A Question of Identity : Page 1

One

20 MAY, 2002

‘MEMBERS OF THE jury, the defendant has answered an indictment containing three counts. On count one he is charged with murder. The particulars of the offence are that on or before the seventeenth day of July 2001, he murdered Carrie Millicent Gage. On count two he is charged with murder. The particulars of the offence are that on or before the thirtieth of July 2001, he murdered Sarah Pearce. On count three he is charged with murder. The particulars of the offence are that on the fourth of August 2001 he murdered Angela Daphne Kavanagh.

‘To each count he has pleaded “Not guilty”, and it is your duty, having heard the evidence, to say, in respect of each count, whether he is guilty or not.

‘Would the defendant please stand?’

Alan Frederick Keyes, thirty-two, a self-employed builder of 33 Westway Road, Crofton – wearing dark trousers and a blue open-necked shirt – stood.

23 MAY, 2002

‘Would the next witness please take the stand?’

A small woman. Brown coat, beige felt hat. She looked frail, walked slowly, as if in some pain, eyes huge in a bony little face darting about the court, skin the colour of an old candle.

‘Will you please state your name?’

She leaned on the wooden ledge of the witness box, eyes still fearful, catching her breath.

‘When you’re ready.’

Silence. She looked down in panic at the clerk.

‘Are you feeling unwell?’

His Honour Judge Malcolm Palmer, notoriously kind to witnesses, relatives, court attendants, women and babies. Notoriously harsh to prosecution or defence not on top of their game, cocky police officers, unprepared expert witnesses and members of the press.

But she pulled herself up. Shook her head, looking anxiously at the judge, who gave her his best encouraging smile. Satisfied that she was ready to attest, he nodded at the clerk.

‘Will you please state your name?’

‘Gwendolyn Violet Phipps. Mrs.’

‘You must speak up a little so that the jury can hear you. Would you mind saying it again?’

‘I’m sorry, I’m . . .’

‘That’s quite all right. Just once again, please.’

Pause. She cleared her throat. Spoke up loudly. ‘My name is Gwendolyn Violet Phipps. Mrs.’

‘Thank you, Mrs Phipps, that was perfect.’

Mr Anthony Elrod, for the Prosecution: ‘Mrs Phipps, would you tell the court please where you were on the night of 17 July last year – 2001?’

‘Well, I was at home . . .’

‘And your home is?’

‘Number 8 Meadow View Close – the bungalows. I was in bed, only then . . . I heard something . . . and I got up.’

‘Can you explain to the court where exactly your bungalow, number 8, Meadow View Close is, in relation to the bungalow in which Mrs Carrie Gage lived?’

‘Opposite. Right opposite, across the grass.’

‘So you have an unobstructed view of number 20?’

‘Oh yes. Very clear. I could see Carrie – Mrs Gage – when she was alive . . . I could see her going in and out or if she was at her front window . . . and she could see me. The same.’

‘Quite. Now, on the night of 17 July, you say you were awakened by a noise?’

‘No, I didn’t say that. No. I said I heard something . . . I didn’t say it was a noise, or that I was asleep.’

‘Well, whatever it was, what did you do?’

‘I got up. I knew it wouldn’t do any good just lying there. I got up to make a cup of tea.’

‘Did you put a light on straight away?’

‘No, I went to my bedroom window and looked out.’

‘Why was that? Wouldn’t the first thing anyone would do would be to switch –’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear, for the Defence, getting to his feet: ‘Your Honour –’

Judge Palmer: ‘Yes. Mr Elrod, this is very elementary you know, you are trying to ascertain what the witness and only the witness would do, she cannot know what “anyone” else would have done.’

‘I beg your pardon, Your Honour. Mrs Phipps, why didn’t you put a light on immediately?’

‘I must have wondered what had disturbed me and gone to look out first . . . if there had been someone out there, I always think it’s safer to see and not be seen, if you follow. If I’d switched on a light whoever it was could have seen me and then what?’

‘So you were disturbed by a person making some sort of noise?’

‘I must have been. Well, obviously, after I saw him, I realised that, didn’t I?’

‘“After I saw him”? Who or what was it you did see, Mrs Phipps?’

‘The man.’

‘One man?’

‘Yes, one. Only one.’

‘Will you describe the man for us please?’

‘Well, it was the man I saw in that line of them, the one I pointed to.’

‘That would be in the identification parade at the police station?’

Judge Palmer: ‘A step too far ahead, Mr Elrod.’

‘Yes, Your Honour. Mrs Phipps, just let’s go back to the night on which you say you saw a man outside number 20 Meadow View Close . . . Was it a dark night? Was there a moon?’

‘It was dark, but there’s a security light, that came on. They come on when anyone moves, only sometimes it’s a nuisance, a stray cat or those bloomin’ foxes run past and it goes on.’

‘Did you see a cat or a fox?’

‘No.’

‘But you saw a man.’

‘Yes, I definitely did.’

‘Did you recognise him?’

‘Well, I said before, it was the one I –’

‘We’ll come to that in a moment, Mrs Phipps. Did you recognise him when you looked out of the window that night and saw him? Was it someone you knew?’

‘I don’t think I knew him. No, I didn’t.’

‘Are you quite sure?’

‘I think I am, yes. Only it was dark of course.’

‘Except for the security light that came on, and in which you could see the figure of a man?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thank you. So now let us move on to the afternoon of 14 October when you attended Crofton Central Police Station. You were shown photographs of a number of men.’

‘A lot of photographs. It was quite confusing actually.’

‘Did you recognise any of them as being the man you saw that night, outside Mrs Gage’s bungalow?’

‘Not really. They were photographs of faces close up and I didn’t see him like that.’

‘Quite. You saw him across the grass from your own window. Let us now move on to 4 November, when you went to Crofton Central Police Station again, and this time you looked at an identity line-up of eight men. You saw them standing, not just their faces. Now did you recognise any of them as being the man you saw on that night from your window?’

‘Oh yes. I recognised him.’

‘You recognised the defendant?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re quite sure about that?’

‘I was . . . I thought it was him. The others weren’t anything like him. Well, not much anyway. No, it must have been him.’

‘Thank you, Mrs Phipps. No more questions, Your Honour.’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear, for the Defence:

‘Mrs Phipps, do you wear glasses?’

‘Yes. For reading and sewing.’

‘So, you’re long-sighted. You have no problems with distance vision?’

‘No. I’m very fortunate in that regard.’

‘How far can you see clearly without any blurring of vision? Ten yards? Twenty-five yards? One hundred –’

Mr Anthony Elrod: ‘Objection, Your Honour – the witness can hardly be expected to know the exact measurements of how far she can see.’

Judge Palmer: ‘Point taken but most people have a general idea of their visual extent.’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear: ‘Do you drive a car, Mrs Phipps?’

‘I did, only I gave it up when I moved into Meadow View.’

‘Because you could no longer see clearly?’

‘No, because I could no longer afford the running of it.’

‘Well, the distance it is necessary to read a number plate clearly, in order to pass the driving test is 25 yards, with glasses if worn. How long is it exactly since you last possessed a driving licence?’

‘Seven . . . no, nearly eight years.’

‘And do you think you could still see well enough to pass the driving test?’

Mr Anthony Elrod: ‘Your Honour . . .’

Judge Palmer: ‘Yes. Mr Brockyear, you cannot ask the witness to speculate in that way.’

‘Mrs Phipps, will you please tell the court, in as much detail as you can, what or who you saw exactly when you looked out of your window that night?’

‘A man. It was definitely a man. That man.’

‘How can you be so sure of that?’

‘I . . . well, I think . . . no, I mean, I just know. It wasn’t quite dark and it isn’t far across the grass. I might have seen his reflection in the window.’

‘In which window?’

‘The one opposite mine, number 20. Carrie’s window.’

‘Are you saying you definitely did see this man’s reflection?’

‘I think I might have, yes.’

‘But you cannot be absolutely sure? Mrs Phipps?’

‘I don’t know . . . I’m saying . . . well, I don’t know how else I’d have seen him, is what I’m saying.’

‘Might you have been mistaken?’

‘No. I saw something.’

‘Something or someone? Something, as in an animal, or even a shadow – perhaps a tree threw its shadow across the grass?’

Judge Palmer: ‘Take your time, Mrs Phipps. Remember you are under oath. You must be sure about what you remember and if you aren’t sure you must say so. Do you understand?’

‘I do, but it’s – it’s quite confusing.’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear: ‘Mrs Palmer, did you see a man standing in the garden on that night?’

‘Yes.’

‘You are quite sure.’

‘I was sure.’

‘You were sure or you are sure? You see, what I think happened is that you saw something . . . and possibly it was indeed someone. Possibly it was a man . . . but a few minutes ago you said it was almost dark. You’re quite correct. There was indeed no moon that night. There was heavy cloud. Behind it, the moon was only one day from new. It would not have been visible behind such cloud. So in fact it was pretty dark in the garden when you looked out, wasn’t it?’

‘Yes, but I saw someone. I definitely saw – well, I saw something, anyway.’

‘But you’re not sure it was a person at all, let alone a man?’

‘You’re making me think I’m not. But the light came on. The security light.’

‘You’re sure it did?’

‘It must have done, mustn’t it? It always comes on when something moves and I saw the man, so he must have moved and then the light came on.’

‘Now I think we are all confused. Mrs Phipps, I’m trying to get you to be absolutely sure, and it seems to me that the more you think about this extremely important incident, the less sure you are. But let’s leave the garden and move on to the identity parade at the police station. At this parade you picked out one man as being the man you are certain you saw that night, didn’t you?’

‘I suppose I did.’

‘Did you or didn’t you?’

‘I feel . . . I don’t know. I just don’t know anything, you’ve confused me so much.’

‘I’m sorry if that’s how you see it because I am not trying to confuse you in any way. On the contrary, I am trying to get at the truth. I am trying to be clear and to make sure you yourself are clear, about what or who you saw that night. And you’re not sure, are you? About what you saw –’

‘I am sure about that. I was and I am. It was a man. I saw a man.’

‘So now let us again move to the identity parade at the police station.’

‘They confused me there too.’

‘Who confused you?’

‘The detective. The policeman. One of them, maybe the other . . . the woman detective.’

‘Mrs Phipps, we need to be absolutely sure about this. Are you saying that one or possibly two members of the police “confused” you during the identity parade? How exactly did you feel they were confusing you?’

‘It wasn’t confusing me so much as . . . I don’t know . . . pushing me. Making me say it was him.’

‘The defendant?’

‘Yes. I looked at them all and at first I didn’t recognise any of them, I’d never seen any of them before. But then I looked again and I really did think it was him – the one in the . . . that man. And they sort of hurried me . . . I felt they . . . oh, I don’t know. I’m sorry.’

Judge Palmer: ‘Mrs Phipps, would you like some water? It’s very important that you finish answering the defence questions but you should take as long as you need.’

‘I’m all right, thank you. Thank you, Your Honour.’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear: ‘When you were viewing the identity line-up, what made you hesitate and then look again at the accused?’

‘I just recognised something about him . . . maybe the way he was standing and his – well, his shape.’

‘His shape?’

‘People have a shape, don’t they?’

‘Was his shape the shape of the man you saw in the garden?’

‘I think it was, yes.’

‘So was there something unusual about his shape?’

‘Not really . . . only it was . . . I recognised it.’

‘You will have to do better than that, Mrs Phipps.’

Mr Anthony Elrod: ‘Your Honour . . .’

Judge Palmer: ‘Indeed, Mr Elrod.’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear: ‘I’m sorry, I withdraw that remark, Your Honour. Mrs Phipps, look at the accused now. Look at him carefully.’

Judge Palmer, to the accused: ‘Will you please stand?’

Mr Jeremy Brockyear: ‘Mrs Phipps?’

‘Yes. He’s got a – a sort of particular shape. It’s up here – his shoulders. They slope.’

‘So, solely on the basis of his shape – the way his shoulders slope – you identified the accused as the man you saw in the garden that night. You positively identified him as the same man, is that correct?’

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