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The Prosecution Case

THE FACTS: (The word 'Facts' is used in this section to mean assertions concerning events advanced by, or on behalf of, the prosecution - or at least not contested by them - at the trial of the two accused before Mr. Justice O'Connor at the Northcumberland Assize Court held at Newcastle-upon-Tyne between the 7th and 15th of March 1967.

  • On the night that Sibbet met his death, Stafford and Luvaglio had parked the E-Type at West Morland Rise in Peterlee where Stafford lived with Selena Jones, a well known night club singer in the 60's.
  • At 11:00 pm, according to the police, Stafford and Luvaglio left for their rendevous with Angus Sibbett. Although the meeting was scheduled for 12:30am at the Birdcage Club in Newcastle, the three met together between Peterlee and Newcastle. Their cars were first seen together at Four Lane Ends on the A182 driving slowly in close convoy. The time was 11:35pm. The two Jaguars continued along the A182, the E-Type in the front with one man inside, and the Mark X behind it with two men inside. The two cars stayed on the main road driving out of South Hetton into the open country. When they were 3/4 of a mile outside the village, the two cars came to a stop. It was here on the A182, opposite Westmoor Farm that the police believe the murder took place. The time was 11:50pm. Sibbett was still in the driver seat when the first two shots were fired. A total of 5 shots were fired with three contact shots hitting Sibbett. He must have died immediately.
  • The murderers first instinct must have been to get the body out of sight, but according to police timings, it was precisely at this moment that a miner called James Golden cycled past the alleged scene of the crime, yet he saw nothing until he was overtaken at speed by two jaguars that turned right onto Pesspool Lane.
  • Here, according to the police, the murderers stopped to inspect the damage to the cars. Things had gone wrong. They hadn't forseen the accident. No doubt they had decided to dump the corpse and the Mark X somewhere, possibly over the nearby cliffs, but what they didn't realize was that the car had been damaged in the collision. The car stalled as they re-entered South Hetton. The murderers left it under Pesspool Bridge and rushed back to Newcastle to establish their alibi. At 12:30am Stafford and Luvaglio arrived at the Bird Cage Club in Newcastle and parked the E-Type outside.
  • At around 5:15am on the morning of Thursday, January 5th, 1967, Mr Tom Leak, a shot-firer at the N.C.B. South Hetton Main Colliery was walking home along the main road, A182, at the end of his shift and came upon a dark green Jaguar Mark X saloon parked under a mineral railway bridge known as Pesspool Bridge. The ground was covered in snow, as was the car itself - so that until he was quite close to the car Mr. Leak did not realize that the rear lights were on. Because it was parked in what he thought was a bad position, Mr. Leak approached the car and looked in through the rear nearside window. Seeing what he took to be the driver stretched out on the back seat, he opened the rear door (which had not been properly shut) and shook the man by his left leg, which was uppermost on the seat. His hand came into contact with the man's ankle and he realized that the man was dead. He closed the car door and retraced his steps towards a telephone kiosk he had walked past in order to make a 999 call. On his way he met 3 of his workmates, one of whom, Mr. J.L. Marshall, who was a qualified First Aider, came to the offside of the car, found the rear window broken and put his hand through to feel for a pulse. He found none. He observed that the front offside window (the driver's window) was open. He also switched off the ignition key. The body subsequently proved to be that of one Angus Sibbett, described by the pathologist who examined him as a heavily-built bearded man of some 14 stone who had been in good health until shot dead. He had been employed as a coin collector, collecting cash from fruit machines, by an enterprise known as Social Club Services which had in fact provided him with the Mark X Jaguar in which his body was found.
  • At 5:25am, a local police officer, PC Cluer, received the 999 message phoned in by Mr. Leak and arrived at the car under Pesspool Bridge at 5:30am. There he found the four miners and the body in the car. He noted that there was snow on the dead man's hair, apparently blown in through the broken rear window, felt for a pulse and heart beat, but otherwise left the body undisturbed. At 5:45am, Detective Contable Wilson arrived and took photographs of the car and body. In the meantime, at 5:40am, a local general practitioner, Dr. John S. Hunter, received a telephone call from the police summoning him to Pesspool Bridge; He lived within a mile and a police car delivered him to the spot by 5:50am. He formed the opinion that Mr. Sibbett was dead basing this opinion of the general pallor of the body, the presence of rigor mortis and coagulation of the tissues. It should perhaps be noted that in his evidence before the committal proceedings Dr. Hunter had made no mention of having observed rigor mortis when giving his evidence.
  • By 6:00am, or shortly after, various police officers had arrived on the scene, including Superintendent Ronald Kell, who was subsequently the officer in charge of inquiries relating to the case. At five minutes past 8:00am, the police pathologist, Dr. J.E.Ennis, arrived to examine the body. At that time the body was still in the car, the air temperature was below freezing (it was in fact 26 degrees F.) and a cold wind was blowing. He established that rigor mortis was present all over the body. At 9:00 am the car, containing the body, was towed slowly to Peterlee; the body was then removed very slowly (at about 10:00 am) and transferred to Eastington mortuary where the temperature was 28 degree F. Dr. Ennis commenced his examination of the body at 1:15pm, at which time its temperature was 64 degrees F. The cause of death was established as haemorrhage due to three bullet wounds of the aorta and heart, the fatal wound being inflicted by a bullet which tracked down from behind the left shoulder towards the right hip bone, penetrating numerous vital structures. It was estimated that life could not have lasted more than one minute after this wound had been inflicted.
  • At about 10:20pm of that day, January 5th, police visited the home of Dennis Stafford in Peterlee where the other accused, Michael Luvaglio was also staying; both were asked to go to Peterlee police station to assist in inquiries concerned with the death of Angus Sibbett. At 12:20am Michael Luvaglio was interviewed by Superintendent Kell and at 1:24am Dennis Stafford was similarly interviewed. At 3:00am, both were cautioned and told that they were being detained in connection with the death of Angus Sibbett. At 9:40pm on January 6th, both were formally charged with the murder of Angus Sibbett. At the time Michael Luvaglio was a director of Social Club Services, a local company owned by his brother, Vincent Landa, who was in Majorca at the time of the murder. Dennis Stafford was employed by the same company with, apparently, responsibility for providing cabaret entertainment for various social clubs in the area. They were both brought to trial at Newcastle in March 1967, found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life.

 

There is no doubt that it was the evidence of the cars that convicted the accused. But since the trial, glaring inconsistencies have been found in the Prosecution case. The damage to the cars being the very evidence which convicted the two men was confusing. There were traces of red paint on the Mark X's front bumper that didn't come from the E-Type. Car headlamp glass was found on the rear bumper of the E-Type that did not come from the Mark X headlamp. Even the police expert conceded that this could only mean another collision with another car also painted red.

And if there's a 3rd car in the case, there is also strong evidence that a third man was present. For a start, there was blood in the front panel of the Mark X on its transmission tunnel. It wasn't Sibbett's blood nor did it come from Stafford or Luvaglio. Two sets of fingerprints were found on the rear door handles on the nearside and offside of the Mark X. Two sets, two separate people. The fingerprints were not those of Angus Sibbett, Dennis Stafford or Michael Luvaglio. There were also blood stains found in a telephone booth near Pesspool Bridge. A page in the telephone directory had been smeared with blood which matched Angus Sibbett's group. To many people, this suggested that Sibbett's killer had made a telephone call. But above all, it was the evidence of the miners that was most damaging to the Prosecution Case.

The cyclist James Golden, who saw two cars overtake him at speed heard no crash and no shots, yet the calculations have shown that he could never have been more than 128 yards from the scene of the crime, if police timings are right.

What Tom Feather saw was equally inexplicable. Driving home at 12:45am that night, he saw the Mark X UNDER Pesspool Bridge. A hand came out of the driver seat and waved him on. Was it Sibbett's hand? At the time he should have been dead. Was it the hand of the murderer? Also at that time, Stafford and Luvaglio were in the Birdcage Club. During the next three hours the car was sighted no less than 33 times UNDER the bridge, mainly by passing miners. Yet none of these witnesses saw that the front was smashed in, the drivers window was wound down, the rear offside window was smashed as it had been shot out, or that there was a corpse lying on the back seat.

The police suppressed the original statements of 33 miners and the two sets of fingerprints from the Trial, Jury and Defence. The police also suppressed the original statements taken from Mr. Golden who said in his original statement taken on January 5, 1967, that as he was passing Westmore Farm, a red E-Type followed by an old Jaguar car overtook him. On January 8th, police said that the murder took place opposite Westmore Farm. The police revisited Mr. Golden and he subsequently changed his statement, altering his position from passing Westmore Farm to passing Hutchinson's Farm, 1/2 mile further down the road.

In his Police Notebook, P.C. Cluer recorded that he saw blood still dripping from a wound at 5:30am. Mr. J.L. Marshall, qualified First Aider, stated in his original statement that he felt the carotid artery and felt warmth. If Angus Sibbett was shot dead at 11:50pm on January 4th, it would be completely and utterly impossible for warmth to be felt in the carotid artery in the neck and for blood to still be dripping from a wound 5 1/2 hours later. Mr. Wells said in his original statement that he saw the red E-Type Jaguar leave Stafford's house at 11:30pm on January 4th, making it impossible for the E-Type to rendezvous with the Mark X and be at South Hetton by 11:45pm that evening. Mr. Wells was revisited by police and subsequently changed his statement, changing the time he saw the E-Type leave from 11:30pm to 11:00pm.

It wasn't until 5:15 am when Tom Leak arrived on the scene that Sibbett's body was discovered.

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