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Written by Doctor David Lewis, Chairman & Director of Research, Sussex Innovation Centre, University of Sussex.

In 1971 he wrote a book together with Peter Hughman, a Penguin Special: Most Unnatural: An Inquiry into the Stafford Case

Dr. David Lewis

I became involved in this fascinating, perplexing and tragic case while working as a Fleet Street journalist in the early 1970’s. An item had appeared in the Evening Standard reporting on a protest against their son, Dennis Stafford’s murder conviction by his father and mother.

 

My editor thought it might be worth following this up as a feature article and so I arranged to meet with Joe Stafford in his London flat. After writing up the interview, I became concerned by what seemed - on the basis of the fairly limited knowledge I then had of the case - a serious miscarriage of justice.

On the face of it there seemed robust reasons for believing that Dennis and his business colleague, at the time, Michael Luvaglio were, if not innocent of the charge then certainly not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I talked over my concerns with my friend and flat-mate Peter Hughman, a talented 23-year-old London lawyer. The more we went into the case, reading trial transcripts and examining police photographs, the more certain it became clear that this was, indeed, a very serious miscarriage of justice.

We decided to get involved in the growing campaign for a retrial and decided that the best way of gaining attention was to write a book on the case.

Our editor at Penguin agreed with our view that the guilty verdict flew in the face of the evidence presented at the trial and promised a speedy publication of the book as a Penguin Special. Faced with a tight research and writing deadline, we drove to Newcastle to gain a first hand knowledge of the scene and to interview all the witnesses.

I cannot say that our stay in Newcastle was especially pleasant. While all the miners and most of the other witnesses showed us a level of hospitality and cooperation that those in the North East of England are famous for, the police proved far less eager to assist us. Indeed they were anything but helpful.

Requests for interviews with the detectives involved in the case were turned down; we were warned (unofficially) that asking too many questions could prove injurious to our health. I strongly suspect we were also followed and our calls from the hotel were tapped.

Permission to use police photographs - important to understand the alleged collision between the Mark X and E-Type Jaguars on which the whole case depended - was refused.

When the book was written there was a struggle with the lawyers, and several sections had to be deleted before the Penguin lawyers were able to clear it for publication.

The book triggered great interest in the case and attracted high profile writers, academics, barristers and others to press for a retrial.

The then Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling finally agreed to do this.

Very sadly, despite the overwhelming amounts of new evidence we had gathered - including the testimony from literally dozens of miners who had passed by the damaged Mark X that night and whose testimony flatly contradicted the police case - and in the face of all logic and reason, the guilty verdict was upheld. The establishment had closed ranks and set their faces against the possibility of showing not just mercy, but simple common sense.

Our outrage against the way this case had been handled at all levels by the authorities, led to Peter and I writing an analysis of the British Judicial system entitled Just How Just? Published a couple of years later by Seeker and Warburg, this book provoked a lengthy and heated debate as to whether British justice really could claim to be the 'best in the world'.

Despite the criticisms by some sections of the legal profession - Lord Hailsham being particularly vociferous in his attacks on the book - many of the changes we suggested were subsequently introduced. These included the tape recording of interviews and other forms of protection for the accused. 

For Michael and Dennis it was, of course, too late.

Had they been given a fair trial, had all the evidence gathered by the police been presented in court, and perhaps if the trial itself had been held away from Newcastle, where Dennis had gained a reputation for criminal (although never violent) behaviour, then it is very likely, in my view almost certain, that the verdict would have been 'not guilty' and that the Jury would probably not have spent much time in reaching the very obvious and logical conclusion.

It was, in the view of all independent minded people who have reviewed the evidence, a miscarriage of justice on an epic scale. If hanging had not been abolished a few years earlier, the verdict could well have resulted in the judicial murder of two completely innocent men.

As it was, the misjudged conclusions of those twelve 'good men and true' who sat on the Newcastle Jury all those years ago, destroyed the reputation and the life of Michael Luvaglio whose fate should result heavily on the conscience of anyone who believes in the fairness of British justice.

 

Dr. Lewis has filed an e-petition titled "Miscarriage of Justice - United Kingdom - Luvaglio for the purpose of collecting at least 100,000 signatures. If 100,000 people sign the petition, the Government has to debate the case in parliament and could order a public inquiry into Michael Luvaglio's case. If you wish to participate, please click on the link and follow the instructions provided on the page.  

 


 

Written by Kevin Rowntree - former journalist for BBC

 

I am one of the very many people convinced that Michael Luvaglio's conviction for murder was one of the greatest British miscarriages of justice in the 20th Century. A retired broadcast journalist, I have followed every twist and turn over the years as Michael has sought to get justice. Each time he has been rebuffed, suffering bitter disappointment again and again. A guilty man proclaiming innocence would have thrown in the towel by now after 44 years of unproductive protest. But not

Michael, and this must tell you something.

But there are more scientific reasons as well why this case must be reopened - for instance, the expert re-appraisal of the crashed cars photographs now seems to prove overwhelmingly that one Jaguar was not responsible for the damage to a second Jaguar -- which makes much of the original prosecution case worthless.

But at the very beginning was a sensational contribution to one of my programmes by Harry Mincoff, then the doyen of the legal profession in the North East, and head of the best-known law firm Mincoff, Science & Gold. Harry Mincoff, who represented Michael at the beginning, told me of his discussion with two detective superintendents the night before charges were made.

"One of them did, in fact, say to me that they knew Michael Luvaglio was innocent and that they wanted him to say he was away from Stafford (Dennis Stafford, his co-accused) for an hour or two covering the relevant period of time (the time of the shooting).

"At that time I'm sure the police believed Michael was innocent. Whether they subsequently changed their minds or not I wouldn't be in a position to say."

"In my opinion if Michael Luvaglio has said that he remained in the Bird Cage (a local night club) for a couple of hours, I don't think he would have been charged. I advised him not to tie himself to Stafford".

Michael rejected that advice, saying that since he was innocent he had nothing to fear by sticking to the truth. Since then an impressive number of national figures have made known their doubts about Michael's conviction. Amongst them are:

Home Secretary at the time Reginald Maudling; Sunday Express Editor-in-Chief John Gordon; Lord Norwich; Lord Dubs; Rt. Hon. Edward Heath and various members of Parliament.

The pathologist Professor Keith Simpson was convinced of Michael's innocence. So was the philosopher Bertrand Russell as was Michael's solicitor, the renowned Sir David Napley who continued to represent him free of charge once Michael's parents' money had run out.

Also convinced was the medical expert Professor Francis Camps, who said: "This is one of the most fascinating and baffling cases of the century. People have been hanged on my evidence... this man should be declared innocent on my evidence".

So now its time for you to form an opinion.

 


 

Written by John Bowis. MP for Battersea 1987-97. MEP for London 1999-2009

 

"I got to know Michael during my time as MP for Battersea. He ran the Share Community based there for people with often severe Physical and mental disabilities. People went there who had been given up on by other organisations in the public or voluntary sectors.

Michael and his team never gave up on them and time and again they were helped to find a quality of life and a self respect of which they had previously despaired.

That sums up Michael: he made a difference to some very vulnerable people and both they and the local community were the better for his involvement.

" I also got to know from Michael about his problems from the past and his strong sense of a wrong that needed righting. I am not in a position to make a judgement on that period of his life but I do believe the man I know is a good man and I do believe he deserves a chance to have his case re-heard.

His sincerity and perseverance on this, coupled with his strong personal faith, matches his work for the local community. Society and officialdom should give him this chance to put to rest the worries and inner anguish that only he knows."

 


 

Written by Alf Dubs, former MP for Battersea and member of the House of Lords

 

"One of the privileges of being an MP is that one gets to know some wonderful people who devote themselves to helping others in the community.

Michael Luvaglio has worked tirelessly on behalf of handicapped and vulnerable young people in South London, especially in Battersea. He has been an inspiration and shown what can be done on behalf of others.

Through getting to know Michael and his history I have serious doubts about the soundness of his conviction and have an uneasy feeling that in his case justice has not been done. Lesser persons would have given up but Michael has demonstrated that his work for the community has gone hand in hand with his fight for justice.

There are many people in South London who have been given better chances thanks to Michael's work. Perhaps one day Michael himself will find the justice and fairness that he has sought for so long."