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Judith_Ward

Judith Ward

Judith Theresa Ward (nee Judith Minna Ward) was born January 10, 1949. Her unsafe conviction for the Euston Station, National Defence College and M62 coach bombings was quashed on May 11,1992. She had confessed due to a mental illness that led her to attention seeking behaviour and the making of false confessions. She spent 18 years in prison and eventually wrote a book about her conviction.

Background

Ward was born in Stockport. After leaving school she worked as a horse riding instructor, including working in Dundalk, County Louth in Ireland. She briefly enlisted in the Women's Royal Army Corps in 1971 but went absent without leave and returned to Dundalk. After a few months she returned to Aldershot and gave herself up, claiming to have been the subject of an IRA recruitment attempt; she was discharged from the WRAC. After this, she moved again to the riding school in Dundalk where she worked for another year.

During this time she managed to get into the Thiepval Barracks, headquarters of the British Army in Northern Ireland. She was detained by the British army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and told them she was looking over the details of security measures, but she was not prosecuted. In August 1973, Ward left Dundalk and moved to London where she worked as a chambermaid in a hotel. By the end of the year she was living again in Stockport, and early in 1974 she worked for Chipperfield's Circus.

Events

On September 10 1973, the Provisional IRA bombed Euston Station in London. On February 3 1974 a further bomb destroyed a bus on the M62 motorway killing 12 soldiers and family members. The National Defence College in Latimer, Buckinghamshire was bombed on February 12 1974.

Ward was arrested on 14 February 1974 and on 4 November was convicted of all three bombings.

Appeal

Several missing facts from the original trial made the Appeal court rule the conviction as unsafe.

  • The original trial had not been informed of Ward's history of mental illness before her arrest and her possible unfitness to plead. Neither the court nor her family were told of a suicide attempt while Ward was in custody.
  • It was also found that Ward had changed her “confession” several times, and police and the prosecution had to select parts of her statements to construct a plausible version. The prosecution concealed other important facts from the defence.
  • RARDE Scientists Elliott and Higgs, had failed to disclose evidence that weighed against the prosecution case.
  • Evidence from forensic scientist Dr Frank Skuse had been important to her conviction. Skuse's flawed methods had also been crucial in the conviction of the Birmingham Six who had previously been found to have been wrongly convicted.

Nitroglycerine evidence

One of the main pieces of forensic evidence against Judith Ward was the alleged presence of traces of nitroglycerine on her hands, in her caravan, and in her bag.

Thin layer chromatography and the Griess test were used to establish the presence of nitroglycerine. However, later evidence showed that positive results using these methods could be obtained with materials innocently picked up from shoe polish, and that several of the forensic scientists involved had either withheld evidence or exaggerated its importance.

This was one of a series of miscarriages of justice during the latter half of the 20th century.

References

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