Guilty, until proven Innocent - that is the case for Michael Luvaglio and Dennis Stafford
There were many facts presented in the trial that appeared to be beyond dispute although the evidence produced was wholly circumstantial. One would imagine that in a high profile murder case, the investigation process would last more than 6 weeks. One would also imagine that the jury would not in good conscience be able to produce a “Guilty” verdict based on purely circumstantial evidence.
However this was not so with the Stafford/Luvaglio case. It was only discovered years later while the accused were serving out their sentence that all the evidence proving their innocence such as forensics (blood and fingerprints found did not belong to either Stafford or Luvaglio) and witness statements contradicting the Prosecution theory, were all suppressed by police deliberately to prevent any contradiction to be presented at the trial that would sway the jury’s verdict to “Innocent”.
A jury has a responsibility to produce a guilty verdict only when it is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused are guilty. As long as there is even a lurking doubt, the verdict cannot be guilty. So why did the jury choose the guilty verdict despite the lack of solid evidence against Stafford and Luvaglio? Pressure from the police, the press, the prosecution, even the judge. At the time there was so much pressure on the police in London to crack down on the illegal gambling and protection rackets in the Southeast. The authorities wanted to prevent it from spreading even further north so the Stafford/Luvaglio case was a perfect way of instilling fear into the people living in the Northeast that the gangland scene had already spread from London to Newcastle. They used this case to brainwash the public into believing that Vince Landa and Michael Luvaglio being of Italian descent, were part of the Mafia and set the scene before the trial by assigning personal bodyguards to each jury member, and parading around the courthouse on the day of the Trial with police dogs. Newspapers carried headlines making references to the Mafia having come to Newcastle, etc. All of this show just served to instil unnecessary fear and doubt into the community and set up a guilty verdict in the minds of the jury and the public even before the case got to trial.
It is interesting also that during the deliberations, the jury members asked to see a certain witness statement again before reaching a verdict, but the judge refused their request although he assured them before going into deliberations that if they needed to see any of the evidence again, it would be made available to them. Then in the Judge’s summing up, Mr. Justice O’Connor consistently cast doubts on the reliability of any witnesses’ testaments that strengthened the Defence case. The Judge also made a shocking comparison of Michael Luvaglio’s friendship to the victim and the lack of motive for the murder to both Caesar and Jesus who were betrayed by a friend. This was a highly emotive and inappropriate thing for a Judge who is supposed to be neutral and fair to say.
There were also so many inconsistencies in the Prosecution case during the trial - which will be presented in the following pages. All contradictions to the prosecution given are based on FACTS – not THEORY.
Since justice is based on facts, if this evidence would be presented to a jury today, the jury would surely not be able to return the same “Guilty” verdict that sealed the two men's fates in 1967.