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.

Although John 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 someone else.

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 seemed disloyal.

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.

The missing 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.

However, the 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 identity.


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 irrelevant.

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 etc.?


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

Go-faster’ stripes 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 1983.


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.

Suspicious 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 clearly impossible!


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.

DNA evidence 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.

Written application 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?

The 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.

The 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.

After the 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 justice.

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 Hogan-Taft


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.


Posted: October 2000




The Beauty in the bath case.


Foreword by Susan Hogan - Taft

Background information
Brief summary of prosecution case
Barbara Taft’s evidence (John Taft’s ex-wife)
John’s account
Works diary
Mrs. Bolshaw’s diary and the fire canopy
Time of death
Damp patch on bed/negligee/semen stain
Brown fibres found at scene and in car
Digging at 23 Mostyn Avenue
Prosecution provides defence with alibi

Business letter and business card
Mask/jewellery/telephone kiosk
Dumping the car/Wirral Way
Man seen with deceased’s car
Go-faster stripes allegedly removed from John’s car
Unidentified fingerprint at scene of crime
Victoria Hotel
Other DNA evidence
Other men known to Mrs. Bolshaw
Suspicious characters seen near scene of crime
Other factors heard by the jury
Lack of motive
Trial judge’s summing up
The jury
Written application for leave to appeal
Response to appeal papers
Next stage in fight for justice
Summary of the evidence
Concluding comments by Susan Hogan-Taft

Read this account by scrolling through the whole article.

You can also find individual paragraphs using the links provided on the left here.

John and Susan