In 2022 Winston Trew of the Oval Four gave a talk at the Bristol Radical History Festival detailing his lifelong campaign for justice for the victims of racist and corrupt police officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell. Winston’s devastating story is detailed in his books Black for a Cause… and Rot at the Core: The Serious crimes of a Detective Sergeant . A young Black Power activist in 1973, Winston and three friends were accosted in the Oval tube station by plain clothes police, arrested, beaten up, and forced to sign false confessions for crimes they not only hadn’t committed, but that hadn’t even happened. Devoting his life and considerable research skills to clearing the Oval Four’s name, yesterday morning Winston was in the Court of Appeal to watch a further two of Ridgewell’s dodgy convictions quashed. Below, he reflects on what has been achieved and what still needs to be done.
At the Court of Appeal this morning, Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin had their forty-seven years convictions quashed. The two innocent Railway workers at the Bricklayers Arms’ goods depot had been fitted up in 1977 by the now disgraced DS Ridgewell. They were sent to prison for nine months.
Both men and their families were deeply affected by this malicious prosecution. Peterkin moved to the USA to escape the shame of his wrongful convictions but died in 1991. Mehmet developed a deep mistrust of the police to the extent that when he was robbed as a minicab driver, he refused to report it to police. He died of Covid in 2021. Although they knew they were innocent, they died without any legal or public acknowledgement of this fact.
The Court heard from their barrister, Henry Blaxland, KC, that the case reveals two important things. First, that the British Transport Police (BTP) had failed to sack Ridgewell in 1973, after serious complaints had been made about his behaviour in the trial of the Tottenham Court Road Two, which was stopped by a high court judge. This was on top of complaints about him for using violence to secure confessions of guilt made by the Waterloo Four, the Oval Four and Stockwell Six.
The second matter was that after Ridgewell was convicted and jailed for seven years in 1980 and died in prison in 1982, the BTP failed to investigate all his cases.
Further failures by the BTP were that they did not conduct a thorough review of all his cases when he was convinced of conspiracy and jailed for seven years.
A causal relationship is now seen to exist between those systemic failures, and the fates of Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin. Had the BTP investigated Ridgewell, their convictions may well have been quashed long before they died.
There are now calls for an independent investigation into the failures of the British Transport Police, and I support that call. Following today’s judgment, many more of Ridgewell’s malicious prosecution will surely come to light.
Winston Trew January 2024