QC - Mr Michael HILL
Barrister - Mr Samuel PARISH
Solicitor - Mr Payne
Defence began their case with Merrick on the stand.
Merrick Rogers (5ft 7", light hair and of 'slight' build) again told events as he had already stated in statements and interview videos.
Merrick explained how he went on to the Three Tuns, ordered a pint of 'Holsten Export' and sat down to drink it. He remembers hearing the bell for last orders (usually 10.50 pm) and left shortly after. He then walked home (not via St Stephen's park) arriving indoors at 11.20 pm. He sat downstairs to watch some TV. He remembers what he was watching and at what time.
Merrick's mother is next on witness stand, confirming that Merrick had arrived home at 11.20 as she too was watching TV, but upstairs. She also stated that she knows Merrick did not wash any clothes from that Monday 31st onwards (apparently Merrick did not know how to operate the washing machine!).
Several witnesses from various pubs were able to say that Claire and Merrick were happy and relaxed in each others company.
The Three Tuns till roll from that evening showed one pint of Holsten Export was bought at 10.39 pm that night - the only single pint of Export all evening.
DNA explanation. Merrick cannot explain how his DNA was on Claire's breast but he was with her all evening. DNA consists of both Merrick and Claire's DNA. Defence point out that DNA from at least two other individuals has been identified on Claire's body - also that blood could have acted as a carrying-agent for DNA i.e. Merrick's DNA would have been on Claire's face and hands, blood in these areas from the attack could have picked up the DNA and been transferred to the breast during the attack.
Physiotherapist for Merrick confirmed that Merrick is not strong enough to strangle any person due to previous injury involving a dislocated shoulder that had been dislocated on two separate occasions (95% sure).
Five spots of blood found on Claire's T-shirt, 4 of which belonged to Claire, the other is still unknown and does NOT belong to Merrick
Two different witnesses saw Claire at 10.30 pm leaving the Bishop's Finger pub. A man was seen to follow her. He was 6 ft tall, dark and of largish build 'built like a rugby player'
These witnesses know Merrick and confirmed that he was not at the pub.
A witness saw Claire walking towards the St Stephen's park with a man at about 10.45 pm. The man described as 6ft tall with dark hair. Witness saw Claire fall over, appearing drunk. As the witness passed them by, she was sitting rubbing her ankle. The 6ft man asked if she was alright, but appeared agitated, as she was not walking properly.
Two witnesses saw Claire leave Seven Stars pub on her own at about 10.15 pm - Claire could possibly have returned once Merrick had left her
One of these witnesses saw a man running away from St Stephen's park to the Causeway shortly after 11 pm. He ran out in front of his car and he got a very good look at him in his headlights, as he was startled. He was about 6ft tall with stubble and of athletic build. He was wearing dirty Reebok Classic trainers, blue fleece Tommy jacket - zipped up, and faded jeans with grass stains on the knees. In his statement, he also claimed that the man's jeans had button-flies. He said he noticed this because the buttons were undone, but this did not come out at the trial.
CCTV - same as that used by prosecution. After closer examination found that young man fitting Merrick's description can be seen walking towards the Three Tuns pub.
Defence also highlighted the fact that no other suspects were asked to hand over clothes for forensic testing.
No fibre tests were carried out on either Merrick's or Claire's clothing.
27th June 2000
Jury announces unanimous verdict of 'guilty'. Merrick convicted of murder with life sentence. Uproar in court. Various cheers/comments from Streader and Packman family, and others. Merrick's prison officer in disbelief. Merrick's legal team disgusted, but offer to continue defending Merrick through next stages as feel 'something is very wrong'.....
O U R - D O U B T S
While in prison over the previous year, Merrick has been under hypnosis on three separate occasions. Each of these sessions showed the same result. Merrick was asked various questions about the events of the evening of 31st May 1999, and each time Merrick was able to confirm his statements taken when fully conscious. His hypnotist attended many days of his trial, convinced of his innocence .Would a guilty man risk his life and let his sub-conscious mind tell the story? Unfortunately this evidence could not be brought into the courtroom as part of Merrick's defence.
Merrick is from a respectable family and an educated background. Throughout all his years, Merrick has never been known to have an aggressive bone in his body. Even if involved in an argument. Merrick is a gentle, kind, generous, considerate young man who cares very much for those close to him. A loving son and brother and an excellent friend to all who knew him. To think that he has been convicted of murdering his childhood friend is beyond belief. It is breaking our hearts to think of him in prison - and for so long. He doesn't deserve it. His family do not deserve it.
The jury's decision was such a shock to us all. We cannot believe how much evidence was ignored. All the witnesses that saw Claire saw her with a 6ft tall man, after Merrick had left her. The other DNA found on Claire's body. The unidentified spot of blood on Claire's T-shirt. How can all this be ignored?
We now know of statements supporting Merrick's plea that were ignored by the police. The defence did not know about them at the time of trial. There are witnesses that saw a man fitting Merrick's description in the Three Tuns, whose statements have ignored. Why is this allowed to happen? Why weren't any other suspects' clothes taken in for forensic examination? Merrick was not the main suspect, but only his clothes were taken and they yielded absolutely nothing.
Consider this! Had Merrick been guilty, he would have told the police that he had kissed Claire's breast. He had no idea his DNA was there or how it got from her face to her breast.
Merrick had suffered twice from dislocating his shoulder. Experts said in trial that he was not physically strong enough to kill by strangulation. But still the jury unanimously claimed Merrick was guilty?
Even though there has not been a single trace of evidence to suggest Merrick was ever in the vicinity of St Stephen's park that evening, the jury still thought him guilty.
Let's suppose Merrick was lying about his movements that evening, so let's assume he wasn't where he said he was and, instead, that he was in the park murdering Claire;
He claimed that he walked to the Three Tuns pub along St Margarets Street and that he saw a group of people milling around Alberry's wine bar but no-one else who really caught his eye - from the CCTV footage, there are a group of people milling around Alberry's wine bar at the time Merrick would have been going along St Margarets Street but otherwise there are very few people around.
He said that he ordered a pint of Holsten export in the Three Tuns (he specified the brand; a big risk to take if you're lying about your movements?) - a pint of Holsten export was purchased at 10.39 pm; the only single sale of this lager all evening.
He said there were about fifteen to twenty people in the pub; it wasn't very busy. Some were sitting in the conservatory, another group around one table, a further group around another table - there were around fifteen to twenty people in the pub that evening it wasn't very busy according to the staff. Groups of people were sitting exactly where Merrick had said they were sitting All statements confirm the same number of people and where they were sitting.
He said that there was a girl working behind the bar, aged between 20 and 30. This girl served him the pint; he couldn't remember what colour her hair was and didn't remember anyone else serving behind the bar - There was one barmaid working that evening, aged in her early twenties. The manager was also working but was behind the scenes and collecting glasses. He said he was only serving drinks whilst the girl popped out now and then for a cigarette break. It was this girl who sold the pint of export that evening.
There was also a statement from a young woman, who reported that her boyfriend arrived home late on the night of the murder with a ripped shirt and blood on his hands. This was never mentioned in court. This witness said in her statement to the police, "He said that he had been to the park and that he had done something, and that something had happened". When this woman asked her boyfriend if she should phone the police he said "No don't, I'll get into trouble". The police chose not to use this statement and claimed that the witness was unreliable, although they conceed that the boyfriend phoned many of his friends and family to confirm an alibi for the relevant times.
Why would the boyfriend ask for alibi's if he had nothing to hide?
Did the police really believe the witness to be unreliable, or did they decide that this evidence was so damning to their case, they chose to ignore it's significance?
Why was this evidence never mentioned in court so that the jury could decide for themselves?
Additionally, Since the conviction DCI King (who is now promoted to Superintendant}, has been interviewed by local radio and has said on air "I'm sure we have the right man, as he was followed into the park". He could only be referring to Haford's statement which describes a man 6ft - 6ft 1" man with dark hair etc. If this is supposed to be a description of Merrick it could not be more wrong. Therefore is King trying to mislead the public and if so why?
Finally, if this is supposed to be the overwhelming and convincing case cracker on which the police and CPS base their case. Is this a safe conviction? The answer has to be NO! NO! NO!
Wouldn't you say that Merrick must be the luckiest liar alive?
Merrick was never seen with Claire after leaving the Seven Stars pub, but still the jury put Merrick in the park, with Claire, and are sure BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT that Merrick killed Claire?
Is this supposed to be justice? Is this supposed to be a fair trial? What kind of legal system do we have that allows so many innocent men and women to be convicted of crimes they did not commit? Why is a young man's life left in the hands of 12 strangers who must suddenly become experts in DNA and law? It is a disgrace and we refuse to accept this miscarriage of justice to our son, brother and friend. We want to do all we can to free this innocent man.
WE WANT MERRICK BACK. http://www.innocent.org.uk/cases/merrickrogers/merrickrogers.html