Ellis Sherwood

Years in prison:
Year of crime:
Year conviction was overturned:

Ellis Sherwood and two co-defendants (Darren Hall and Michael O’Brien) were convicted of the murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders. Saunders was attacked and robbed as he returned to his home. He received injuries in the attack and died five days later. A pathologist gave unchallenged evidence that Saunders must have received five blows to the head causing extensive fractures to his skull. O’Brien was implicated in the crime by co-defendant Darren Hall, who confessed to the crime. At trial, the three defendants had all stated that they were together at the time of the attack. Hall said that he had suggested to the O’Brien and Sherwood that Saunders should be robbed, and realised some harm may come to Saunders but not that he should be killed. He said he acted as the lookout. He pled guilty to robbery on that basis (and had been prepared to plead guilty to manslaughter). O’Brien and Sherwood said that they were with Hall but that none of them had anything to do with the attach on Saunders. The prosecution case against Sherwood was based on the evidence given by Hall, various witnesses who claimed Sherwood and O’Brien had made incriminating statements to them, the fact he initially gave false statements about his movements on the day of the murder, witness noticing he had money, and evidence from a police officer who claimed to have heard O’Brien say to him he couldn’t hold out much longer and might have to tell the truth. Some time after his conviction Hall was moved to a prison with the facility for prisoners to take part in group therapy. There he began to give a very different account, according to which he had killed Sanders himself after he (Hall) had been raped by two men, possibly at Sanders’ instigation. He said Sherwood and O’Brien had actually tried to pull him away from Saunders. A couple of years later Hall changed his story again, saying that he had nothing to do with the attack and neither had his co-defendants. On appeal, evidence from experts highlighted the unreliability of confession evidence in the case. One expert found that Darren Hall had been suffering from antisocial personality disorder at the time the statement was made, had many of the features of a pathological liar, and had a tendency to be suggestible or compliant . Another found that he had a need to appear socially able and was more concerned about the need for acceptance than telling the truth. The court concluded that had the jury heard this evidence they may well have reached different verdicts and quashed the convictions on that basis.

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