Fourth member of Stockwell Six jailed for alleged bid to rob corrupt police officer in 1972 hopes to clear his name at Appeal Court today
- Texo Johnson contacted Criminal Cases Review Commission earlier this year
- Three of his friends had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal
- Mr Johnson and two others arrested on London Underground in February 1972
A fourth member of the Stockwell Six, convicted over an alleged attempt to rob a corrupt police officer in 1972, will today try to clear to his name at the Court of Appeal.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which investigates miscarriages of justice, referred the conviction of Texo Johnson after the court ruled in July that the convictions of three of his friends were unsafe.
A hearing over Mr Johnson’s case is due to be heard by senior judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday.
Courtney Harriot, Paul Green and Cleveland Davidson saw their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal earlier this year as they were based on the word of British Transport Police (BTP) officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell.
The trio, Mr Johnson and two others – Ronald De’Souza and Everett Mullins, who was acquitted – were arrested on the London Underground on a night out on February 18 1972.
The Stockwell Six, as they became known, were accused of trying to rob Ridgewell, who was in plain clothes and had previously served in the police in South Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
Ridgewell claimed the six, who got on the train at Stockwell station in south London, attempted to rob him before he fought back and arrested them with a team of undercover officers.
Paul Green (left) and Cleveland Davidson outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in July
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie, and his wife Hyacinth, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after his conviction was overturned by senior judges back in 2019
They all pleaded not guilty, but all bar one were convicted and sent to jail or borstal, despite telling jurors that police officers had lied and subjected them to violence and threats.
Ridgewell was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s, culminating in the 1973 acquittals of the so-called Tottenham Court Road Two – two young Jesuits studying at Oxford University.
He was then moved into a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with two criminals with whom he split the profits of stolen mailbags.
He was eventually caught and jailed for seven years, and died of a heart attack in prison in 1982 at the age of 37.
Sergeant Derek Ridgewell, died in prison in 1982 but had been unmasked as a corrupt officer
Ridgewell’s corruption has previously led to eight wrongful convictions being overturned by the Court of Appeal.
In January 2018, Stephen Simmons’ 1976 conviction for stealing mailbags was quashed after he discovered Ridgewell was jailed for a similar offence two years after his own conviction.
In December 2019, three members of the Oval Four – who were arrested at Oval Underground station in 1972 and accused by Ridgewell’s ‘mugging squad’ of stealing handbags – also had their convictions overturned.
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths were all sentenced to two years, later reduced to eight months on appeal, following a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.
In March 2020, the final member of the Oval Four, Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher, also had his name cleared, prompting calls for a ‘wholesale review’ of all cases linked to Ridgewell.
After Mr Davidson, Mr Green and Mr Harriot’s convictions were overturned, BTP Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said the force had ‘examined all available records’ of investigations where Ridgewell was the principal officer.
He said BTP ‘have not identified any additional matters that we feel should be referred for external review’.
Ridgewell died of a heart attack in prison in 1982 at the age of 37.
How corrupt Derek Ridgewell was linked to wrongful convictions
Derek Ridgewell worked for the British Transport Police having previously served for the South Rhodesian Army in what is now Zimbabwe.
He made a name for himself in the 1970s by arresting young black men for muggings on the underground which was considered a high-profile problem at the time.
However, it has since emerged he was linked to several controversial court cases and the wrongful convictions of multiple people in the 1970s including five of the Stockwell Six and the Oval Four.
Oval Four: Group framed them for theft and assaulting the police 47 years ago have convictions overturned
The Oval Four were convicted of attempted theft and assaulting police, and Mr Christie was also found guilty of theft of a handbag, following a five-week trial at the Old Bailey.
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie, George Griffiths and Constantine ‘Omar’ Boucher – then aged between 19 and 23, were arrested at Oval Underground station in 1972 by a police unit known as ‘the mugging squad’.
Det Sgt Ridgwell was the prosecution’s chief witness.
All four were jailed for two years, later reduced to eight months on appeal.
Mr Trew, Mr Christie, and Mr Griffiths, had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal in December 2019, after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) earlier that year.
Winston Trew and his wife Hyacinth, pictured outside court in London last year
Mr Boucher’s conviction was not referred to the Court of Appeal, as the CCRC had been unable to trace him – but Mr Boucher contacted them shortly after his friends’ convictions were overturned.
The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction last year.
Also in 1972, six black men were arrested at Stockwell station and accused of attempting to rob Ridgewell who was serving as a plain clothes police officer at the time.
Again, the prosecution relied heavily on the evidence of Ridgwell.
Five of them were convicted and jailed or sent to Borstal for up to three years.
Mailbag theft: Businessman convicted of stealing mailbags aged 19 clears his name 40 years later after Googling corrupt police officer
Prosecutors began to notice a pattern with cases brought by Ridgewell which were linked to his running of the anti-mugging squad.
This culminated in the acquittal of the Tottenham Court Road Two – devout Jesuit students from Oxford University the prosecution of whom was thrown out by a judge.
To avoid embarrassment, Ridgewell was quietly moved to a squad investigating mailbag theft.
In 1976, Stephen Simmons was wrongly convicted of stealing mailbags. Mr Simmons was just 20 in 1976 when he was locked up after his convictions in relation to the theft of mail from a train at Clapham Goods Yard in London.
Stephen Simmons (pictured, left, and, right, with his wife Sue) said the overturning of his conviction in January 2018 was ‘one of the best feelings’ he had had in his life
Mr Simmons, now 64, was sent to Hollesley Bay borstal in Suffolk and served eight months.
The businessman discovered he may have a chance at appeal in 2013 when he Googled his arresting officer – Ridgewell – and discovered that, in 1980, he had been convicted of conspiracy to steal mailbags and jailed for seven years.
Ridgewell died in prison after suffering a heart attack.
Mr Simmons’ case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and his conviction was finally quashed in January 2018.
He said that winning his appeal was ‘one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life’.
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