The Case of Stephen Downing (ePub)
The Worst Miscarriage of Justice in British History
On 12 September 1973 a seventeen-year-old naïve and vulnerable young gardener Stephen Downing returning from a short lunch break encountered the badly beaten and unconscious figure of thirty-two year old Wendy Sewell lying on the footpath of Bakewell Cemetery close to Catcliff Wood and the consecrated chapel where she had been attacked. Stephen ran to the nearby workmen’s building and in the meantime the perpetrator of the attack who had been hiding, dragged Wendy’s body out of sight to a second location where she was subsequently found soon after.
There then occurred a horrifying sequence of events which were to change his young life forever. He was immediately taken into custody and questioned at length without a solicitor and eventually signed a false confession statement and Wendy was to die some two days later from her injuries.
Following a very biased prosecution based three day trial during February 1974 Downing was found guilty by a jury, convicted and sentenced to what was eventually a full life sentence.
Just eight months later during October 1974 there followed an appeal with fresh evidence from an eye witness who saw Wendy Sewell alive after Downing left the cemetery for lunch, however the prosecution rubbished this evidence and the appeal failed.
In the many years which followed Downing’s incarceration he was moved from prison to prison, continuing to maintain his innocence and in doing so jeopardised any chance of parole as he was “In Denial Of Murder” until eventually his plight reached journalist Don Hale, whose tireless efforts eventually led to a Criminal Cases Review and appeal in which Downing was released as a middle aged man after some twenty-seven years, the longest miscarriage in the United Kingdom legal history.
This is not the typical true crime book, but the memoir of a man failed by the criminal justice system and police force of the time. Described as the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, it was certainly well worth reading and absorbing.The Law Society Gazette, 20th April 2020 - reviewed by Estelle Parkhouse
As featured inPolice History Society
If you want to know more about Downing’s case, though, or about the English prison system, then this is a worthwhile read.GoodReads, Robert Neil Smith
It left me with questions regarding the murder and I think that they show that the case is still far for clear cut. This is one that I would recommend is read for you to make your own mind up regarding the case. I for one am firmly sitting on the fence.Donna's Book Blog
It is 4 stars from me for this one, I thought it was a really interesting book and a must read for people like me who have a great interest in true crime – highly recommended!!
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A most interesting and thought provoking book.Internet Journal of Criminology
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Downing's own account of how he was wrongly tried and imprisoned for the murder of Wendy Sewell in 1973.Bookseller 16/8/19