Kevin Callan pictured on the day of his release in 1995 (his sister Janice Davies is on the left)
Kevin John Callan 1958 Ė 2003
Kevin Callan became nationally famous when his conviction for murder was overturned on 6 April 1995. A former truck driver who had left school without qualifications, he had been convicted of shaking to death Amanda Allman, a helpless four-year-old child who suffered from cerebral palsy and spastic diplegia.
His case caught the public imagination. At his trial, overwhelming evidence had been given by two experienced pathologists, Jeffrey Freeman and Geoffrey Garratt, who agreed that Amanda had been shaken to death while she was in Kevinís sole care. Kevin's own lawyers failed to produce any evidence to the contrary. Kevin collapsed in court, senseless with shock at the guilty verdict.
Incarcerated in Wakefield prison, he badgered library staff to provide him with the books that enabled him to become an expert in child neuropathology, and to correspond with other acknowledged experts, Philip Wrightson and Helen Whitwell. They agreed that Amanda could not have been shaken to death.
On the basis of their reports, Salford solicitor Campbell Malone applied for leave to appeal. But leave was refused by Lord Justice Tucker. The application was renewed, and in response the Crown Prosecution Service commissioned two counter-reports from Professor Michael Green and Mr Myles Gibson. But the Crown's own experts only confirmed what Kevin's experts said, and in addition heavily criticised the work of Dr Garratt. The CPS announced they would not contest the appeal.
Kevin walked free down the steps of the courts of justice, surrounded by his family, who had always supported him. Michael Mansfield QC, Kevin's senior counsel, told the appeal court that it was 'a sad reflection on the system that this injustice had only come to light because of Kevin Callan's persistence.' After the intense media interest died down, Kevin published his own readable and fascinating account (Kevin Callanís Story, Little, Brown & Co., 1997). In a foreword to the book, Michael Mansfield wrote: 'Kevin's testament is also a monument. Before it is too late, let there be no more names inscribed in the hall of judicial infamy', and he looked forward to the establishment of a national Forensic Science Institute, a properly financed and provisioned independent scientific facility. Of course, nothing has changed.
Amanda died on 15 April 1991, and Kevin was arrested the next day. Ignoring his protestations that he could not have harmed Amanda, the police constructed a case against him, even finding someone who claimed he had overheard Kevin in a police cell admit to shaking her. Amanda's mother, Lesley Bridgewood, constantly assured them that Kevin loved her children and was infinitely patient with Amanda, teaching her to walk and speak despite her severe disabilities. But since the experts were convinced Kevin was guilty, they ignored the other possible causes of Amanda's death (accidental falls and neglect by medical authorities) and so Kevin and Les were left without time to grieve, and they are left forever with no adequate explanation of why Amanda died.
Before he was released, Kevinís sister Janice Davies, the most indefatigable of his supporters, helped to set up the organisation Innocent, to support Kevin and other wrongly convicted prisoners and their families. Innocent continues to flourish. For a while after his release, Kevin attended meetings and helped others suffering as he had done. But without the impetus of his personal fight to gain recognition of the terrible things that had been done to him, Kevin seemed to lose direction.
Those of us who came to know him during his fight against injustice, to regard him as a friend and to respect his impressive intelligence, determination and wit, later lost touch and were unable to offer him our support. We heard occasional reports of how troubled his life had become, and that he died of liver failure on 5 August 2003.
It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to suffer the oppressive weight of a conviction for a terrible crime and a life sentence, when you know you are innocent, yet every part of this immensely powerful system regards you as guilty. Such an experience can damage even the strongest people beyond repair. Kevin's many fine qualities were wasted and lost as a consequence of what was done by so-called expert pathologists, the police, the criminal justice system and the prison system. We hold them responsible for our own sad loss.
Innocent, 20 August 2003
Leaflets were distributed that continued the theme of injustice: "The unveiling marks the anniversary of the death of Kevin Callan. Kevin was famously jailed in 1991 for murdering his girlfriend's severely handicapped four year old daughter. From his cell in Wakefield High Security Prison he badgered library staff to provide him with an array of medical textbooks and despite being a lorry driver who left school with no formal qualifications he became an expert in child neuropathology. He was able to eventually prove the girl in his care died as a result of a tragic accident and was released unconditionally. Kevin died on the 5th August 2003"
Banksy, who shrouds his work in secrecy, has gained a reputation for subversive stunts that outfox authorities. He says the statue cost £22,000 to construct, is made of solid bronze and weighs three-and-a-half tonnes (3,500kg). It shows the figure of justice - whose statue overlooks the Old Bailey in London - with US dollar bills stuffed into her garter and a plaque on the plinth saying: "Trust no-one."
"It is a monument dedicated to thugs, to thieves, to bullies, to liars, to the corrupt, the arrogant and the stupid." He said the stunt was timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the death of Kevin Callan, the lorry driver who was the victim of a miscarriage of justice when he was convicted in 1991 for the murder of a four-year-old child. His conviction was overturned in 1995. "It's the most honest depiction of British justice currently on display in the capital," Banksy said. "I hope it stays there for good.
"We are learning that the people we trust with our liberty cannot be trusted."
30 March 1995
in fight for murder appeal
By Nigel Bunyan
A man who became an expert in neurology in order to help to prove he had not murdered his four-year-old step-daughter is expected to be freed by the Court of Appeal next month.
Kevin Callan, 36, a lorry driver from Hyde, Greater Manchester, was jailed for life three years ago for the killing of Amanda Allman. His conviction was secured mainly on the evidence of a Home Office pathologist, Dr Geoffrey Garrett, who said the child was probably shaken to death.
But this has been challenged by an expert in neuro-pathology whom Callan contacted from Wakefield top security prison.
Yesterday Crown Prosecution Service sources confirmed they had brought in their own neurologist, who agreed with the defence findings that Dr Garrett's evidence was flawed. The child died as the result of an earlier fall from a slide, he said.
It is understood that Dr Garrett - who has since retired - failed to fix tissue samples in formaldehyde, which would have allowed further tests to be made.
'The only thing I did wrong was in failing to revive her with the kiss of life'
A CPS spokesman said: "As a result of a comprehensive review of the expert medical evidence in this case the CPS has decided that it would not be appropriate to oppose Mr Callan's appeal." Callan has always maintained his innocence. He said he found the child lying unconscious in the bathroom and tried to revive her.
He told Manchester Crown Court that Amanda, who had cerebral palsy, had earlier fallen from a slide. It was this, he said, that may have caused two brain haemorrhages identified by Dr Garrett. He said: "I did nothing to cause her death. The only thing I did wrong was in failing to revive her with the kiss of life.
"I had a lot of patience and I believe this showed. I never hit her or lost my temper with her. I loved her." The girl's mother, Lesley Allman, stood by Callan at his trial, describing him as a good father and "a very patient man".
Although the couple have since parted, she continues to support his appeal. From the day of his conviction Callan, who did not even gain an O-level at school, immersed himself in the medical books he believed would prove his innocence.
'The man has read practically everything on head injuries and brain surgery'
His solicitor, Mr Campbell Malone, said: "The man has read practically everything on head injuries and brain surgery. He then started to correspond with a lot of the world's leading neuro-surgeons and brain experts.
"The way he grasped the fundamentals of a complex medical science . . . has been remarkable." One neuro-surgeon who took a close interest in the case - Dr Philip Wrightson, of New Zealand - provided the defence with a report that was submitted to the Court of Appeal.
Leave to appeal was granted last November, and is expected to be formally agreed next month. No date has yet been fixed.
7 April 1995
By Sean O'Neill
A lorry driver who proved that he was innocent of a child's murder by studying neurology in his prison cell was freed by the Appeal Court yesterday.
Kevin Callan spent four years in jail for the killing of his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter. But the court heard yesterday that expert evidence at his original trial was flawed.
Mr Callan's research showed that Amanda Allman, who had cerebral palsy, did not die from being shaken by him, as medical experts had testified. Lord Justice Swinton Thomas praised Mr Callan's "tireless" work to establish his innocence since his trial three years ago and declared his conviction for murder "unsafe and unsatisfactory".
"It is a matter of regret to this court that he was convicted in the first place," he said. The judge said he would not criticise the "professional men" who gave evidence against Mr Callan at Manchester Crown Court in January 1992.
He noted, however, that Dr Geoffrey Garrett, the pathologist who was adamant that Amanda's injuries must have been caused by shaking, had since "retreated" from that position. The judge stressed that it was "important that experts with the correct expertise should be instructed in cases such as this".
'It has been a big fight but well worth it'
Mr Callan, who is 37 tomorrow, left the dock to applause from family and supporters. Outside the Law Courts in London he was reunited with his mother, Joan, 64, father, Arthur, 67, and his brother and sisters.
"It has been a big fight but well worth it," Mr Callan said. "The first thing I want to do now is cut my hair and have a shower." Reading from a prepared statement, Mr Callan said: "I am very relieved to be, once again, a free man. I have been in prison for four years convicted of the murder of a child I loved and it has been a devastating experience for myself and my family."
He thanked the scientific experts who responded to his letters from prison and people who had supported his campaign to have his conviction quashed. He asked for privacy to be allowed to spend time "in peace and quiet" with his family.
Amanda died on April 15, 1991, the day after her fourth birthday. Her mother, Miss Lesley Allman, returned to the home she shared with Mr Callan in Hyde, Greater Manchester, to find him trying to resuscitate the child.
Mr Callan said Amanda, who was severely handicapped, had fallen twice during the day she died - once down stairs and later from a garden slide. Dr Garrett's post mortem examination, however, concluded that the girl's two brain haemorrhages had been caused by shaking.
He said that he would have expected to have found external bruising and possibly a fractured skull if the girl had fallen. During questioning and throughout his trial, Mr Callan consistently denied murder.
Miss Allman supported him, telling the jury that he "showered the child with affection", was extremely patient with her and never became exasperated.
The couple had planned to marry but their relationship broke down after Mr Callan was convicted and jailed. In his cell at Wakefield prison Mr Callan, who left school without any qualifications, started to study medical textbooks. He said: "I thought that if I could read my way through everything in the medical section, concentrating on how the brain worked, it would help me to work out just how Mandy had died. Within a couple of months I'd got about a dozen books on the go. One title led to another and I just kept asking the library to order more."
Over the next few months his knowledge of the neurological processes of the brain improved and he gradually became convinced that he could prove that he was not a murderer. He started writing to eminent authors and experts in the field of neuropathology. Yesterday, he thanked Dr Philip Wrightson, who replied to him from New Zealand, and Dr Helen Whitwell, a Home Office expert, for answering his queries.
Faced with the mass of medical evidence he had collected to support his claim of innocence, the Crown Prosecution Service was forced to have the case looked at again.
The CPS commissioned Prof Michael Green, professor in forensic pathology at Sheffield University, to re-examine the prosecution evidence.
Prof Green concluded that Dr Garrett's testimony left "much to be desired". He criticised the pathologist's "absolute dogmatism" in saying the girl had died from being shaken. Such a conclusion would be "difficult to justify".
Dr Garrett's failure to preserve parts of the child's brain for other tests to be carried out was "inexcusable" and a breach of protocol. Mr Richard Henriques, QC, for the Crown, told the Appeal Court: "We have formed the view that the overwhelming weight of material evidence supports the view that the injury was caused by trauma, not by shaking. That being so, we take the view that this conviction cannot be upheld."
'Here is a cautionary tale for lawyers'
Mr Michael Mansfield, QC, for Mr Callan, said none of the expert witnesses at the original trial had expertise in neuropathology. He pointed out that the Appeal Court had initially refused Mr Callan a hearing because it said he was conducting "a trawl for experts".
"Had it not been for the persistence of the applicant and his solicitor, at a later stage, this matter would not have taken this course," Mr Mansfield said.
"Here is a cautionary tale for lawyers and the courts themselves to ensure that the expertise proffered to the jury is the proper one."
Mr Campbell Malone, Mr Callan's solicitor, said after the hearing that his client would seek compensation under the Home Office scheme for victims of miscarriage of justice.
He said: "Kevin was very persistent and very determined. It took a considerable act of courage to keep going in the face of an incredible degree of scepticism.
"Prison has been a traumatising experience for him. He has never been able to grieve properly. His relationship broke down. Two families were devastated. He will find it very difficult to adjust".
|"Our justice system gets it right most of the time.
When it does give the wrong answer it may be because technical evidence
has been faulty or misinterpreted. Judges, counsel and juries rarely have
a scientific background and may have difficulty with the concept that technical
evidence is based on probability not certainty, and thus with the resolution
of opposing expert opinion.
When it seems that justice may not have been done it is useful for the technical evidence to be reviewed outside the confrontational atmosphere of a court. Those acting for the accused should have no hesitation in pressing for this, and will find that most experts will be willing to give an honest opinion unaffected by the partiality of a trial."
Dr Philip Wrightson
by Kevin Callan
The book is now out of print - it
is available here in pdf format
With a foreword by Michael Mansfield QC, who represented Kevin Callan at his second appeal.
go to INNOCENT main page