by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 30th 2011)
The families of murder victim Karen Skipper and her estranged husband Phillip who stood trial wrongly for her murder want a guarantee from the Secretary of State (Minister) of Justice that in the absence of compelling new evidence such as DNA, acquittals must be respected. They claim that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) could never have charged Mr Skipper, if he had been alive, on such evidence as Mark Evans QC allowed to use, especially as there was DNA evidence implicating another man, Evans’ client, so why was the defence allowed to do it without requiring a proof of guilt?
The victms’ families are shocked and disappointed that the criminal justice system allowed them to be victimised again with such poor quality evidence. A prison informer, Paul James had claimed at Mr Skipper’s trial in 1997 that Skipper admitted accompanying Mrs Skipper to Birdies Field that fateful night, but James refused to co-operate when called by Pope’s defence.
“I know that he [Mr Skipper] is dead and can’t defend himself,” James said, before the defence abandoned the attempt to get evidence from him and relied on statements he had made previously, along with evidence from earlier trials.
The quality of evidence did not improve. Mr Skipper’s neighbour, Pauline Horton, came forward after 13 years, claiming that she saw Mr Skipper following his wife towards Birdies Field in Cardiff on her last walk. She insisted that she was afraid of the Hell’s Angels, but neither Mr Skipper nor his friend David Davies were Hell’s Angels.
Horton accepted that both Mr Davies and Skipper had been perfectly nice to her. At best, she was, as prosecuting counsel Ian Murphy QC, had suggested, mistaken, but she would not countenance her evidence being rejected. “Don’t you call me a liar!” she told Mr Murphy angrily, but her evidence did not stand up. Perhaps there was a more sinister explanation of her evidence than Murphy suggested.
DNA from blood-staining on intimate areas of Mrs Skipper’s clothing linked Mr Pope, not Mr Skipper, to the crime. Mr Evans had claimed that the blood-stains had rehydrated from dew overnight and given the impression of fresh blood despite four scientists agreeing that direct contact was the most likely explanation and that rehydrated blood appears different from fresh blood.
Mr Pope’s explanation that Mrs Skipper’s dog bit him three weeks earlier after he removed a thorn from its paw and that Mrs Skipper had given him a tissue and transferred the blood to her pocket was rejected by the jury. It was a fanciful explanation and one that was flatly contradicted by the science.
Mr Skipper had been eliminated as the source of that blood on the jeans fifteen years ago. At the time the prosecution claimed that it was not important. They had little choice as the prosecution was dead in the water if that evidence was acknowledged for what it was – proof of innocence. The prosecution in 1997 chose to ignore or minimise the importance of that evidence, which was seized on by Mr Pope’s QC, Mark Evans.
But the blood-staining was on intimate parts of Mrs Skipper’s clothing and was therefore quite obviously significant. It was clearly very inconvenient in the prosecution of Phillip Skipper.
If the significance of those blood-stains had been fully appreciated during the original investigation in 1996 or during Mr Skipper’s trial in 1997, it would have been crystal clear that Mr Skipper was innocent. That in turn would have ended his ordeal promptly and prevented a deplorable defence from being gifted to an unscrupulous man.
Nevertheless, Mr Pope was allowed to ignore Mr Skipper’s acquittal and accuse him twice more without any standard of proof.
“It should not be allowed”, said miscarriage of justice survivor Michael O’Brien. “A similar thing happened to me after I won my appeal. Phillip Skipper was entitled to be presumed innocent after his acquittal. Only compelling new evidence like DNA should allow an accusation like that against a person who has been acquitted or had their conviction quashed”.
Mr Justice (Sir Nigel) Davis at least had the good grace to stress that it was owed to the memory of Phillip Skipper to acknowledge his innocence.