Foreword by Susan Hogan-Taft Despite a flawed prosecution case based on purely circumstantial
evidence, on 24th November 1999, my husband John Taft was wrongly convicted, by a
10-2-majority jury verdict at Liverpool Crown Court of the murder of Cynthia Bolshaw.
The murder was committed in October 1983. He is now serving a mandatory life sentence
at HMP Gartree. The case was popularly called ‘The beauty in the bath case’ in the
media. My husband did not kill Mrs. Bolshaw. I believe that any reasonable person,
after reading this report, will agree that he should be released from the terrible
sentence which has been imposed on him.
In a criminal trial the burden is upon the
prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the guilt of the accused. John’s defence
demonstrated that he was not guilty of murder. At the very least it demonstrated
that there was more than reasonable doubt as to his guilt. Beyond reasonable doubt
is a fundamental principle of British criminal law. No realistic evaluation of the
evidence presented in court should have led to John being convicted. The case demonstrates
the fallibility at the heart of the entire judicial system, making gross miscarriages
of justice such as this possible. This is something we should all be concerned about.
You and your loved ones could find yourselves in a similar terrible predicament,
where an innocent person is convicted while the guilty go free. Although I am not
in prison, as John’s wife I have also been given a life sentence through this appalling
miscarriage of justice. I will not rest until he is freed from prison.
and I had only been married for a few short weeks before he was arrested, we had
enjoyed a close relationship for over twelve years. I know him better than anyone
else in the world, and I know that he is incapable of violence, especially against
a woman. Before his arrest John, who is aged fifty years, was an extremely hard working
local businessman. He had left school with virtually no qualifications but had risen
to be a director of a small business, which he had worked long and hard to build
up. In his private life John had an interest in ecology, enjoyed reading and occasional
trips to the theatre. Together we enjoyed a variety of music, and we liked to eat
out at least once a month. Most of all we just enjoyed each others company and led
a quiet life. Just a very ordinary couple, in fact.
People are bound to say that I
am biased, which of course I am. But I believe in justice. Part of the reason for
putting together this report is to demonstrate that not only my heart, but my head
also, knows John is innocent. Parole requirements involve a convicted person ‘confessing’
to his or her crime, showing remorse and addressing offending behaviour. Whilst John
continues to protest his innocence he is unlikely to ever be released. This means
we could both go on suffering for the rest of our lives for a crime committed by
This report sets out to summarise the main evidence presented in court,
a great deal of which many people are unaware of. It has been put together by people
who are not lawyers – it is a layperson’s view of what constitutes justice. Initially
the case against John sounds very damning, which is what sticks in most people’s
minds. However, a cool and intelligent analysis of the evidence presents a very different
picture. To me, it appeared from the outset that the police were convinced John was
guilty of the crime. However, the jig saw pieces just do not fit together in the
case that was constructed against him.
We have attempted to put together a fair and
accurate account of the main points of the trial. In doing this, we are acutely aware
of the feelings of Mrs. Bolshaw’s family. However, because we know an injustice has
occurred and the wrong person has been convicted of this terrible crime, we have
to speak out. In allowing an innocent person to spend the rest of his life behind
bars, and in allowing me to also suffer so appallingly, the state is guilty of a
gross abuse of human rights. Please help me to right that wrong. Susan Hogan-Taft
Background information On Sunday 9th October 1983, at about 10.30am, Cynthia Bolshaw’s
body was found at her bungalow in Heswall, where she lived alone. Mrs. Bolshaw, a
fifty year old divorcee, had arrived home from work on the previous evening at around
6.20pm. On the previous Saturday, October 1st, Mrs. Bolshaw’s son had married his
wife who had previously been staying with Mrs. Bolshaw for a few months. Following
the wedding the young couple left to live in Yorkshire. Plans had been made for Mrs.
Bolshaw to visit her son and daughter in law on Sunday 9th October. Arrangements
had been made for Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, (sister and brother in law of the deceased)
to call round at about 10.30am on the Sunday to see her before she set off for Yorkshire.
When they called at the house there was no reply although lights were on. They went
in through the unlocked back door and found Mrs. Bolshaw’s naked body face down in
a bath of water. There was no sign of a forced entry to the property. The back door
was unlocked. The transom window of the ground floor bedroom was open. The porch
light was on. Mrs. Bolshaw’s car was not there.
Mrs. Bolshaw’s car had been seen by her neighbour on the drive at 11.30pm on the
previous night (Saturday 8th October). The porch light was on at this time, too.
The neighbour said this was usual when either Mrs. Bolshaw was going out or was expecting
a caller. The car had been noted by police to be parked on the verge of the A540
High Chester Road at 5.45am and 7.30am on the Sunday morning when Mrs. Bolshaw was
found. Mrs. Bolshaw's sister said it appeared to her that she had been interrupted
in the middle of tidying up the kitchen, as there were a number of kitchen utensils
lying about, and the fridge was open. Otherwise, there was no sign of disturbance
in the house.
There was a large damp patch (presumed to be urine) on the bottom sheet of the bed.
There were no obvious signs of injury when the body was found. A post mortem revealed
Mrs. Bolshaw had been strangled and a number of small bruises were noted to her head
and body. There was some facial bruising and evidence she had received a blow to
the side of her head by a fist or instrument. There was evidence of recent sexual
intercourse but no sign of sexual assault. A black negligee, which was on the bed,
was found to have a semen stain on it.
In 1997 a DNA test was conducted on a vaginal swab which had been taken from the
deceased in 1983. No profile was generated, either because the sample was degraded
or contained contaminating substances.
There were a few small spots of blood on the bedding, on a doorjamb, and some wet
blood stained kitchen towel in the kitchen. Mrs. Bolshaw had a small cut to her finger,
which was covered with a sticking plaster. A broken glass in the bin may have caused
the cut, and the blood found in the house was thought to belong to Mrs. Bolshaw.
On the following Tuesday (11th October), a stocking mask (a cut off leg from a pair
of tights or stockings) containing items of Mrs Bolshaw’s jewellery was found in
a telephone box. This was some 50 miles away at Romiley, near Manchester. The stocking
mask carried a purple fibre from the deceased’s bedspread. It was later noted that
part of a page had been torn from Mrs. Bolshaw’s diary. Brown fibres, thought to
have originated from brown corduroy trousers, were found on the bottom bed sheet,
the bedroom stool, the negligee and on the driver’s seat of the car.
At the time Mrs. Bolshaw was killed, John and his ex-wife Barbara Taft were living
at 23 Mostyn Avenue, Heswall, a few miles from 5 Buffs Lane. At the beginning of
1999, despite there having been several suspects, the files were still open and a
press conference was called.
It was announced that through the advances of scientific techniques the semen stain
that had been found on the negligee worn by the deceased on the night of her murder
had yielded a DNA profile. This set in train the events that led to John’s conviction.
Information given to the police led to them to speak to his ex-wife. He was arrested,
a sample of his blood was taken voluntarily and scientists matched it to the semen
on the negligee. He was interviewed and on the duty solicitor’s advice made no comment
other than to adamantly deny committing the murder, destroying clothing, or tearing
pages from a diary.
Brief summary of prosecution case The prosecution’s case was that
at some time between 6.20pm on 8th October and 10.30am on 9th October 1983, Cynthia
Bolshaw was murdered in her home. She was strangled. She had also sustained many
bruises, including to her eye. She had been killed in the bedroom and carried to
the bathroom and placed in a bath of water. She had been killed before being placed
face down in the bath, as she had not drowned.
Mrs. Bolshaw owned a car which was
parked outside her house, 5 Buffs Lane, Heswall on the evening of 8th October and
last seen by a neighbour on the drive at 11.30pm. At 4.45am on 9th October it was
seen by a police officer parked on the A540 Chester High Road in the entrance to
a field. On the driver’s seat were fibres of a type which may have come from brown
corduroy trousers. Such fibres were found on the bed at 5 Buffs Lane. The murderer
had taken her car and left it for some reason.
On the following Tuesday, 11th October,
jewellery was found in a telephone box in Romiley, near Manchester at about 4.50pm.
It was wrapped in a nylon stocking. The murderer had taken it from 5 Buffs Lane and
left it there, probably that day; otherwise it would have been found sooner. The
murderer had taken the jewellery to make it look as if Mrs Bolshaw had been killed
by a robber. In taking the jewellery to Manchester he would disguise the fact that
the killer was a local man.
The Crown said they could prove that the person responsible
was John Taft. This was based on two vital pieces of evidence coming to light nearly
sixteen years later. Once those two pieces of vital evidence came to light, everything
else that had been found in the police investigation suddenly fitted into place with
a ‘deadly logic’.
In 1999 the police learned that a woman named Barbara Taft had something
to tell them about the man she was married to in 1983, John Taft. Once the police
knew this they were able to focus their enquiries on to him. He was not a suspect
in 1983, although the police had spoken to him about the murder. John Taft was arrested,
and a blood sample using technology not available in 1983 enabled him to be linked
to a semen stain on the negligee of the deceased.
After the murder John Taft was behaving
oddly. This information came from his ex-wife Barbara Taft, and from his then neighbours
the Evans family. Barbara Taft had been told by her then husband that he had been
at the home of the deceased on the day of the murder, doing some work, and asked
her to give him a false alibi which she refused to do. He had told her of various
things he had done to try to cover his tracks, as he was concerned about being implicated
in the murder which he said had been committed by some unknown man. This included
burning and burying clothing.
The Evans family who lived next door to John and Barbara
Taft at the time noticed something extraordinary one weekend early in October 1983.
They saw John Taft late one night in his garden digging a hole. When interviewed
on several occasions, on the advice of the duty solicitor (not his current solicitors)
he gave a ‘no comment’ interview. There were other factors which the jury would hear
about which added to the picture of guilt, and that John Taft had entered into a
cold and calculating plot to hide his responsibility for the crime he had committed.
It all sounds very damning…but read on.
Barbara Taft’s evidence (John’s ex-wife) Barbara
Taft, John’s ex-wife, gave evidence at the trial against John. She told the court
that she had married John in 1974, and that they had divorced amicably in 1988. For
a time after the divorce they had continued to live in the same house, and even continued
to share the same bank account. She maintained that John told her everything she
was now recounting during the weekend following the murder, when she returned home
from Sussex where she was a student. She said they had not discussed matters afterwards
and she had never read any press accounts of the murder. Her evidence was that John
had told her the following:-
He had been at Mrs. Bolshaw’s bungalow at 5, Buffs Lane, Heswall on the day of the
murder to do some work – a ‘foreigner’. (i.e. work undertaken out of the normal course
of paid employment.) After he learned of the murder he had been so worried about
being wrongly accused that he had removed distinctive stripes from his car. He had
burned footwear and clothing he had been wearing when he was at Buffs Lane and buried
it in the garden. He had ripped pages linking him to Mrs. Bolshaw out of a works
diary. He had been spoken to by the police at his place of work regarding a business
letter and a business card found at Mrs. Bolshaw’s house, and he had denied to the
police that he knew her. Mrs. Bolshaw had a black eye and either she or John had
applied a cold compress. He had said the man who had given Mrs. Bolshaw the ‘black-eye’
must be the man in the photo-fit which had been in the paper, and he must have returned
and murdered Mrs. Bolshaw. (The man in the photofit had been seen with Mrs. Bolshaw
in an estate agents office in Chester three weeks before the murder. John had asked
her to give him an alibi and she had refused, but felt quite bad about this as it
The defence queried her account regarding the following points:-
The photo-fit she referred to was not published until some four months after the
murder so John could not have discussed that with her on the weekend in question.
A very brief interview with John by the police at his place of work was not until
November, so again, he could not have told her about this on that weekend in October.
The link with the business card was not discovered until 1999, after she had spoken
to the police. John was never questioned about it in 1983. When these discrepancies
in her evidence were pointed out, Barbara Taft observed that after such a period
of time, ‘memory can play funny tricks’. It was also pointed out to her that when
interviewed by Merseyside police a few months prior to the trial she had stated that
she had ‘gained the impression’ that John had burnt and buried his clothes in the
garden, but she was now quite definite that he had told her this.
John’s account John
told the court that in October 1983 he had been employed at Birkenhead Glass. He
maintained he had spent the evening of 8th October 1983 with Mrs. Bolshaw at her
invitation, but she was alive and well when he left at approximately 10.30/10.45pm.
Mrs. Bolshaw was now living alone in the house for the first time in some months,
following the wedding of her son and daughter in law. Barbara Taft was away in Sussex.
This meant that Saturday 8th October was a convenient time for them both to meet
at Mrs. Bolshaw’s home. During the evening consensual sexual intercourse took place,
on top of the bed on the bedspread. Afterwards, Mrs. Bolshaw had put on the negligee
which was later linked to John through a semen stain. During the evening he had a
cup of coffee and a glass of brandy. He had told his ex-wife he had been at the house
in case he was questioned, and that he was there to undertake some work (‘a foreigner’)
although this wasn’t true.
He had initially met Mrs. Bolshaw when he delivered a letter from work regarding
an enquiry about double-glazing. It was normal practice for employees to drop letters
off on their way home if they lived near a client. As a result of this meeting a
casual but infrequent sexual relationship began between John and Mrs. Bolshaw. Mrs.
Bolshaw had telephoned his workplace about a week before the 8th October to arrange
a meeting (A witness confirmed that Mrs. Bolshaw’s name was seen in the works diary
around the time in question and that John’s initials were next to it.) John said
he had heard about Mrs. Bolshaw’s death on Monday 10th October 1983 over the car
radio, and had been totally shocked. He believed the person responsible would be
caught. The longer things went on the more difficult it became to even contemplate
going to the police.
He had not approached the police at the time as he did not want his adultery to become
known to his then wife, and he was also concerned about being wrongly accused of
murder. He admitted discussing the possibility with his ex-wife of her giving him
an alibi, but they both agreed it would be easy to check out. John (as Barbara Taft
agreed) did not press her on this after they had initially discussed the possibility.
John adamantly denied that he had taken a stripe from his car, buried shoes and clothing,
ripped pages out of a diary, or told his ex-wife any such thing. John told the court
that, after hearing about Mrs. Bolshaw’s death, he obliterated her name in the works
diary with an indelible marker pen. If he had torn any pages out of the works diary
it would have been very obvious. Indeed, no torn out pages were ever mentioned by
several people who had worked at the firm, and who were interviewed in 1999.
John stated that Mrs. Bolshaw (who was fully made up) asked him if he could see a
mark under her eye, but nothing was visible. When he asked about it she said something
about ‘it being one of those silly things’ and that in the absence of a steak she
had applied a flannel. The pathologist’s report stated that there was a ” bruise
under one of Mrs. Bolshaw’s eyes, which could have been there up to 48 hours prior
to her death and could have been easily concealed with make up. It was certainly
not a 'black eye'. Other witnesses confirmed Mrs. Bolshaw would always be fully made
up when entertaining a man.
The police interviewed John in April 1999. John said he had been completely traumatised
at his arrest especially as he had never been arrested before. Nine or ten policemen
were at the house at 7.30am, and he felt he had been kidnapped. Prior to the duty
solicitor arriving John voluntarily gave a blood sample. He said the duty solicitor
had been the one person to cling to in what appeared to be ‘a sea of inhumanity’.
He followed his advice and during interviews he made no comment other than to emphatically
deny that he had killed Mrs. Bolshaw, destroyed clothing, or torn any pages from
a diary. He was remanded in custody and all applications for bail were refused.
Works diary Ms. Hignett, who worked at Birkenhead Glass at the time, testified at
the trial that she remembered seeing the name Bolshaw in the works diary about the
time Mrs. Bolshaw was killed, with John's initials next to it. (This confirms John’s
account that Mrs. Bolshaw contacted him at work.) The works diary was used by a number
of different people at the firm and any ripped out pages would have been obvious.
Mrs. Bolshaw’s diary and the fire canopy There was no evidence that John, as asserted
by Barbara Taft, had ripped any pages out of the works diary. However, the prosecution
then attempted to link Barbara Taft’s assertion about a works diary with the fact
that half a page from the back of Mrs. Bolshaw’s pocket diary had been ripped out.
On the top half of the ripped page was a hand written diagram which the prosecution
claimed was of a fire canopy. Evidence from the previous owners of 5 Buffs Lane was
that the fire canopy had been fitted after Mrs. Bolshaw had moved into the bungalow
early in 1983. There was evidence from Mrs. Bolshaw’s record of accounts that she
had purchased the canopy from MANWEB. There was no information as to who had fitted
it in her account book. John had, several years before, worked for a fireplace company
and had sometimes fitted fireplaces as ‘foreigners’. The speculation was that he
was at Mrs. Bolshaw’s house to fit the fire canopy and the ripped out half of the
page must have had his name on it below the diagram. Therefore, according to the
prosecution, he had ripped the page out after the murder had been committed to cover
his tracks. The prosecution produced the fire canopy in court on a number of occasions
throughout the trial, even though it was clearly established that the fingerprints
on the back of it, put there by whoever had fitted it, were not John’s.
half page from the diary belonging to the deceased was consistently linked to the
fire canopy, and was introduced into the trial on every possible occasion. Obviously,
John was not the person who fitted the fire canopy, which is why his fingerprints
were not on the back of it. It follows that there was no reason why his name would
have been above the diagram in the diary. Therefore there was no reason why he would
have needed to rip a page out. It was a complete ‘red herring’ but was used consistently
as ‘evidence’ by the prosecution. If the police were convinced there was a connection
between the missing half page in the diary belonging to the deceased and the fire
canopy, why have they not tried to find out who actually fitted the canopy and whose
fingerprints are on it? If they acknowledge there is no connection why did the prosecution
try to convince the jury otherwise?
Time of death Two post mortems were carried out
on the body of Mrs. Bolshaw. The 1st was conducted by Dr. Benstead, Home Office pathologist
(now deceased), after 3.30pm on 9.10.83. The time of death was estimated as after
midnight - between 3.00am-6.00am on Sunday 9th October 1983 - favourably 4.00am.
On 17.10.83 Dr. Benstead, accompanied by Dr. J. Burns Home Office pathologist, conducted
a re-examination of the body. Det. Supt. Owen and Det. Supt. Olsen also attended.
Dr. Burns (now retired) gave evidence for the Crown at John’s trial. He said that
it was not possible to give a time of death as the body had been in two mediums,
air and water. He was reminded that in 1983 he had categorically stated he agreed
with Dr. Benstead regarding the time of death.
A message to Det. Supt. Owen from Dr. Burns following the re-examination of the body
states “Please inform Det. Supt. Owen that I fully agree with Dr. Benstead, the time
of death was 3am-6am”. Dr. Burns could not refer to any notes taken. In fact, no
notes from this 2nd examination of the body of Mrs. Bolshaw appear to exist from
either of the Home Office pathologists. A police sergeant, now retired, told the
court that he was the first police officer to enter the house (scene of crime) and
that the bath water was tepid at 10.45am on Sunday 9th October.
A local GP, Dr. Wright, was called out by the police and attended the scene at 11.15am
on 9th October. He gave a statement at the time which said he had the impression
that the body was still cooling, and that Mrs. Bolshaw had died within ‘the last
few hours’ rather than the previous night. He also confirmed that the bath water
was ‘relatively warmer than cold water’. Alibi statements taken from suspects at
the time were, as would be expected, taken in the light of the findings of the two
Home Office pathologists relating to the estimated time of death.
The damp patch
on the bed/the semen stain on the negligee The prosecution claimed that after having
sex John had killed Mrs. Bolshaw on the bed, when her bladder would have emptied.
They claimed he had then stripped her of the negligee on which the semen stain was
later found, and placed her body in the bath. Their evidence for this was as follows:-
A large damp patch, found to be urine, was found on the bottom sheet of the bed.
The retired police officer who was the first officer at the scene of crime said the
damp patch was revealed when the negligee was moved. It was ‘the shape of damp patch
left when someone sits down on the bed’. A negligee taken from the bed was found
to have a semen stain on it, later found to have originated from John.
defence pointed out in summing up that this speculation on the part of the Crown
was flawed because there was urine on the bed sheet but not on the negligee – so
Mrs. Bolshaw was NOT wearing the negligee when she was killed. The position of the
semen on the negligee was consistent with John’s account that Mrs. Bolshaw had put
the negligee on after having consensual sexual intercourse with him. (i.e. semen
had drained onto the garment when she had been sitting down.) Therefore she must
have been killed some time later after taking the negligee off. This aspect of the
prosecution’s case provided no real evidence against John and tended to corroborate
his account of events.
Brown fibres found at scene and in car Dark brown fibres thought
to have originated from brown corduroy cloth, and assumed by the forensic scientist
to be from trousers, were found at the deceased's house. They did not originate from
any clothing belonging to the deceased. They were on the bottom bed sheet, negligee,
and a bedroom stool. The same fibres were also found on the driver’s seat of the
deceased’s car, after it was found on the A540 Chester High Road. The same brown
fibres were found on the stocking containing the jewellery, which was recovered from
a telephone kiosk some 50 miles away on Tuesday 11th October. Despite the fact that
John’s ex-wife told the court she bought all his clothes, no evidence was presented
that he ever owned brown corduroy trousers. Also, she had never noticed that any
clothing was missing from his wardrobe. The fibres were found to be microscopically
indistinguishable to clothing belonging to three of the suspects who were investigated
at the time. (John was not viewed as a suspect in 1983.)
Digging in garden at 23 Mostyn
Avenue The prosecution claimed John was seen by a neighbour, Mrs. Evans, digging a
two-foot hole in the garden, by torchlight, at 11.30pm, early in October 1999. (The
torchlight was said to be moving.) They claimed that John, prior to being seen in
the garden, had killed Mrs. Bolshaw, taken her car and parked it on the verge of
a dual carriageway. Then he had walked over a mile along the A540 Chester High Road,
climbed over a fence, descended fifteen feet down a bank, and walked eight miles
home along the Wirral Way. (A disused railway line and country park area). According
to the prosecution, John was burying footwear and clothing worn at the time of the
murder. This was clothing which had shed dark brown fibres in the house and on the
driver’s seat of the car, which the prosecution claimed he had taken in an attempt
to divert attention away from himself.
Mrs. Evans said she was looking out of a small landing window, on a very dark night,
alongside her daughter Sarah (then aged 14). Mrs. Evans said she heard a scraping
noise, a digging noise, and a patting noise. Mrs. Evans said she saw John carrying
a garden implement like a spade, and that she saw him dig a two foot hole in the
garden. (If John was indeed digging a hole in the garden, how could he have also
held a torch?) Sarah did not see John digging, and did not see any hole in the garden
although she saw a moving light. She said she heard a digging noise. However, it
was so dark that Sarah said she could only make out the figure of a man, not his
Mr. Evans had returned from the ‘pub at approximately 11.45pm to be told by his wife
that she had seen John in the garden. He recalled that “She was upset”. Mrs. Evans
recalled holiday clothing on her washing line, which is one reason she could point
to the date when she had seen John in the garden. It was early October and the family
had just returned from holiday. The family were sure of the time of year because
Sarah had injured her leg and the holiday had to be cancelled. When the injury was
sufficiently recovered they had been able to go on holiday to France.
John said that if he were in the garden he would have been putting out food for the
various wild life that lived in the area of the Wirral Way. At the trial other neighbours
gave evidence of John’s interest in wildlife, and stated that it was not uncommon
for him to go into the garden late at night to put out food for wild animals. Regardless
of why he was in the garden, the fact remains that he had been seen at around 11.30pm
on 8.10.83, when Mrs. Bolshaw was still alive according to two pathologists. No evidence
of buried shoes or clothing has ever been found in the garden at 23 Mostyn Avenue.
A ground penetrating radar survey in 1999, plus the analysis of bags of soil taken
from the garden, failed to find any evidence of buried clothing or shoes.
The prosecution brought in Mr. Round, who had bought 23 Mostyn Avenue from John and
Barbara Taft in 1984, to give evidence. He had told the police that a few years after
moving into the house he was digging in the garden when he came across a piece of
cloth about 6” x 8”, along with building rubble, plastic and glass, at the site where
an outhouse had been demolished. When he moved into the house the garden was completely
overgrown and wild, and over the years he had completely renovated the entire area.
He had never found any evidence of buried clothing or footwear.
At the end of the gardens in Mostyn Avenue there is a field which was very wild and
overgrown in 1983. If John had wanted to bury clothing, why didn’t he choose to do
so where he couldn’t be seen, in the field. Why do it under the ‘noses’ of his neighbours.
Why not, indeed, go to the shore which was a few minutes walk away and dispose of
items there? Mother and daughter were both able to confirm seeing John in the garden.
However, although looking out of the same window together, they saw different things
relating to John digging a hole. The evidence of Mr. Round did not back up the allegation
put by the prosecution that John had buried clothing, and the small piece of material
found at the site of a demolished building along with building rubble was completely
The sighting of John in the garden provided him with an alibi Through
his cross-examination of the Evans family, the defence barrister was able to establish
that Mrs. Evans and her daughter had seen John in his garden at 11.30pm on Saturday
8th October. This was the same time that Mrs. Bolshaw’s car was seen on her drive
by her neighbour, Mrs. Elliott. Sarah Evans had a calliper removed from her leg on
Wednesday 21st September 1983. (Medical records show this to be the case.) Shortly
after this the family had embarked on a two-week holiday in France. Therefore they
were not in the country on the previous weekend, Saturday 1st October, so it had
to be the weekend they returned home. (8th/9th Oct. 1983) Mr. Evans, in those days,
went to the pub on Saturday and Sunday evenings. In 1983, public houses only had
late night opening on Saturdays. Mr. Evans said it had to be the Saturday night because
of the time he returned home. (Approx. 11.45pm.).
So it was not possible that John could have killed Mrs. Bolshaw, taken her car, walked
8 miles home, and have been seen in the garden burying his clothes at 11.30pm on
Saturday 8th October. Mrs. Bolshaw’s car was still on her path. And, according to
the two Home Office pathologists who had examined the body, Mrs. Bolshaw was still
alive! They estimated the time of death as between 3.00-6.00am on the following morning.
The brown fibres attributed to the killer were found on the driver’s seat of the
abandoned car which could not have been removed from the driveway of the deceased
until some time after 11.30pm on the Saturday when seen by a neighbour. If the clothing
which had shed the tell tale fibres on the drivers seat had already been buried in
the ground by John at 11.30pm, he would have to be wearing different clothes when
he took the car. So how did the same fibres come to be on the driver’s seat? Clearly
impossible, unless John could be in two places at the same time. The way the police
statement was written it was not possible for the defence to establish the actual
night John was seen in the garden without talking to the family.
Not only was the
prosecution’s reasoning totally flawed, their speculative theory actually provided
John with an alibi. After this was highlighted in the defence’s summing up, and despite
the fact that John being seen in his garden digging a hole and burying clothes was
a central part of their case, the prosecution unsuccessfully attempted to persuade
the judge (while the jury was out) to have this piece of alibi evidence ruled inadmissible.
They said John should have notified the police that he had an alibi. Surely this
should have been the other way round? John did not know until it was established
through cross-examination of the witnesses that he had an alibi, it was the police
who had taken the witness statement!
The business letter dated 11.3.83 and John’s
business card A business letter to Mrs. Bolshaw, from the double glazing firm where
John worked at the time (which was signed by someone else), and a business card bearing
John’s name, were found in 5 Buffs Lane after Mrs. Bolshaw was killed. The letter
gave a quote for glazing work. The business card bearing John’s details was found
during the same search in 1983. Two detective constables visited Birkenhead Glass
in November 1983 and John was spoken to about the letter, but not the business card.
John had said no records had been retained following the quote being sent in the
letter. A form completed by one of the officers at the time, although a statement
was not taken from John, confirms this.
Neither officer was able to refer to their notebooks as they had been destroyed,
apparently in line with police policy. One of the officers could not specifically
remember speaking to John. The other did recall the conversation, and that John had
said no records had been retained following the written quote contained in the letter
found at 5 Buffs Lane. After speaking to John the officer said he spoke to a manager
at the firm to confirm that what John had said was correct. (Although none of the
managers, when interviewed by the police in 1999, mentioned having been spoken to
by the police in 1983. The police officer was relying on memory, not notes taken
at the time.)
It is clear that John did not tell the police of his involvement with Mrs. Bolshaw
when they spoke to him about the business letter. He admitted this in court and said
he had little recall of the brief conversation as he was so anxious at the time and
was just glad for the officers to go away. John had previously told a manager at
the firm, Mr. Beech, that he knew Mrs. Bolshaw and a brief conversation had taken
place about this. Mr. Beech told the court that John had said that if the police
should call to make enquiries, he would like him to say that he (John) ‘had only
gone there to look at the windows’. However Mr. Beech was not spoken to at the time
by the police
The prosecution claimed John lied about not knowing Mrs. Bolshaw because he had killed
her. John maintained he did not tell the police he knew her because he was frightened
of the potential effects, which were his adultery becoming known to his wife and
the fear of being ‘fitted up’ for the murder. The prosecution said John had entered
into an elaborate web of deceit to cover up his relationship with Mrs. Bolshaw, and
the brief ‘interview’ with the police confirmed this because he had lied. However,
he had already told Mr. Beech he had been to the house, and if Mr. Beech had spoken
to the police, this would have come out at the time. Hardly, then, a very sophisticated
‘web of deceit’. It fits better with John’s explanation of panic and anxiety at being
wrongly accused and his marriage being wrecked.
The stocking mask/the jewellery/the
telephone box Jewellery belonging to Mrs. Bolshaw was found in a telephone box in
Romiley, near Manchester on 11.10.83. The prosecution claimed John had taken the
jewellery to make it look as if Mrs. Bolshaw had been killed by a robber, and had
left it in Romiley to conceal the fact that the killer was a local man. The stocking
in which the jewellery was found had been cut from the lower end of a stocking or
pair of tights, knotted at one end. It did not match any stockings or tights belonging
to the deceased. The stocking mask contained a purple fibre from the bedspread in
Mrs. Bolshaw’s bedroom, and also contained the same brown cotton fibres found on
the bed sheet, negligee, bedroom stool, and the driver’s seat of the car. Therefore
the stocking mask was foreign to the scene but must have been present in the bedroom
when Mrs. Bolshaw was killed.
This indicates that the assailant had taken the stocking mask to the house. Such
a degree of premeditation is inconsistent with that person having engaged in consensual
sexual intercourse with the victim of the crime shortly before killing her. It is
likely that the killer was fully clothed, wearing (as assumed by the forensic scientist)
clothing that shed brown cotton fibres. Red/brown stains, which according to the
forensic scientist, might have been shoe polish, and small particles of grey stone
were found on the bottom bed sheet. This suggests that the killer had recently entered
the house and his shoes had been on the bed.
The telephone box where the jewellery was found was in Romilley, Stockport. This
was 50 miles away from Heswall, but it so happened that some years previously John
had worked for a firm based five miles or so away from the telephone box. This allowed
the prosecution another area of dubious speculation, that John had chosen to leave
the jewellery in a ‘phone box in an area he’d worked in some time previously. But
why would he have done so? Why would John keep the jewellery until the following
Tuesday, with all the attendant risks of discovery, rather than disposing of it quickly,
for instance by throwing it in the nearby River Dee? Why risk driving fifty miles
to leave it in a ‘phone box? It does not make any sense.
The prosecution made great play that John is an intelligent man who had entered into
a cold, calculating plot to conceal his identity as the killer. In fact, as the defence
explained, all of the above points away from someone who had consensual sexual intercourse
with the deceased, but points towards someone who had gone to the house with some
degree of premeditation, and wanting to conceal his identity by using a stocking
mask. Why, if John had taken the jewellery, in the hope of making the killing look
like a burglary, would he have first risked being seen burying clothes in his garden
in full view of the neighbours, then have risked taking the stolen jewellery to a
point fifty miles away. He could have thrown the items into the nearby River Dee.
IT MAKES NO SENSE. Also, if the intention was to make it look as if a burglary had
been committed, why was there no disturbance in the house, why were no drawers ransacked
Dumping the car/Wirral Way The prosecution claimed that John, prior to being seen
in the garden digging, had taken Mrs. Bolshaw’s car, parked it on the verge of the
dual carriageway, walked over a mile along the A540 Chester High Road, climbed over
a fence, descended fifteen feet down a bank, and walked eight miles home along the
Wirral Way (a disused railway line and country park area). Why would John have risked
walking along the A540 carrying stolen jewellery from a house where a murder had
just been committed? Anyone walking along the Chester High Road would have attracted
attention from passing motorists; it is not an urban road. There are very few houses,
no pavements, so attention would automatically be drawn towards anyone walking there.
The particular part of the Wirral Way that the prosecution claimed John had walked
along passes through a built up area where he could easily have been seen. Why would
he have picked such a route when several other less risky access points to the Wirral
Way were available, and where cars could easily be parked, including a ‘pub car park?
What had John done with his own car, which he claimed to have gone to 5 Buffs Lane
in? If he hadn’t gone there in his own car, how had he got there? Checks were made
with taxi firms but no one had dropped a fare off by Buffs Lane. No one reported
seeing a person of John’s description walking anywhere in the area, although several
sightings of other males were reported. Like other aspects of the prosecution’s case,
this was speculation built on no firm facts and does not make any sense.
Man seen with deceased’s car by witness/police sightings of car A witness, Mr. Dawson,
saw a man with a car that was identical to the deceased's car at 4.30am on 9th October
on the A540 Chester High Road. It was parked at the identical spot where Mrs. Bolshaw’s
car was later found abandoned, about 5 miles away from the deceased’s home. He was
travelling at about 40 mph, and his car lights were on full beam. The car was backed
into a gateway at an angle to the road. It had no lights on. He gave a statement
to the police on 12.10.83 with a clear description of a man he saw next to the car.
Mrs. Bolshaw’s car was spotted by a police officer on his way to work at 5.45am on
the same morning in the same place where Mr. Dawson had seen the car. He returned
with a colleague to check the vehicle at 7.45am. It was backed into a field entrance
across the grass verge where Mr. Dawson had seen it. It was unlocked, the keys were
in the ignition and there was a full tank of petrol. The prosecution referred to
a new statement taken by the police in 1999 from Mr. Dawson, in which he said he
would not be able to recognise the man again due to the time lapse. The defence pointed
out that, in 1983, the very definite and confident description he had given of the
man proved it could not have been John.
The man was described as wearing a long Crombie style overcoat, with dark hair, and
wearing glasses. John’s ex-wife said he never owned an overcoat, did not wear glasses,
had fair hair which, in 1983, was greying. (This corresponds with other witness descriptions.)
In fact, at the police station, Mr. Dawson pointed out someone (not connected to
the offence) who he said closely resembled the man at the car. Again, the evidence
was that the man could not have been John. He had black wavy hair and was wearing
gold rimmed spectacles. The prosecution did not refer to Mr. Dawson, his evidence,
or the man seen by the car again, after the defence in cross-examination was able
to clearly show that the man (who has never been found) was not John
allegedly removed from car John’s ex-wife claimed that John had said he removed stripes
from his car to prevent it being recognised as a car seen at the deceased’s house.
But the car was a basic model provided by the company, so unlikely to have any distinctive
markings. Some time earlier, when John had a different car, he had been involved
in a road accident. The stripes on the repaired wing of the car could not be matched
so he had removed the stripes on the other one. He felt that his ex-wife was confused
between the two different cars.
Unidentified fingerprint at scene of crime The original
fingerprint examination of 5 Buffs Lane revealed forty-five sets of impressions.
Thirty-four sets of fingerprints were identified as belonging to people with legitimate
access to the house. John’s fingerprints were not found, but ten of the impressions
contained insufficient detail for positive identification. The remaining fingerprint
has never been identified. It was found on the inside of the bedroom window frame
below the transom window with the tip pointing downwards. In the opinion of the police
fingerprint expert a person standing in the bedroom placed it there. When Mrs. Bolshaw’s
body was found the transom window, which was in the ground floor bedroom, was open.
Mrs. Bolshaw was very security conscious, and the window had to have been opened
some time after she returned home from work on the 8th October. The position of the
fingerprint indicates that the person it belonged to had pushed the bar of the window
in order to open it. Who, then, does this fingerprint belong to and why has that
person never come forward or been identified? Although no evidence had been presented
that the scene had been ‘wiped clean’, at the end of summing up the prosecuting barrister
asked the jury to consider why John’s fingerprints had not been found on the coffee
cup or the brandy glass. In fact, photographs of the scene show a coffee cup on the
draining board in the kitchen, and there was a broken spirit glass in the waste bin.
This was probably how Mrs. Bolshaw sustained a cut to her finger, which she covered
with a sticking plaster. There was blood stained kitchen paper in the kitchen. The
probable explanation was that she had washed the coffee cup and the brandy glass,
which is when it was broken. This question must have put doubt in the minds of the
jury although it wasn’t based on any fingerprint evidence presented.
Victoria Hotel After
John was arrested a witness came forward to say he had seen John and Mrs. Bolshaw
in a local hotel chatting together a few nights before the murder. John said they
met briefly to discuss when they would next meet – this being arranged for the following
Saturday. This would have been the first weekend in some months that Mrs. Bolshaw
was alone at home as her daughter in law had previously been staying with her. Barbara
Taft was in Sussex. So it was convenient for both to meet that weekend. This meeting
in a public place shows that John’s relationship with Mrs. Bolshaw was amicable.
Also, he was not hiding the fact that he knew her before she died.
Other DNA evidence Further
forensic tests were carried out for the prosecution by forensic scientist Roy Green
in November 1999. (The results actually came back while the trial was going on.)
These tests were on a pillowcase from the deceased's bed. Obviously the prosecution
were hoping this would provide further proof against John. The area tested was a
faint bloodstain which could have been from Mrs. Bolshaw, who had a small cut on
a knuckle. (Covered by a sticking plaster when seen in the bath.) The result showed
the presence of DNA from at least two individuals, one of who could have been Mrs.
Bolshaw. The other contributor was not John and appears to be female. No real explanation
could be offered as to how this other person’s DNA got there. Someone coughing or
sneezing near the bed or touching the pillow could have caused it. Roy Green said
it could have happened before the attack, at the same time of the attack, or afterwards.
As someone else’s DNA was mixed with that of the deceased, on a pillowcase from the
bed she was apparently killed on, it has to raise further doubts as to who killed
her. Whose DNA is it and why should it be assumed that, if it did belong to a woman,
she was not implicated in the murder in some way?
Other men known to Mrs. Bolshaw Mrs.
Bolshaw was a sexually active woman, as she was fully entitled to be. There had been
a significant number of men in her life, but some were never identified. Police enquiries
also revealed that John was not the only man to lie about having had a sexual relationship
with her. The court heard a great deal about Mrs. Bolshaw which the judge explained
was not intended to be disrespectful to her memory. Such details were necessary for
the jury to be aware of, as her life style may have put her at some risk. It was
also necessary to show that John was not the only man to be involved with her in
One particular man was seen with Mrs. Bolshaw in an estate agents office in Chester
three weeks before she was killed. Mrs. Bolshaw said they were looking at property
together and were interested in bungalows in the Handbridge area of the city. The
man was aged between fifty to fifty-five years and a photofit of him was widely publicised.
Despite this, he has never come forward or been identified. Prior to her death Mrs.
Bolshaw had told a colleague that she was ‘fed up’ with a man calling early morning
and in the evening just for sex, and that she felt like a ‘public convenience’. A
man seen in 5 Buffs Lane, during an evening, by the milkman has never been identified.
A number of other men, who had been seen by various witnesses with Mrs. Bolshaw,
were never identified. A number of cars seen at the house have never been identified.
characters seen in the area around the time of death The police enquiry also focused
on several other unidentified suspects seen close to Mrs. Bolshaw’s home on the night
of 8th/9th October. There were a number of suspicious sightings, which included:-
A bearded man walking in Buffs Lane carrying a bag at 11.00pm on 8th October. In
the early hours of 8th/9th October a male of heavy build with shoulder length hair
almost ran into a car being driven along Buffs Lane, running from the direction of
5 Buffs lane (the home of Mrs. Bolshaw.) During the week before her death, Mrs. Bolshaw
had told people that underwear had been taken from her washing line, and that she
had received an anonymous telephone call.
Other factors heard by the jury There were
a number of other factors, which the jury heard about, the intention being to show
that Mrs. Bolshaw’s life style may have made her vulnerable. These included:- Mrs.
Bolshaw had entertained men at her home late at night who were casual callers. On
one occasion that is known about, one man was in the sitting room while the other
had sex with Mrs. Bolshaw in the bedroom. Mrs. Bolshaw had been known to leave the
back door unlocked to allow a male friend access. Information from Mrs. Bolshaw’s
diary indicated that she had entertained two men on the same day. On Friday 7th October
1983, Mrs. Bolshaw had an arm and leg wax, and had told the beautician that she was
having a ‘session’ the following morning. From previous conversations, the beautician
took this to mean she was meeting with a man to have sex the following morning. The
above is not an exhaustive list of people and incidents related to the police by
friends, acquaintances and colleagues of Mrs. Bolshaw regarding men she was associated
with before and around the time of her death.
Lack of motive The prosecution was not able to establish any motive for John killing
Mrs Bolshaw, and speculated it was in a drunken rage, although why he would have
been in such an angry state was not clear. This would be completely out of character
for John, who has no previous convictions. In fact, Barbara Taft had already told
the police that John was never a heavy drinker. The prosecution offered no evidence
of violence in John’s past. There was no motive and no reason whatsoever why John
would have harmed Mrs. Bolshaw in any way.
Trial judges summing up (the Recorder of Liverpool H.H.J David Clarke QC) In his summing
up the trial judge raised an entirely new speculation. This was that after John had
been seen in the garden at 11.30pm, when the car was still on Mrs. Bolshaw’s driveway,
he could have at some later stage returned to 5 Buffs Lane and taken the car. This
was not something that had previously been suggested by the prosecution, so had not
been rebutted by the defence. Such a speculation would explain away any alibi evidence.
But the man seen with the car was not John, and the theory does not make sense when
the fibre evidence is analysed. Forensic evidence revealed that dark brown fibres
found on the negligee, bedroom stool and the lower bed-sheet matched fibres found
on the driver’s seat of the car. The obvious inference is that the killer was wearing
clothing that shed the brown fibres both when he killed Mrs. Bolshaw and when he
drove the car away. If John had already buried the clothing which had shed the brown
fibres found in the house, and had then returned to the scene of crime and removed
the car, how did the same fibres come to be on the driver’s seat of the car? It is
Also, if John had killed Mrs. Bolshaw, why would he have undertaken such a considerable
risk as returning to the scene of a murder to remove a car? Mostyn Avenue is approximately
3 - 4 miles from Buffs Lane. John would have had to walk through a built up area
to return to the scene, yet no one saw him. In raising the speculation that John
had returned to the scene of crime to remove the car after he had buried clothing
worn during the murder, the judge provided a new route for the jury to convict John.
The defence had already deconstructed the Crown’s case, but this new speculative
theory was extremely prejudicial to the defence. Although it was not a viable explanation
of events, it undermined the alibi evidence which had been established.
The jury The jury, which consisted of 8 women and four men, deliberated over three
days before returning a verdict. When they were sent out following the judge’s summing
up, he asked them to make every effort to reach a unanimous verdict. When the jury
was unable to do so, they were told the judge would accept a majority verdict of
11-1 or 10-2.
On the third day that the jury was out, they indicated to the judge
that they were not able to reach a majority verdict. The procedure then was that
the jury, at a point felt appropriate by the trial judge, would be dismissed and
a retrial would be ordered. The defence was discussing bail conditions with the prosecution
when the jury was being recalled to be dismissed. At that point the foreman of the
jury sent the judge a note to say they had, at the very last minute, now reached
a 10-2 majority verdict. They found John guilty of murder.
The trial judge, in making
the speculation that John might have returned to the scene of crime, showed that
he did not fully understand the evidence. His speculation, although not viable as
a theory, would have had an adverse influence on the jury’s deliberations about the
evidence. If the trial judge did not understand this aspect of the evidence, then
it is easy to see why the jury would not understand it either. Both judges and juries
(like all other people) are fallible human beings, and John’s case demonstrates that
human fallibility is at the very heart of the entire judicial system.
is relatively new in the minds of the public. The issue of the DNA (semen) found
on Mrs. Bolshaw’s negligee, which was linked to John, shows that at some time sexual
intercourse took place. It does not prove that he killed her. Yet the DNA evidence
has consistently been put forward as proof positive of his guilt.
for leave to appeal (Oliver Blunt QC) After outlining the weaknesses in the prosecution’s
case against John, and explaining how the prosecution’s case had provided him with
an alibi demonstrating his innocence, the summing up paragraph in the written application
for leave to appeal reads as follows:-
‘The ground of appeal against conviction is
that during the course of the summing up the learned judge introduced a novel inferential
basis upon which the defendant could be convicted of murder. The basis had not been
raised by the prosecution at any stage and had not formed any part of their case,
nor had it been addressed by the defence during the course of the trial. On the contrary,
evidence had been adduced by the defence for the sole purpose of disproving the particular
factual basis upon which conviction was sought by the prosecution, and the evidence
adduced by the defence to meet the prosecution’s case was now being used to support
a new theoretical possibility. The defendant had never been examined on the matter
and there was other evidence which could have been emphasised by the defence which
went to disprove the inference. In all the circumstances the conviction is unsafe’.
Response to appeal papers (The Hon. Mr. Justice Dyson) The single judge who looked
at the appeal papers (the first stage of the appeal process) refused leave to appeal
against conviction. His reasons for this were stated as follows:- ‘I have considered
the papers in your case and your grounds of appeal. The passage to which objection
is taken is unexceptionable. I note that leading counsel for the applicant was invited
by the recorder to say whether he had any objection to the (then proposed) passage
and he said he had none. No doubt, all the points made in the advice on appeal as
to the weakness in the prosecution case were made to the jury by counsel, and no
complaint is made about the accuracy or fairness of the summing up. The question
of the precise time when the killer drove the car away from the scene was always
going to be a matter of speculation. It is difficult to see in what material respect
the trial would have taken a different course if the prosecution had suggested that
the applicant had driven the car away some time after the murder’.
But… the precise
timing when the car was taken is of immense importance and, when the fibre evidence
is accurately analysed, it becomes obvious that John could not have buried fibre
shedding clothes, then returned to the scene in the same fibre shedding clothes and
removed the car! This is such an obvious and crucial point, clearly outlined in the
appeal papers, which again has been misunderstood by a judge!
Next stage in the fight
for justice A renewed application for leave to appeal is due to be heard on 2nd October
2000 in London by three appeal court judges. (Note 3rd Oct 2000: refused once again
- the fight will continue)
Summary of the evidence Crown’s case The Crown said they could prove that the person
responsible for killing Mrs. Bolshaw was John Taft. This was based on two vital pieces
of evidence coming to light nearly sixteen years later. Once those two pieces of
vital evidence came to light, everything else that had been found in the police investigation
suddenly fitted into place with a ‘deadly logic’. It all looks very damning until
the evidence is analysed, and then it can clearly be seen that the Crown did not
have a viable case against John.
Barbara Taft’s evidence Barbara Taft’s account was
called into question by her assertion that everything had been related to her on
the weekend of her return from Brighton. This was patently incorrect. The police
photo fit was not in circulation for at least another three months. The police enquiry
had not, at that stage, led them to call at John’s place of work. When she first
spoke to the police, she had said she had gained ‘the impression’ that John had burned
and buried clothes. At the trial, she was definite about this.
Evans family’s evidence The
prosecution provided John with an alibi. This showed that while he was supposedly
burying clothing worn at the time of the murder, the deceased’s car which he was
alleged to have taken after he had killed her was still on her drive, and she was
still alive. The witnesses from the Evans family who saw John in the garden at 11.30pm
saw different things. Watching at the same time from the same window, one said she
saw a two-foot hole in the garden, the other said it was so dark she could only identify
the figure of a man. Evidence from Mr. Evans showed that the night John was seen
in his garden was 8th October. Regardless of why he was in the garden, being seen
by the neighbours gave John an alibi which prior to the trial he did not know existed
because Mrs. Bolshaw’s next-door neighbour saw her car on the driveway at 11.30pm
on 8th October. Two Home Office pathologists concluded that she was killed between
3.00am-6.00am on 9th October.
No comment interview The prosecution pointed out that John, on the advice of the duty
solicitor, had given a ‘no comment’ interview ‘ (apart from denying that he had killed
Mrs Bolshaw, buried clothes or ripped pages from a diary) and had time to make up
his story after seeing disclosed evidence. But, while he could have made up a variety
of stories linked to available evidence not used in the trial to explain why his
DNA was found on a garment belonging to the deceased - which would have sounded more
favourable to his defence - he did not do so. The forensic scientist said, in 1983,
that the semen stain on the negligee, later identified as belonging to John was believed
to ‘be old’. The semen, in fact, could not be dated. But John told the court that
he had sex with Mrs. Bolshaw on the evening of 8.10.83. John could have said, for
example, that he was with Mrs. Bolshaw early on the morning of Saturday 8th October
(which would fit with the beautician’s evidence).
Another man, not John Taft, was seen with the car at 4.30am. At 4.30am on Sunday
9th October, a man, who was clearly not John, was seen with an identical car to that
belonging to Mrs. Bolshaw, parked in an identical way at the identical spot where
it was seen by a police officer an hour and a quarter later. This fits with the time
of death given by the two pathologists, 3.00-6.00am, and preferably 4.00am on Sunday
9th October. This man has never come forward or been identified.
The missing page from Mrs. Bolshaw’s diary and the fire canopy The missing half page
in the diary of the deceased was linked by the prosecution to the fire canopy fitted
in her lounge by the prosecution. This was to tie up the assertion made by Barbara
Taft that John had told her he had ripped pages from a works diary. Clearly no pages
had been ripped from the works diary. There was absolutely nothing to connect John
to a fire canopy or to Mrs. Bolshaw’s diary - although this was a central part of
the Crown's case. The fingerprints of the person who had fitted the fire canopy which
were on the back of it, were not John’s. The prosecution brought the actual fire
canopy into the court on every possible occasion, although it was a complete ‘red
herring’. Why, if not to introduce doubt based on nothing into the minds of the jury?
stocking mask The stocking mask in which the jewellery was found was foreign to the
scene of crime, as it did not match any clothing belonging to Mrs. Bolshaw. But…it
contained fibres from the bedspread, which proved it had actually been at the scene.
The obvious inference is that it was taken there by the person who took the jewellery,
and therefore had killed Mrs. Bolshaw. Fragments of stone, and staining which could
have been shoe polish, were found on the bed where it is assumed Mrs. Bolshaw died.
This suggests that the killer was wearing footwear and had recently entered the house.
His shoes were obviously on the bed at some time around the time she was killed.
John had consensual sexual intercourse with the deceased before her death. There
was no reason why he would have taken a stocking mask, designed to conceal his identity,
to the house.
The negligee All the evidence supports John’s claim that consensual sexual intercourse
took place between him and Mrs. Bolshaw. The forensic scientist’s evidence was that
this was either when she was wearing the negligee, or that she had put it on afterwards,
when drainage of seminal fluid onto the garment occurred. The prosecution claimed
that after having sex, John had strangled Mrs. Bolshaw and stripped her of the negligee
before putting her body in the bath, because of a large damp patch of urine on the
bed, thought to have occurred when Mrs. Bolshaw died.
This theory was disproved because:- Although semen was detected on the negligee,
no urine was detected on it. This proves she was NOT wearing the negligee when she
died, although she was wearing it either during sexual intercourse or afterwards.
This shows that after having sexual intercourse, Mrs. Bolshaw had taken the negligee
off prior to being killed. John’s explanation fits with the findings. The prosecution’s
claim showed they had not studied the evidence.
Other factors leading to doubt Unidentified DNA and an unidentified fingerprint at
the house provide more doubt as to John’s guilt. Other men known to Mrs Bolshaw have
never come forward. Why, if they have nothing to hide? Presumably, if they are innocent
they have never come forward for the same reasons John did not inform the police
of his involvement with Mrs. Bolshaw. The fear of being ‘fitted up’ for a crime they
did not commit, or the fear of wives or partners finding out about an illicit relationship.
prosecution’s case was very weak and the whole case was based on circumstantial evidence
and speculation. All that could be proved was that at some time John had sex with
the deceased. The prosecution’s main thrust was that John was seen in his garden
at 11.30pm at night burying clothing worn at the time of the murder, which fitted
with the evidence of his ex-wife who claimed John had told her he had buried clothing.
According to the prosecution’s case, John had taken the car, abandoned it several
miles away and walked home along a disused railway line. The defence dismantled this
theory, while at the same time showing how the prosecution’s case had given John
an alibi which proved he was innocent. There were three witnesses who said John was
in his garden at a time when the deceased’s car was still at her home at 11.30pm
on 8th October. Also, according to two home office pathologists, she was still alive
when he was seen in the garden. In addition, the sighting of a man who was clearly
not John, next to the car at 4.30am, fits with the time of death given by the pathologists
as 3.00am-6.00am and preferably 4.00am on 9th October. The statements of police officers
and the GP that the bath water was tepid at 10.45am on the 9th October, and the GP’s
belief that the body was still cooling, point to Mrs. Bolshaw having been killed
much later than 11.30pm on the 8th October. If John had put the body in the bath
prior to being seen in the garden, the water would have been stone cold.
defence’s summing up, the prosecuting counsel wanted the judge to throw the alibi
evidence out on the grounds that John should have informed the police of his alibi
under rules of evidence! (Even though this alibi was only established in court by
the defence.) The judge did not agree to this. It is intriguing to wonder what the
case against John would have consisted of if the judge had agreed to this request.
The evidence which was presented in court should have led to a ‘not guilty’ verdict,
and it is appalling that such a miscarriage of justice has been allowed to occur.
It is also of grave concern that leave to appeal, in the first instance, was refused
given the weight of doubt as to John’s guilt.
Concluding comments We firmly believe
that what you have read, which is based on evidence presented in court, proves John
did not kill Mrs. Bolshaw. At the very least it demonstrates more than reasonable
doubt. On that basis John should have been acquitted.
The criminal justice system,
in allowing such a miscarriage of justice, is guilty of a gross abuse against the
rights of a number of human beings. The criminal justice system is ours. It belongs
to the people. But John and I, along with our nearest and dearest, have been betrayed
by the system and we are victims of the very society in which we live. Someone killed
Cynthia Bolshaw, but convicting the wrong person does not give her or her family
In looking at the evidence, there is no factual justification for John being
found guilty of murder. The aim of the Crown Prosecution Service was to persuade
the jury that John was an evil, cold and calculating man, and without the advancement
of DNA technology he would have literally got away with murder. In order to do this,
we believe they embarked on a cold and calculating journey of their own, using an
emotional and biased presentation aimed at getting John convicted, rather than a
calm examination of all the facts which would have led to his acquittal. What is
more, their case against John was totally flawed, and was based on nothing more than
circumstantial evidence and speculation.
Why did the judge, a highly paid public servant,
introduce a theory that was inconsistent with the evidence in his summing up? Why
did the single judge who looked at the appeal papers also fail to understand what
we, ordinary members of the public can see so clearly, that the conviction is totally
unsafe. What is more important in our society… getting a conviction or looking for
the truth? Unfortunately we now believe that the criminal justice system is more
concerned with the former rather than the latter.
My husband is innocent and should
not be in prison. Please, do whatever you can to help us achieve justice. Susan
Justice for John Taft Campaign, c/o David Phillips and Partners Solicitors, 202 Stanley
Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L20 3EP. Tel: 0151-922 5525
The home site set up by the family of this innocent man. http://www.justice-for-john-taft.org