AddThis SmartLayers

Police frustrate former editor’s bid to solve murder

A former weekly newspaper editor claims his bid to help finally solve a 44-year-old murder case is being blocked by police.

Ex-Matlock Mercury Editor Don Hale, left, submitted a freedom of information request to Derbyshire Police in March to view the pathology report into the killing of Barbara Mayo.

Don believes that there are “glaring similarities” between the way Wendy Sewell met her end, and the manner in which Barbara Mayo was murdered.

But he needs access to the pathology report in order to confirm his suspicions and the force has refused to hand it over.

Barbara’s family, who are desperate for answers as to what really happened to their daughter, approached Don in a bid to help them solve the 44-year-old mystery.

Don appealed against Derbyshire Constabulary’s initial decision not to allow him access to the Mayo pathology report, but the force’s head of legal services upheld the original decision, and the force is still refusing to hand it over.

He is now calling for an independent government inquiry as to why access to documentation, both in the case of Barbara Mayo’s murder, and that of Wendy Sewell, is being actively supressed and denied to the regional press.

Don claims that under the Thirty Year Rule, papers relating to the Mayo case should now have been transferred to the National Archives, and therefore ought to be available for public inspection.

Said Don: “Why are Derbyshire Constabulary stonewalling the regional press like this? What it is they fear so much? Just what is it that they have they got to hide in the case of these two murders?”

According to Don, the force has placed a 95-year ban on the papers being opened up to public inspection.

A spokeswoman for Derbyshire Police told HoldtheFrontPage: ” The reasons for the refusal have been fully explained to Mr Hale. The FoI legislation gives clear guidance about the release of information that may jeopardise a police investigation.

“The investigation file into the death of Barbara Mayo contains details of the crime which only the murderer would know.

“Information put into the public domain must be controlled by the senior investigating officer.  We also have a duty of care to Miss Mayo’s surviving relatives.

“The 30-year rule relates to the last amendment of the file, as explained in the letter to Mr Hale.  As the Barbara Mayo case is under constant review and is actively worked on from time to time the 30-year clock is reset and starts afresh.

She denied there was an FoI exemption on the Mayo murder papers or that there was a 95 year ban in place.

She added: “We do not know how Mr Hale has reached this conclusion.  We have explained that the 30-year clock restarts regularly.”

Aiding Don in his bid to uncover the real truth about what happened to the 24-year-old student teacher is retired cold case detective, Chris Clark.

It was Chris, an ex-Norfolk police officer, who helped Don obtain a copy of the pathology report on Wendy Sewell, which proved conclusively that the so-called “confession” extracted from Stephen Downing by Derbyshire Police was in fact false – and which led to Stephen’s subsequent release from prison on Appeal.

In the confession, Stephen admitted to beating Wendy Sewell with a pickaxe handle, but according to her pathology report she showed bruising on her neck consistent with a “knotted ligature” being used to garrotte her, and a rash in her lungs and airways, possibly caused by strangulation, which the jury at Stephen’s trial was never told about.

Said Chris: “The pathologist had evidence in his report that could have exonerated Stephen Downing at the time of his arrest.”


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • May 14, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Seems pretty fair to me: “The FoI legislation gives clear guidance about the release of information that may jeopardise a police investigation.The investigation file into the death of Barbara Mayo contains details of the crime which only the murderer would know.”
    I can’t see any justification for Don getting the documents.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(1)
  • May 14, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Police frustrate former editor’s bid to jeopardise murder investigation.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • May 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Don did excellent work to help free innocent Stephen Downing from jail. I don’t recall Derbyshire police being particularly supportive of him then, either.
    Solving a murder mystery, for want of a better phrase, is of huge public interest and in the public interest.
    The family is entitled to ask Don for help. And he’s entitled to investigate. Either you want a free press or you don’t, folks.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(5)