp of a man, with grey hair and an old-fashioned moustache. After he was released he moved into the home of Sue and Paul, where we visit them in a remote spot in Staffordshire – there is not another house within sight. They no longer work, they don’t socialise, they admit they have no friends. Sue says they can’t stand being with “normal” people these days; they can’t relate to the trivia that makes up most of our lives. They spend their waking hours campaigning to have Gilfoyle’s sentence overturned.
Gilfoyle’s sister Sue brings in a tray of sandwiches. All three are heavy smokers. Occasionally you get a hint of what they must have been like before Gilfoyle’s conviction; before he became known as Evil Eddie. Paul is a big-hearted man with a kindly face, Sue is smart and sometimes caustic, Eddie likeable but not very sharp. They all have a sense of humour.
Paul Caddick speaks about how Gilfoyle’s conviction changed all their lives. After he was charged, Caddick, then a 35-year-old sergeant, was told it was best to stay on sick leave until after the trial.
A week after Gilfoyle’s conviction, he was visited by the force doctor. “He said, ‘obviously it’s been a stressful time, and stress is a mental illness, so we’re going to pension you off’. I said I had been told I could come back. He said ‘No you’re getting retired. You can’t work in the force on Merseyside after all this.’ So I said, ‘Well what about joining another force?’ and Sue said, ‘Paul, listen to what he’s saying to you’. I just didn’t understand. She said, ‘He’s saying you’re getting retired from the force, end of’. So I said, ‘Are you?’ He said, ‘Yes’. I said, ‘What happens now?’ He said, ‘We send you the papers, you sign them, and send them back.’ I said, ‘What if I don’t sign the papers?’, and he said, ‘We’ll retire you anyway’. So I was presented with a fait accompli. I said, ‘I think that’s rubbish’. He said, ‘Well the decision’s been made’. They wanted me out because I would have made a fuss.”
The Police Federation, the body that represents officers, told him that it could fight the decision. But by now Paul had lost the will. “I just couldn’t put my uniform back on and go back in the police station, because I was so disgusted by what they’d done to Eddie.” Caddick has worked only occasionally since, and not at all since 2000. He still feels betrayed by the way the police got rid of him.
When Gilfoyle was released, he assumed it was a prelude to having his conviction quashed, largely because of new evidence that had emerged four months earlier. In 2006, Gilfoyle had appointed a new lawyer, Matt Foot of Birnberg & Pierce Solicitors. Both Foot and Pierce have an impressive history when it comes to miscarriages of justice. Foot, the son of the great investigative journalist Paul Foot, is the lawyer who successfully fought to overturn the joint enterprise murder conviction of Sam Hallam in 2012. Gareth Pierce is one of Britain’s best known campaigning lawyers – her work to help clear the Guildford Four was chronicled in the film In The Name of The Father (Emma Thompson was nominated for an Oscar for her depiction of Pierce).
Four years after taking up Gilfoyle’s case, in August 2010, Foot discovered a black metal box containing diaries written by Paula between 1972 and 1981, revealing that Paula had been traumatised by her fiance’s conviction when she was 16 years old, and that she had attempted to kill herself. Yet, at the trial, the prosecution had insisted there was no history of depression. Her diaries also revealed that two of Paula’s former boyfriends had threatened suicide, one of them using language similar to that in the note found where she died. The diaries had been withheld from Gilfoyle for at least 17 years.
Even more irregularities have emerged since then. In 2016, it was revealed that Merseyside police withheld its internal report from both the trial and Gooch’s investigation. The report, written by Chief Superintendent Ted Humphreys, concluded that the police breached its own rulebook at the scene, with even basic instructions ignored. A Merseyside Police record shows that the then head of Merseyside CID, Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Baxter, “felt it inappropriate to supply a copy of the report” to Gilfoyle’s legal team before the trial. Foot says the correct procedure would have been for the police to give the document to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether the defence should see it.
“The jury at the trial were asked to choose between Paula and Eddie”, Foot says. “Did Paula kill herself or did Eddie kill her? To decide that they had to be able to assess her state of mind properly and his state of mind properly. They were not given the opportunity to hear from him. And they didn’t have a proper view of her, because all they heard was that she was happy and looking forward to the birth of her child, which is a very simplistic view. Often people who present as happy are depressed.”
Back then, when Gilfoyle was convicted, there was no understanding of pre-natal depression – in Paula’s case, how her mental state may have been affected by the combination of anxiety, a troubled relationship and pregnancy.
After considering his case for six years, in July 2016 the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) rejected Gilfoyle’s bid to have the case referred back to the Court of Appeal for a third time, issuing a 188-page “statement of reasons”. Despite the fact that it has been discovered that Gilfoyle was in no fit state to give evidence at his trial because of the withdrawal of his anti-depressants, despite the fact that the jury were never told that the initial investigation had been severely criticised by its own police force, despite the fact that Gooch’s findings have never been considered by the appeal court, and despite the discovery of the diaries showing that Paula had been suicidal, the CCRC ruled that there was no significant new evidence.
The role of the CCRC in tackling miscarriages of justice has become increasingly controversial in recent years and the decision not to refer Gilfoyle’s case back to the appeal court only added to the controversy. The CCRC is an independent public body established in March 1997 after a Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (RCCJ) report in 1993 examined a series of high-profile wrongful convictions, including that of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. The RCCJ report concluded that the Home Office was not sufficiently independent to investigate miscarriages of justice.
But in March 2015 the Commons Justice Committee questioned whether the CCRC had become too cautious – only referring back cases to the appeal court when it was supremely confident of victory. Of the 630 cases that have been referred back to the appeal court in its 21-year existence, 422 appeals have been won. Shockingly, the 2016/17 rate of referral was far lower than when the Home Office was responsible for miscarriages of justice – a historical low of 0.77 per cent of cases seen by the CCRC were referred back to the Court of Appeal in 2016/17, down from a historic average of 3.3 per cent.
Matt Foot believes that, rather than being an investigator of alleged miscarriages of justice, the CCRC has become a gatekeeper for the appeal court. He says that the decision not to refer Gilfoyle exposed many of it failings. “The CCRC has become an office-bound, moribund organisation. It’s become a different organisation to what it was set up as. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t actually investigate. In Eddie’s case there was also a failure to pursue and understand the significance of non-disclosure.”
While Gilfoyle was made distraught by the CCRC decision, Merseyside Police felt vindicated. Merseyside Police told the Guardian: “The CCRC reviewed both the Humphreys Report and the unredacted Gooch report as part of its considerations – both of these reports had previously been considered by the CCRC following its first review of the case in 1997, which resulted in the second appeal in 2000 and the subsequent CCRC reviews in 2003 and 2010. In July 2016, the CCRC advised that the case would not be going back to the Appeal Court on the basis of the documentation it had reviewed and new submissions made by Mr Gilfoyle’s legal team.” Paula’s family, who declined to speak to us for this article, remain convinced that Gilfoyle is guilty of murder
After Gilfoyle’s bid for a third appeal was rejected, he did not give up. His lawyers challenged the CCRC’s decision. To succeed, they had to prove the CCRC’s decision was unreasonable.
On July 6 2017, they were back in Court 3 of the Royal Courts of Justice, in the Strand. Gilfoyle looked smart in a grey suit, sitting next to Foot. They were here to make an oral application to seek leave to judicially review the CCRC’s decision not to send the case back to the appeal court. If the judges ruled he was entitled to a judicial review, that would just be the first step in a labyrinthine process towards overturning his conviction.
At the back of the court was an urbane man in his 70s in a pinstriped suit – Lord Hunt of Wirral. David Hunt was the Conservative MP for Wirral and Wirral West when Paula died. Lord Hunt had just asked Theresa May to intervene in the Gilfoyle case. In a letter to the Prime Minister he said: “I have serious concerns about the conduct of Merseyside Police which are shared by a number of Parliamentary colleagues. I would therefore be very grateful indeed if you could please request Merseyside Police to disclose the specific information and relevant records which have so far been kept from subsequent enquiries into conduct and procedure. This is becoming a long-running saga of cover-up after cover-up. The Home Secretary should lift the lid on what has been a catalogue of errors resulting in the most unjust conviction of anybody in my 40 years in Parliament.”
The two judges were told by Gilfoyle’s counsel that the CCRC acted unreasonably in not referring Gilfoyle’s case back to the appeal court because there were three important new strands of evidence: – one, the defence could now show it was possible for Paula to tie the knot without somebody else doing it for her; two, Gilfoyle was not previously in a state to give evidence because his medication had been withdrawn; and three, the diaries show that Paula had a “morbid fascination” with suicide.
Outside court, Gilfoyle smiled. “The fight goes on”, he said. “If you look at the evidence they put to the jury, there’s nothing left of it”, he said. “They can’t prove what they’re saying. It’s frustrating, it’s upsetting, it makes me angry. I haven’t had a chance to grieve for Paula and the baby yet. And they’re only interested in protecting the system because the minute the public knows what happened, all these people in high places will be answerable. I’m fighting the system, not just an organisation. The whole system is against me.”
Paul Caddick believes his brother-in-law was only charged in the first place to cover up the botched investigation into Paula’s death. “The first question asked in the coroner’s court is how did this person die, and the police would have had to say, ‘We don’t know’. Any evidence that there was has been destroyed.'”
On November 24 2017, two judges dismissed Gilfoyle’s application to review the CCRC decision. It is unlikely that he will ever be granted another appeal. Gilfoyle was too upset to speak. He left the talking to his lawyer Matt Foot.
“For many years we have worked in the forlorn hope that the CCRC was capable of getting to grips with the implications of powerful new evidence for the safety of a jury verdict. This follows a shocking original police investigation, non-disclosures and misjudgements that over many years prevented the dreadful, wrongful conviction of Eddie Gilfoyle from being reversed,” Foot said. “The CCRC are clearly stuck in settled thinking that refuses to refer back cases that have previously been refused by the Court of Appeal. We are compelled to conclude there is no hope – no hope of establishing the truth for an innocent, wronged man and no hope of having a courageous, serious organisation capable of righting terrible historic wrongs.”
Foot is one of a group of prominent lawyers who recently made a submission to the Ministry of Justice claiming that the CCRC is no longer fit for purpose. Meanwhile, Gilfoyle appears to have reached a dead end in his search for justice. Yet many establishment figures regard his case as one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice, from his former MP to the superintendent hired to re-investigate the case by the Police Complaints Authority. As for Eddie Gilfoyle, he believes that one day he will prove his innocence. He has to – it’s the only thing that keeps him going.
Simon Hattenstone is a Guardian features writer/interviewer. Eric Allison is The Guardian’s prisons correspondent. In 2013 they won an Amnesty media award for exposing a child sex abuse scandal at Medomsley Detention Centre.