Hale attacks police over 'stage-managed' report

Hale was angered by police “leaks”

Former Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale has accused Derbyshire police of indecent haste in releasing a report of their reinvestigation of Wendy Sewell’s murder, and of stage-managing a press conference.

He also alleges that the police deliberately excluded key members of the support team of Stephen Downing, who spent 27 years in jail after being convicted of Sewell’s murder.

Hale is supporting an official complaint about Derbyshire police by Downing, who believes the police report has effectively branded him as the murderer, even after he was freed by the Appeal Court.

In a statement, Hale objected to the inclusion of Sewell’s husband, David, at the police press conference and to the comments and statements he made to journalists “that were potentially malicious and slanderous”.

Hale said: “It is claimed the police helped him publish a very damaging, misleading, inaccurate, defamatory and potentially libellous statement.”

That statement indicated that Hale might be one of two potential offenders and called for an investigation to see if he had committed a criminal act.

“I feel that I and other members of the team involved in submitting evidence to this reinvestigation were definitely, conveniently, if not deliberately, excluded from the press conference,” said Hale.

“We were denied our legitimate and immediate right of reply.”

Hale said he was given to understand that no one, including David Sewell, would be allowed to attend.

The report criticised Hale for “embellishing” some of the information in his book Town Without Pity. Hale said he had been “disgusted” by alleged police leaks throughout the investigation. These had sparked unprecedented media interest and spin, he said. The police had confirmed that often within minutes of them interviewing a potential suspect or witness, a posse of press visited the same address. “It was quite obvious that someone was leaking details,” said Hale. Hale told Press Gazette he had given the police the name of just one suspect.

He refuted statements by David Sewell that he had distorted and withheld evidence. He said his campaign had been highly successful and had overturned “one of Britain’s worst miscarriages of justice”.

Hale said that when he started his investigation in 1994, the police said there were no papers, no forensic and no exhibits. “I was able to prove that was false. What the police are trying to do [in the report] is to try to deflect blame from their own inadequacies from 1973 onwards.”

By Jean Morgan

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