Wallace's manslaughter conviction quashed

 

AN SAS trained former British army information officer in Northern Ireland, who spent six years in jail after being convicted of manslaughter, had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal in London yesterday.

Mr Colin Wallace (53) said after the hearing that he was the victim of a "dirty tricks campaign which resulted in the evidence at his trial 16 years ago being "manufactured and manipulated".

In 1981 Mr Wallace was jailed for 10 years for the manslaughter of Mr Jonathan Lewis, an antiques dealer, of Dalloway Road, Arundel, West Sussex, with whose wife he had been having an affair.

He was released in 1986 and renewed his campaign against British secret service dirty tricks, while maintaining that he had nothing to do with Mr Lewis's death.

After the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, delivered the judgment yesterday, Ms Ann Curnow QC, representing the Crown, asked for a retrial.

This will be decided at a future hearing.

His solicitor, Mr James Nichol, said Mr Wallace would be vigorously opposing any application for a retrial and seeking damages for the years he spent in jail.

Mr Wallace, who now works as a management consultant, claims he once worked as a propaganda warfare intelligence officer in Northern Ireland with the job of spreading doubt and confusion among terrorists.

He said he became the target of covert operations to discredit him because of his threat to expose undercover work, forgery and homosexual blackmail of Northern Ireland public figures by British intelligence.

Lord Bingham said yesterday that before the trial began it was agreed between the Crown and defence that Mr Wallace's SAS history should not be laid before the jury.

But newspapers published pictures of him in SAS uniform, prompting his counsel to ask during the trial whether he had received training in unarmed combat.

Although he said he had not, the jury could have been led to "disbelieve him", said Lord Bingham.

Mr Wallace was working for Arun District Council in 1980 as an information officer and Mr Lewis's wife Jane, was his assistant.

While they were working on an It's A Knockout programme hosted by the council, they formed "a relationship which was amorous but not adulterous", said the judge.

Mr Wallace and Mr Lewis agreed to meet before a surprise party for Mrs Lewis at a hotel outside Arundel, on August 5th, 1980.

When Mrs Lewis arrived for the party, Mr Wallace told her and other guests that Mr Lewis would be late. He was not seen alive again.

Mrs Lewis reported her husband missing to the police during the night, but Mr Wallace did not tell her that he had met him before the party.

The pair told the police of their relationship the next day when Mr Lewis's body was found floating in the River Arun.

Mr Wallace said he had spoken to Mr Lewis on the telephone the previous day, but had not met him. He later made a statement saying they had talked together when Mr Lewis confronted him about his relationship with his wife.

Mr Wallace said outside the court he believed Mr Lewis was killed by criminal members of the antiques trade in Brighton.

"The police have evidence of this but have suppressed it", he said.

He called for a "proper police explanation" of who was responsible for the evidence which led to his 10 year jail sentence at Lewes Crown Court and a "far reaching" investigation into the killing of Mr Lewis.

Mr Wallace referred to a British government inquiry after he was dismissed from the British Civil Service in 1975 for disclosing a classified document to a journalist.

He has consistently claimed he was forced out of his job because of the threat to expose covert operations.

An inquiry headed by Mr David Calcutt QC into the handling by the Ministry of Defence of his dismissal led to him receiving £30,000 compensation from the ministry.

Yesterday, Mr Wallace said he had "absolutely no idea" who manipulated the evidence at his trial for manslaughter and that it was something the police should investigate.

He said the evidence about the karate blow with which he was alleged to have hit Mr Lewis had been manufactured to provide a link between the killing and his British army background.

"The fact that it is now discredited by a leading expert indicates something very underhand was going on in the preparation of the case" said Mr Wallace.

It had been the Crown's case at the trial that Mr Lewis had been knocked out by Mr Wallace at Mr Lewis's home and then dumped in the river, where he drowned.

A Home Office pathologist, Dr lain West, had told the jury that Mr Lewis had "probably been hit by a karate blow" with the heel of the hand to the base of the nose while his head was being held in an arm lock.

But at the second appeal hearing in July this year, ordered by the British Home Secretary, Mr Michael Howard, two other pathologists said such a powerful blow would have caused damage to nasal bones, bleeding, swelling and bruising and there was no evidence of these.