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IS THIS CARL'S KILLER?; asks ex-Mirrorman PAUL FOOT who has campaigned for the release of the four men since they were first convicted.

This could be the face of the real killer of paper boy Carl Bridgewater.

For nearly two decades, Hubert Spencer may have lived with a dark secret.

He alone may have known that justice had been abused.

While he himself served time for another murder, four men were wrongly jailed for a murder they did not commit.

Jim Robinson, Vincent Hickey and Michael Hickey will today at last bathe in the light of truth and freedom.

The fourth man, Patrick Molloy, never got the chance. He died behind bars before his innocence could be proved.

SPENCER has repeatedly hit back at the doubters. He said last year: "I had nothing to do with it.

"I have the evidence to prove it - but I should not have to.

"I have been persecuted over this for 18 years - my wife has been persecuted - and enough is enough.""

Spencer was the first suspect in the bizarre case.

Detectives pounced on him as soon as 13-year-old Carl was blasted to death after he disturbed antiques thieves at Yew Tree Farm in Stourbridge, West Midlands, in 1978.

Initially, Spencer seemed to fit the bill. He drove a blue Vauxhall Viva, the same as one sighted at the farm shortly before the callous killing.

Witnesses stated that the driver was wearing a uniform - antiques collector Spencer was an ambulanceman at the time.

He was said to have coveted the priceless antiques kept at the farm, and, living just two doors away from Carl, he knew the layout well.

He dropped out of the frame but was later sentenced for life for the murder of a neighbouring farmer.

Two years ago, Spencer was freed from his life sentence for killing his 70-year-old "friend" Hubert Wilkes, who lived at Holloway Farm - just yards from Yew Tree Farm.

Carl and Mr Wilkes were both blasted by a sawn-off shotgun. And each was sat on a sofa when it happened.

Carl Bridgewater case solicitor Jim Nicholls said last night: "I think Hubert has questions to answer about the killing and police should investigate further."

Ex-Mirror journalist Paul Foot has campaigned tirelessly for the three convictions to be quashed.

Speaking on TV last night, he said: "Anyone who has read my book or knows anything about the case knows there was a first suspect: the ambulanceman Hubert Spencer.

I think the police now are going to have to look very carefully at the first suspect again.

"The evidence against him did seem to be much stronger than the evidence against the men.

"I am not going to accuse anybody of murder. All I am saying is there was evidence against somebody else.

"That is one of the reasons the case first came to the Court of Appeal. Somebody else did the murder.

"The four did not do the murder - that is the one important point to get across." In a peculiar twist of fate, Spencer chatted with Hubert Wilkes about the Bridgewater case seconds before killing him.

Carl was shot dead just over a year earlier, but by then the Bridgewater Four had already been jailed.

They were convicted in November 1979 - largely on the confession of Molloy.

Spencer was able to sit back and rely on his own alibi.

Ambulance secretary Barbara Riebold swore that he was on hospital duty at the time of Carl's death.

Hospital documents that could have proved or disproved his movements mysteriously vanished.

BUT he never told investigating detectives that he knew Carl personally, or that he kept shotguns.

He also made a curious claim. While walking in a field with his niece, he said, he discovered a piece of paper which cast suspicion on other members of the ambulance service.

The three who have spent so long in jail will not find it easy to adjust to life outside.

"The men have been completely wrecked by their time in prison," said Paul Foot. "I think anyone who spends three years in prison - let alone 18 years - is completely ruined by it.

"I think it is going to be very, very difficult for them to recover from that period."

HUBERT SPENCER

These are the unanswered questions that cast doubt over the Bridgewater Four convictions.

A man spotted near the scene of the murders was in a blue Vauxhall Viva - a model owned by Spencer.

Thesame witness claimed the man was wearing a uniform. Spencer had to wear uniform as an ambulanceman.

Spencer knew Carl and often visited Yew Tree Farm.

A year after Carl's death, Spencer committed a murder at a neighbouring farm.

He owned shotguns and used to go shooting at the farm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Atkinson, Steve; Turner, Lucy
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 1997
Words:769
Previous Article:Cig fraud murderer gets life.
Next Article:A criminal failure of the system.



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