Brain-damaged man appeals against murder conviction more than 30 years after being jailed

UK

A brain-damaged man jailed for life as a teenager will tell the appeal court today he was pressed by police into making a false murder confession.

Troubled Oliver Campbell, now 53, was interviewed without a lawyer after his arrest for a fatal shooting during an off-licence robbery in 1990.

He was convicted of murder and robbery, while a friend, Eric Samuels, was found guilty of just the robbery.

Campbell’s lawyers claim his trial jury was not told the full extent of his mental health issues, nor did it hear evidence that another man had been named as the gunman.

On the eve of his appeal Campbell, who is free on licence, said: “If I win the choke chain that’s been around my neck for 33 years will come off, but I’m not free yet.

“I’m still a prisoner of the criminal justice system, still under the Home Office because they can recall me to prison any time.”

Baldev Hoondle was shot in the back of the head in his east London shop Pic: Metropolitan Police
Image:
Baldev Hoondle was shot in the back of the head in his east London shop Pic: Metropolitan Police

He’s a good-natured soul who smiles a lot, is quick to crack jokes and curses his police interrogators in a largely non-offensive manner.

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I asked him why he had confessed to detectives who took him in for questioning. He said: “I was under police pressure, under duress. It was like someone putting you in a room and there’s no way out of it. I felt vulnerable, 100%.”

“If they had done their homework they would have realised I was wrongly arrested, wrongly convicted and wrongly jailed.”

His legal team say: “Oliver suffered severe brain damage as a baby. His intelligence is borderline defective with an impaired capacity to process or remember more than the simplest verbal information, severely restricted reasoning skills and poor concentration and memory.”

Oliver suffered brain damage as a baby
Image:
Oliver suffered brain damage as a baby

Part of the evidence against Campbell was his hat, found at the scene, which he admitted was his, but had been taken off him by someone several days before the robbery. The hat contained hairs, but none of them was Campbell’s.

Confession under duress

His lawyers said: “His admissions to police were the main evidence against him. He was said to have made remarks on arrest and en route to the police station showing some knowledge of the murder.

“He arrived at 7.50am and at 8.02am signed the custody record to confirm that he did not want a solicitor or anyone informed of his arrest.

“In a taped interview in the absence of a solicitor or an appropriate adult he first denied involvement but then admitted that he had been the unarmed robber.

“However, the admissions were made in response to a quite misleading suggestion from the interviewing officer that he had dropped the hat in the shop – a suggestion to which he agreed.”

They added: “The detectives were plainly convinced that, since Oliver was the owner of the hat, he must have been the shooter and they were determined to get him to admit that fact.

“They deliberately and falsely exaggerated the strength of the case against him and rang the changes between suggesting that the shooting could only have been deliberate and insinuating that it might have been an accident.”

The gunman was said to be right-handed, while Campbell is left-handed.

The crime scene Pic: Metropolitan Police
Image:
The crime scene Pic: Metropolitan Police

Campbell was jailed in December, 1991, for the murder of Baldev Hoondle, who was shot in the back of the head as he struggled with one of two robbers at his off-licence in Hackney, east London.

He was freed on licence in 2002 and continues to live under restrictions that mean he needs permission to get a job and is prevented from travelling abroad.

He said: “Whatever happened in the past, they can’t bring it back. The person who did the crime is still out there and the shopkeeper’s friends and family have not had justice.”

He lost his first appeal, had a second application for appeal turned down by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, but recently persuaded the CCRC he did have a good case, which is being heard this week.

His lawyers said: “We can’t give Oliver back 30 lost years. But hopefully we can persuade the court at long last to recognise the injustice done to him.”

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