Four men, Winston Trew, Sterling Christie, George Griffiths and Constantine Boucher, who were convicted and jailed for allegedly stealing handbags in the early 70s, have had their convictions quashed.
Known as The Oval Four, the men, who were aged between 19 and 23 at the time were arrested by police at Oval tube station in March 1972 on suspicion of stealing passenger’s handbags.
The men were convicted on the evidence of Detective Sgt Derek Ridgewell and the trial lasted five weeks in which they were found guilty of assaulting police officers and attempted theft in November 1972.
The Court of Appeal overturned the convictions following an appeal and their sentences were reduced to eight months from their original two year sentences.
Mr Trew, one of the men who was jailed due to the unreliability of the detective’s evidence, urged anyone wrongfully convicted by evidence given by Det Sgt Derek Ridgewell to bring forward a challenge.
Mr Trew, Mr Christie, now both 69, and Mr Griffiths, 67, thanked those who helped overturn their convictions. Mr Constantine Boucher was not present in court.
The Judge, Lord Burnett said there was “an accumulating body of evidence that points to the fundamental unreliability of evidence given by DS Ridgewell… and others of this specialist group”.
Mr Griffiths’ solicitor Jenny Wiltshire welcomed the decision, but said it was “deeply concerning that it has taken so long to happen”.
Ridgewell was moved to a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with two criminals splitting the profits of stolen mailbags. In 1982 he died of a heart attack in prison aged 37.
“It is a travesty that these men have waited 47 years for exoneration for crimes that they did not commit. Justice has now finally been done,” said Mr Christie’s lawyer Steven Bird.