“I’m totally numb, it’s a fantastic victory for all the press – not just me but every journalist in the country.”
This was Sally Murrer’s reaction to news that her bizarre 19-month ordeal at the hands of Thames Valley Police was finally over.
But she feels so psychologically scarred by the episode that she now questions whether she will be able to work as a journalist again.
She has been advised that she would have a good case now for suing the police for wrongful arrest – but said that her initial reaction is that she does not want their “filthy money”.
Murrer’s ordeal began on 8 May last year when a phalanx of police officers descended on her tranquil home in the Buckinghamshire countryside and carted her off to Banbury police station where she was held for 30 hours.
They also searched the offices of the newspaper where she works part time – the Johnston Press-owned Milton Keynes Citizen.
Today the charge against her of ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office’was thrown out by a crown court judge who ruled that police had trampled over Murrer’s human rights by illegally bugging her.
She was twice held at Banbury police station, where she says she was strip-searched and kept in unhygienic conditions without toilet paper and little soap.
Murrer was confronted with tapes indicating that she had been under surveillance for months.
She says police repeatedly told her that she had committed a very serious offence and that she could go to prison for the rest of her life.
She had made preparations for her children to be cared for in case she did find herself jailed after the five-week trial which was due to start next week.
A pre-trial hearing at Kingston Crown Court heard that the stories Murrer was accused of receiving from her police source Mark Kearney – who was also cleared today – were “run of the mill, local paper stories”.
Murrer spoke to Press Gazette on Tuesday when she first heard that the charges against her were set to be dropped. Her comments can only now be reported because of court restrictions
She said: ‘I’m glad we fought it, but there’s no sense of celebration – we are just reeling.”
Her co-defendant Kearney suffered a stroke during the pre-trial hearing.
Press bench celebrated victory
She said: ‘We are so worn out that it is a very quiet victory. It was a bigger victory for the other journalists – the celebration in the press bench was bigger than the celebration in the dock.
‘There was somebody from every national newspaper here – they were not just here, they were rooting for us – and have been absolutely incredibly the whole way along.
‘I’ve just been through hell and back and I can’t just click a switch and recover.”
When asked whether she would sue Thames Valley Police for wrongful arrest and imprisonment, she said: ‘At the minute I just feel that it would be filthy money.
“I am being urged to sue them- the barristers are saying that I must do something. If I did I think I would give the money to charity.
‘They put a bomb under my family. I’ve got to make a decision as to whether I’ve got the confidence to be a journalist any more. I don’t think I do.
‘I have found it incredibly hard to work – every time I pick up the phone, I think someone is listening.”
‘All these stories were factual, the information was in the public domain, I didn’t break any confidences anyway. It almost makes it worse.
‘What have they put me through this for?
‘They’ve violated every human rights law. I should never have been arrested or detained. I’m shocked, a little bit bitter and very, very hurt by it all.”