BY TOBY PORTER
Police officer’s son Winston Trew was considered a criminal for 47 years nine months – all because no one at the time believed a police officer would lie in court.
The Court of Appeal has now quashed his conviction, for which he was jailed for two years and spent eight months in prison.
Winston and the other members of the Oval four – Sterling Christie, George Griffiths and Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher, had been convicted on the evidence of a corrupt police officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell, who died in prison in 1978 after being jailed for mailbag theft.
None of the supposed theft “victims” had appeared at the five-week Old Bailey trial, and the police relied on disputed “confessions”.
But the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of three of them for assaulting a police officer and attempted theft due to the unreliability of the evidence.
The fourth Mr Boucher, has not had his conviction quashed as he has not been found.
But at the time of going to press, the British Transport Police had still not apologised.
Winston, now 69, said afterwards: “I knew before the hearing that the Crown Prosecution Service was not going to oppose the appeal.
I had been cautiously optimistic the convictions would be quashed, but was not overconfident on reading their reasons.
“The moment came when I head the Lord Chief Justice say: ‘We quash the convictions,’ and then expressed regret that it had taken so long to the injustice to be put right.
“Then, for the first time in decades, I was able to relax and breathe a sigh of relief. Now, I was able to eject Ridgewell from my mind, where he had been loitering with malicious intent for all that time.
I am mentally exhausted so I am relaxing.
“All this has been possible because I am a person who did not give up on fighting an injustice. It took 47 years but I was successful.
“Ridgewell took me for a fool but he soon realised that I was not.”
He is now writing a book about Ridgewell, another about the Oval Four and a third about Black Power.
Winston added: “The Oval four were framed not just by DS Ridgewell but the judicial system prevailing at that time. As you may see, I am not someone who gives up on a just fight.
“I have lived with this case for every day of my life and I have never given up. That man didn’t just steal mailbags, he stole lives.”
His wife, Hyacinth, said: “Now I can exhale!”
A plain clothes police operation was set up on the Northern line led by Ridgewell, who the Oval four’s lawyers believe British Transport Police were warned about in 1973.
Ridgewell was moved to a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with two criminals, splitting the profits of stolen mailbags.
In 1982 he died of a heart attack in prison aged 37.
Peckham-raised Winston, whose parents came to England in the 1950s, became a youth worker after his release, took a degree in social sciences and became a lecturer at London South Bank University.
He had a stroke in 2003 and, as part of his recovery, used the Freedom of Information Act to examine his case. Now living in Crofton Park, he published his findings in the book, Black for a Cause, published in 2010.
Last January, the 1976 conviction of another man, Stephen Simmons, from Clapham, was quashed as Ridgewell was involved in his case.
Ridgewell, who had previously served with the Southern Rhodesian (now Zimbabwean) police, had also taken part in the arrests of other young black men who became known as the Stockwell Six and the Waterloo Four.
At the trial of two more, the “Tottenham Court Road Two” the case was thrown out by the trial judge, Gwyn Morris, who said: “I find it terrible that here in London people using public transport should be pounced upon by police officers without a word that they are police officers.”
Winston said: “My autobiography, Black for a Cause, helped Stephen Simmons’ appeal and, yesterday, the other three members of the Oval four.
Ridgewell was a proven liar.
“The next book will help five of the Stockwell six to have their convictions quashed.
A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “In the last 40 years, there has been a considerable change in how British Transport Police identifies and investigates police misconduct.
“Our dedicated and impartial Professional Standards Department meticulously investigate all allegations of misconduct and ensures any wrongdoing is identified and dealt with.
“Gross misconduct hearings are brought before an independent panel and held in public. “Likewise, where necessary, cases are referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct who conduct their own investigations.”