Jamil Chowdhary's Story
My name is Jamil Chowdhary and I am doing a life sentence for a murder I did not commit.
My story starts on 1 February 1991 when two men entered a shop at the Phoenix Green Filling Station, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire. Inside the shop Miss Sophie Ashworth was serving behind the counter and two boys, Raymond Kelly and Mathew Pollock were standing infront of the counter talking to her. One of the men stood at the cash desk whilst the second man, armed with a gun entered the shop and gave instructions to the two boys to get down on the floor. Whilst the robber was taking money from the till the gun was discharged. Raymond Kelly was shot in the back and sadly died.
The events were recorded on a 24-hour time lapse video recording from a camera mounted on the wall behind the counter in the filling station shop. It was the Prosecutions case that Mohammed Womiq Nazir was the robber and that I, Jamil Chowdhary was the gunman. Nazir was in prison on another charge just six weeks after the garage killing, awaiting trial for slashing a man whose house he'd broken into. He was interviewed in jail and hoping to do a deal on this charge, he hinted he could help the police with the Phoenix Green murder. In prison, Nazir started to spin a yarn of lies and deceit to the police. He first named his lover Marlene Thomas as his accomplice on the night of the murder. The next person Nazir falsely accused was my flatmate Rajinder Dhaliwal and when that didn't work, he accused Rajinder's Brother Abdul. Both of them had alibi's. After a series of false accusations, Nazir came up with my name. He said that I was with him that night at the Phoenix Green Garage and that I was the gunman. He even accused me of another murder, which the police knew I hadn't committed. When I was arrested 3 months later, I couldn't remember where I was on the night of the murder.
On the 2 April 1992, (At that time had been on remand for one year) I was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life, with a tarriff of Twenty Years. Mohammed Nazir pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to 12 years.
I'd met Nazir in 1989 when I was in a bail hostel. He seemed all right at the time and I told him if he was ever in my area to come and look me up. Then one night in 1991 he came to my flat and asked if he could stay for a couple of days as he was in some kind of trouble. I didn't want to know about his troubles but I said he could stay. He stayed a couple of weeks and then disappeared. I never saw him again until the trial
The police's case depended on the word of Nazir and his girlfriend, a woman who admitted that she helped get rid of the murder weapon. The independent support came from John Cole, who later identified me at Aldershot police station. They told Mr Cole that he was going to do a cell identity parade, but it wasn't an identity parade it was just me in the cell. Later Mr Cole said that if it was a proper identity parade he couldn't have sworn that it was me that he saw that night. In Channel 4's Trial and Error Mr Cole admitted to David Jessel that he had been given £300 cash in a brown paper envelope delivered by a man wearing a suit. He said that he didn't sign for it and that all the bloke said was, "Here's £300 for helping us in the case"?
Many things in my case weren't quite right. The fact that the witnesses who saw two men earlier on that evening noticed that one of the men was taller then the other and that the taller of the two was wearing a distinctive Palestinian-style scarf like the one Nazir was wearing. John Cole and another witness Nick Reynals stopped to help the two men, as they appeared to be looking for a wallet that they had dropped. Nick Reynals, claimed that one of the men was around 5'8 to 5'10. The second man who we know to be Nazir was according to both witnesses around 5'11 to 6'0. John Cole said that the man with the scarf round his neck was considerably taller than the other man. I am taller than both of these men at 6'1 to 6'2 with shoes on. Another important detail that was ignored was that of Sophie Ashworth who was working behind the counter on the night of the shooting. Miss Ashworth described the suspects as two white males. This would be true of Nazir, although of mixed race he was so light skinned he looked as if he was of European origin.
The final clue in the case against me was when the police raided my mini-cab office and found false number plates JAB9 which the static officer had registered within a few miles of the murder and within minutes of it taking place. I have never denied to the police about having those number plates. They were on the car of my then girlfriend. Nazir and I used the car at different times. PC Gibson's log was obviously a crucial document in the case, but it is far from straight forward. In fact, the log seems to pose more questions then answers. Why, for instance, should PC Gibson note the description of the robbers as coming through at 21.00, when we know the police radio room doesn't record the message as being sent until four minutes later? What about the JAB9 entry which was so central to the case against me? Or - on a busy road - the eight minutes that seems to have passed between cars? Or the apparent variation in the layout of the entries? The biggest problem is what isn't in the document. PC Gibson's job was to keep a comprehensive log. However, it's not a complete record. Details are missing or destroyed. In fact Gibson himself threw them away the next day - he said he hadn't thought them relevant. How did the officer know which numbers were relevant, I wasn't arrested until three months later. It was only three months later that the police were trying to establish that JAB9 was involved and was relevant.
At trial, the case was completed with two statements from inmates that said I'd admitted to the murder while I was on remand at Winchester prison. A month after my conviction one of the inmates who testified to my so - called 'cell block confession' came up for trial. Maurice Nedd is multiple rapist. But the judge clearly recognized the help he'd given in my conviction when he said to Maurice Nedd that he was lightening his sentence for the rape of 20-year old student " to take account of his assistance.' Other inmates were put under pressure to claim that I had made admissions to them. Letters from two inmates claim that they were manipulated and induced to say that I had confessed to them.
Marlene's evidence was damning as she said that I was with Nazir on the night of the murder although she never actually saw me. She was never charged even though she admitted to handling the shotgun and burning Nazir's clothes.
I appealed against conviction to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard by the Full Court on 23 September 1994 and was dismissed
I appealed on the grounds that the learned judge wrongly fettered cross examination of one witness Sunita Mehta (a friend of Nazir's) by counsel on my behalf. He wrongly refused to permit a tape recording of her police interview to be played to her in cross -examination in the presence of the jury. The tape recording was made by D.S. Alexander on the 3 May 1991 other half-hour interview by him under caution. That one evening before the snow in February 1991 Nazir had come to her flat in Slough and had then confessed to her that he had shots a boy in a garage. That he had gone in second into the garage carrying the gun. Whilst his accomplice, whom he did not name but described as "the boy", had gone in first. He robbed the girl at the counter of her takings and that he, Nazir, had shot one of the two boys in the back as they lay down on the floor beside the counter. The gun going off accidentally. Nazir's confession to Sunita Nehta was identical to the confession he made to Marlene Thomas who gave evidence of it to the jury. There were letters that Nazir had written to Marlene that were capable of providing evidence in my case but they were not shown.
On the 8 July 1996 Sir Anthony Dun-ant MP contacted the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard, the then Home Secretary, asking him to refer my conviction to the Court of Appeal. My solicitor JC Wroe had submitted scientific evidence in the form of analyses of the height of the two men shown in the video tape recording of the garage shop at the time of the shooting. They argued this new evidence proved that I could not have been the gunman. This case was not progressed by the Home Office; it was then transferred to the Criminal Case Review Commission at the start of its operation in April 1997.
The Commission reviewed the conviction and its investigation included analysis of the expert reports, by Kalgate Imagery Bureau and Didier Madoc Jones of GMJ, submitted on my behalf. Three experts were called upon by the Commission to analyse the video recording, these were Kalagate Imagery Bureau, Mr Windsor of Mask Technologies and the Forensic Science Service Digital Imaging Unit. It is plain to see from all the attempts to obtain accurate height comparisons of the two men shown in the video footage, that the first man to enter the shop (Nazir) is taller than the second man. It is argued on my behalf that all of the scientific analysis of the video shows that if Nazir was the first man, as the prosecution have always alleged, then I could not have been the second, as I am 5cm taller than Nazir.
On the 14 May 2002, the Commission concluded that there were no grounds upon which my conviction could be referred to the Court of Appeal. As the Commission does not consider that, there is any real possibility of eliminating me from the scene with any degree of certainty.
My opinion is that the Commissions review was flawed and unfair and their witnesses simply set out to discredit the evidence given on my behalf.
I have spent 12 years in 'Category A' conditions for a murder I did not commit. When I was in court, I heard so many lies told about me that you can imagine my disbelief and shock when I was found guilty and given a life sentence. There was no evidence against me only the word of Nazir and his girlfriend Mariene. If I had been tried on my own most of the evidence would not have been admissible. Nevertheless, because I was tried jointly with Nazir there were many witnesses who were called to give evidence against Nazir. Unfortunately through the back door, they also gave evidence against me. Unless I get back to trial, I can't see me being released and that makes me very sad indeed. I try not to think about it and just hope and pray that one day the truth will come out and I will finally be released from this nightmare.
If there is anyone who knows about or knows of an expert in the field of advanced Imagery Analysis and Photogrammetry, Forensic Imagery, Mathematical technique of video recordings and is able to clarify methodology variations in clinical gait analysis. Could they please contact me?
Written in HMP Longlartin, Tuesday 11th February 2002