Free Ray Gilbert

ray gilbert 2001

Raymond Gilbert - 10 years over tariff

Convicted of murder in 1981 - Given a 15 year prison tariff - Still in prison in 2006

I know that this is as much an appeal as a report but I have been involved in this case since at least 1998 and my indignation increases. That Gilbert was not convicted beyond reasonable doubt is obvious. Unfortunately the jury in 1981 never had a chance of examining the contradictions in Gilbert's repudiated confession or to consider the lack of any other evidence, thanks to an irrational change of plea which his lawyers should have got him to reverse. Pleas of guilty made by innocent defendants do happen for a variety of reasons. Bruce Kent

Raymond Gilbert is still in prison with little hope of release soon. He was convicted in December '81 of the murder of a bookmaker, John Suffield, in Liverpool. Suffield was stabbed to death on the morning of Friday 13th March that year. Convicted at the same time as Gilbert was John Kamara, who was eventually released by the Court of Appeal in 2000 after long years of maintaining his innocence.

Gilbert, a mixed race youth, had already been convicted of some crimes and gang fights in Liverpool before the murder. He was arrested on Monday 16th March 1981 and then spent 48 hours alone in police custody being interviewed at various times of day and night. During those 48 hours he was told that his alibi (the girl friend with whom he claimed he was at the relevant time) had changed her story.

Threatened with prosecution herself, she withdrew her statement that Gilbert had been with her all day and said that he had gone out on the morning of the murder.

Eventually Gilbert told the police he had murdered Suffield and signed a confession. It is clear from the police interview notes that Gilbert changed his account of what had happened several times during the 48 hours.

No evidence of any kind was found to connect Gilbert with the murder. No witness identification. No finger prints. No blood traces despite multiple stabbings. No murder weapon. No stolen money. Nothing At All.

There were more likely suspects. Two men, angry at not being paid what they claimed was owed, threatened Suffield the night before the murder, in front of witnesses ,and said that they would come back the next day to sort him out. The threats were so serious that Suffield, very frightened, told his employers that evening that he wanted to work elsewhere .He was due to meet a Coral representative t9 arrange the handover on Friday 13th, the day of the murder. Those two men were not properly investigated. John Suffield's father tells me that possibly on Saturday 14th, and certainly by Sunday 15th he was told by the police that all those in the betting shop on the 12th, about twenty people, were in the clear. Manifestly their alibis, especially those of the two who had threatened Suffield, were not given the same treatment as that given to Gilbert's. Indeed it would have been impossible for such investigations to have been carried out. All of those who were in the shop on the Thursday could not even have been identified in that time. The shop was closed on the Friday and Saturday.

Once in prison, on remand, Gilbert repudiated his confession and maintained that position up to his trial. He had a very good chance of being found not guilty, if he had had a good lawyer and had the jury (the third) actually heard the evidence. But they did not.

With an expression of exasperation during the trial, Gilbert suddenly changed his plea to 'Guilty'. He says that he was fed up and intimidated by Kamara and his friends, who were in the same prison. He had falsely incriminated Kamara, as his partner in the robbery, in his written confession, after Kamara's name had been suggested to him by the police.

He says he thought he was helping Kamara by changing his plea during the trial. In fact his change of plea had the opposite effect. Kamara became guilty by association and was also convicted.

Gilbert's tariff was 15 years. He has been In prison for 26 years. He is now in a prison with a good reputation - HMP Grendon. But he continues to maintain innocence, and still refuses to go on courses for reduction of risk or take part in discussions which imply acceptance of guilt of the charge of murder. He is keen to do a PE instructor course.

He has not been a 'good' prisoner. He stands on his rights, challenges authority, and has had a variety of prison adjudications for breaches of prison discipline. He was convicted in 1997 by a court for assisting in an assault on another prisoner. He denies that he was guilty of that crime. I have no doubt that he is generally thought to be a difficult prisoner though it is accepted that he is now making some progress.

The Parole Board process rolls on with no end in sight. It is clear that denial of guilt and refusal to undertake 'reduction of risk' courses remain almost absolute barriers to progress. For instance, in a 1993 report on him the Prison Service said that 'concern was expressed over his lack of co operation with staff and motivation to plan for the future. Work will also be needed regarding his anger control and denial of the offence'.

The Parole Board report, after a hearing in 2004, makes the same point. 'You have been convicted of very serious offences of violence. You deny your guilt of the most serious of those offences ( e.g. murder- the rest are minor by comparison- my comment, BK) but that denial does not mean that the convictions just go away or that the risks disappear'.

There seems to be no official notice taken of what ought to be blindingly obvious and a matter of grave concern. Why would a man go on denying his guilt for nearly 26 years and refusing to go on courses when, if he had conformed and admitted responsibility for his crime, he could have been out of prison years ago? Everyone knows that miscarriages of justice do occur. With the best processes in the world, and we do not have them, such errors are inevitable. Moreover, though I am sure it is not the norm, there have been enough proven cases of police manipulation and even corruption to make an investigation of claims of innocence someone's responsibility.

Recently the Chairman of the Merseyside Black Police Association said: 'Make no mistake about it, the police were abusing the black community back then {1981) whether this was in the form of people being assaulted or evidence being planted it all had a negative effect'. Note the date. The murder took place a few months before the Toxteth riots of 1981 and the trial a few months afterwards.

Gilbert is due for another Parole review in a year's time. If favourable, that review might lead eventually to outside visits or even to open conditions in years to come. Perhaps the prison will move him to category C from the B which he now is. But how many more years before all this happens?

What then of the Criminal Cases Review Commission which was meant to accelerate the process of justice via the Court of Appeal? There will be another approach to the CCRC soon. My experience of Gilbert's case, the only one in which I have had experience of the CCRC, is that it works as an additional court, with the prejudices and assumptions of other courts, but without the safeguards of a court.

In their explanation of their refusal for Gilbert in 2000 the CCRC said: 'The Commission is of the opinion that it is unlikely that the police gave Gilbert these details'. 'These details' were details about the murder scene which it was said that only someone present could have known. But if a policeman thought he had the right man is it so inconceivable that a few helpful details might not be fed in to make the confession a bit more realistic?

They go on to say: 'The decision of the Court of Appeal to quash Mr Kamara's conviction does not have any bearing on (Gilbert's) conviction'. A two-man crime yet the release of one of them by the Court of Appeal has no bearing on the likelihood that the other was also not properly convicted?

Then there is the famous or infamous milk bottle. The confession and various witness statements (not all of them - some, not given to the defence at the time, gave different stories) said that there was a struggle at the door of the bookmakers shop in order to shove the victim inside. We know that he was carrying a bottle of milk and a newspaper.

Yet the milk bottle was photographed standing with the newspaper, safe and sound, on the shelf in the shop, after the murder. How did it get there and survive the struggle and not get smashed on the doorstep? All the CCRC had to say was that 'there were a number of possible explanations for the movement of the bottle of milk into the shop'. They provided none.

One that I can think of is that two men were waiting, already inside the shop, perhaps there overnight, ready to sort out the bookmaker as they had previously promised .The bookmaker might well have been was assaulted inside the shop after he had put down his milk bottle and paper. But what ever the explanation the survival of the milk bottle is not compatible with the story of an assault on the outside steps.

A juror even brought this to the attention of the trial Judge in 1981. His reply was: 'It is so difficult to understand why it matters'. Not difficult at all, unless you have already decided on the guilt of the accused.

An extract from a letter from John Suffield Senior, (The victim's father) to the Parole Board, 11th May 2006. 'Raymond Gilbert has long protested that he is a victim of a miscarriage of justice. I am aware of some of the evidence that supports his claim but I am not competent to judge the quality of the evidence. It is for that reason that I have for many years called upon those who have the responsibility for examining such evidence to give their judgement. Before John Kamara's conviction was quashed in March 2000 many of the Law Enforcement Agencies contended that John Kamara was 'as guilty as hell' and refused to accept the Court of Appeal's Judgement. Some Agencies continue to hold this view despite the overwhelming evidence given in his favour to the Court of Appeal. If there is any truth in Raymond Gilbert's claim of innocence who amongst us would condemn his uncooperative behaviour and his reluctance to conform to the prison regime?'

What can you do?

By all means write to Gilbert from time to time. And enclose some stamps. He is a nonŽstop letter writer. You might also ask him if he would like a visit. A member of the House of Lords is a regular and helpful visitor. Bring this case to the notice of the public in any way you can.

Further thoughts

Granted the number of people in prison who maintain innocence I think there is a case for some kind of independent review person to look at all the cases of those over tariff. Some of those who maintain innocence are doubtless guilty. But some are not. Going over tariff while maintaining innocence ought to be a warning signal.

There is no question but that the Parole Board has a difficult and unenviable job, granted limited resources and current public hostility to prisoners ,foreign and British. The reputation of the Home Office itself has taken some recent severe blows. People are now convinced that the 'system' does not work and iri some respects they are quite right.

The CCRC is also in a difficult position in, that it is supposed to be able to guess which cases have a chance with the Court of Appeal, and is restricted in its terms of reference. Trying to guess what might get through an Appeal Court is not the same thing as working to get an injustice righted.


Innocent of the crime? I think so. We know that Gilbert got to bed after a drinking session at about 1am on the morning of the murder but we are supposed to believe that he was up around 7am, ready with a knife and enough cord to tie someone up, prepared with his accomplice (a new one, not Kamara) for a robbery, which led to murder, by 9 am. Why he would take a knife and cord to rob a Bingo hall, which was supposed to be the first target, is not explained. According to the written confession the attack on the Bookmaker was a last minute idea when the robbers saw Suffield coming to open up his shop which was almost next door to the Bingo hall.

Granted the elimination of his alibi (who has now disappeared) no one can say that it would have been impossible for Gilbert to have committed the crime. He would have had to have a clear head and to have moved very fast around Liverpool indeed. But granted the lack of any other evidence to link him to the murder that becomes incredible.

Bruce Kent
11 Venetia Road
London N4 IEJ
June 2006

Messages of support/solidarity to:

Raymond Gilbert
HMP Grendon
Grendon Underwood
Nr Aylesbury

Source for this message:
Bruce Kent

"Lose no sleep over Gilbert"
by Bruce Kent (former CND Chairman)

With those few words a Trial and Error TV programme, broadcast on 5 January 1999, dismissed the possibility that Raymond Gilbert, convicted of murder in 1981, might not have been properly convicted.

The programme was aimed at obtaining justice for John Kamara, Gilbert's co-defendant, who was also convicted for the same murder. In that respect the programme was successful. The Court of Appeal later in 2000 quashed the verdict on Kamara, who had already spent 19 years in prison.

But we were told to 'lose no sleep' over Gilbert. Sleep or not, I nevertheless have grave and uncomfortable doubts. It does not seem to me that Gilbert was convicted beyond reasonable doubt. Born of a white mother and a black father, certainly an unloved child, Gilbert, afllicted with a speech impediment, had a patchy education and drifted into the underworld of Liverpool crime. He already had a record for robbery and for one assault before the accusation of murder. He was therefore an obvious suspect when a local betting shop manager was murdered in the course of a robbery which went dreadfully wrong.

But suspicion is not enough. What of evidence? Against neither Gilbert nor Kamara was there any positive evidence to connect them directly with the crime. The only evidence was actually against Kamara, now declared innocent. He, and not Gilbert, was picked out on an identification parade as the man one witness saw struggling with a white man outside the betting shop at about the time of the murder. The parade itself was not run according to proper rules. The witness had failed to pick out Gilbert on the first parade. The second parade was made up of a number of the same people with Kamara introduced as one of the new people. So the chances therefore of picking out Kamara were rather higher than they would otherwise have been if all those on the parade had been new to the witness.

However that no longer matters. The Court of Appeal has given its ruling about Kamara's innocence, and it did so in part because a large number of witness statements were not given to the defence at the time of the trial. Some of them even contradicted the witness evidence that was used. One unused witness said that he saw a van draw up at the betting shop, out of which four men emerged with something like a pickaxe handle, and burst their way into the betting shop. It was even revealed that one man had had a fierce altercation about an unpaid bet on the day before the murder, which took place on 13 March 1981, and had threatened that he would return to sort out the manager the next day if he was not properly paid.

The Court of Appeal must also have dismissed the prosecution evidence provided by fellow prisoners on remand about alleged admissions of guilt by Gilbert and Kamara. One of those prisoners later repudiated his statement. Another, who reported a conversation in which Kamara was supposed to have admitted being involved, hated Kamara because he thought that Kamara had raped his wife.

What then of Gilbert? The murder took place at about 9.30 am on Friday 13 March 1981. Gilbert was detained on Monday 16 March and then spent two days and nights in police custody. In detaining Gilbert the police could then only have been acting on general suspicion. No fingerprint, footprint, forensic, bloodstain or witness evidence has ever connected Gilbert with the crime. At one stage there was the suggestion that a knife of the right size was found at a house visited by Gilbert, but that connection was not pressed when it was admitted that the knife was one which could easily be found in many Liverpool kitchens.

Did Gilbert have an alibi? Well, he HAD one. He returned to the flat of his girlfriend, after drinking with friends, at 2 am on the morning of the murder. Apart from a possible visit to the newsagent/tobacconists, he was with her all day. At least she stuck to that story for some time, but after interrogation she was actually charged on 18 March, with impeding the prosecution of Gilbert, and remanded in custody. She then changed her story and said that Gilbert had gone out on the morning of the murder. Gilbert's alibi then became a prosecution witness, having clearly been intimidated.

But what was the case against Gilbert, who had repudiated his confession and pleaded Not Guilty when it came to court? Simply that after two days and nights of police interrogation, with little sleep and no legal representative present, he had confessed to murder and signed a detailed statement. Worse, he involved an associate of his, Johnny Kamara, and said that Kamara had been with him. Why? Who knows. He says he was shown a photofit picture and asked to identify the people in it. Whether Kamara's name was suggested to him we do not know. The interviews were not taped. Whatever the circumstances, Gilbert certainly carries a heavy responsibility for Kamara's arrest and subsequent 19 years in prison.

What of the confession? It is said that it revealed details of the murder that only someone who had been at the scene of the crime could have known. This is nonsense. He was in the custody of two policemen who would have been negligent if they had not known all the details of the crime. Did they, convinced they were dealing with a murderer, reveal details to Gilbert which he could not have known anyway from reading the Liverpool papers? That is at least possible.

Curiously, Gilbert's first verbal admission which was noted by the police, and his subsequent written confession, differ in significant ways. In the first place he said he threw the knife down a drain after leaving the betting shop. In the written confession, which he signed, he said he took it to a friend's house, where indeed a possible knife was found. Then in his first admission he said that the betting shop door was open and that the two of them just went in. In the signed statement he said they had to grab the manager, poke him with a knife, and make him open the door. It is just possible that these changes were suggested to him because they fitted certain statements made by witnesses.

In any event, since the Court of Appeal has decided that Gilbert's confession, insofar as it involved Kamara, was untrue, why should it be assumed that the rest of the confession is unquestionably true?

But why was a confession of any sort made if he knew he was innocent? On that issue the distinguished consultant psychologist, Olive Tunstall, having examined Gilbert in preparation for his appeal process, prepared a detailed report on his makeup and background, dated April 1999. She says: "In my opinion there is evidence to suggest that the confession Mr Gilbert made during the police interviews may have been unreliable. I have based that opinion on the following grounds. The first of these is as follows: Mr Gilbert's personal vulnerability at that time (youth, limited education, abnormal personality, stammer, adverse social circumstances and in my opinion a profound fear of being physically assaulted emanating from early childhood experiences), his lack of access to legal advice and evidence that at the time he began his confession he was in a state of high anxiety." Olive Tunstall's detailed 29-page report confirms that there are serious doubts about Gilbert's conviction.

There is another point which is significant. While the judge was summing up in the Kamara case, some of the jurors asked him why, in the police photograph of the murder scene, a full bottle of milk and what looks like a newspaper are clearly evident on a dresser. The jurors rightly wanted to know how they got there. They were not delivered. They must have been carried into the shop by somebody, but certainly not by the manager if he was, according to Gilbert's confession, struggling vigorously against two robbers. It is just possible that someone else had entered the shop, perhaps someone connected with the previous day's threat, and was lying in wait for the manager, who himself brought in the milk and the paper. However, thanks to Gilbert's confession and the witness evidence of identification against Kamara, it seems not to have occurred to the judge that the murder could have been committed by somebody else. All he could say in reply to the question from the jurors was "It is so difficult to understand why it matters."

Not that it did much matter for Gilbert. Some days after the trial eventually began - two juries were discharged - Gilbert got up and changed his plea to guilty. His words were: "This has been going on long enough, so I want to change from Not Guilty to Guilty." At that point the judge stopped him from going further. It is at least possible that he was going on to say that Karnara had not been with him.

Why would he make that admission granted the lack of evidence against him, and did he realise that in so doing he was probably shutting prison doors on himself for a long time? Whether he got good advice at that moment from his counsel we do not know. It is reported that Counsel now says that he cannot remember the case.

Gilbert's explanation for the change of plea was that he was threatened in prison that he would be 'done' if he did not get Kamara off. He was certainly in prison with some very tough and unscrupulous people, quite capable of making and putting such threats into action. He may also have thought he was doomed anyway after his written confession and wanted to get the whole business over with.

Gilbert has now spent twenty years in prison. His efforts to get Kamara off at the trial, if such they were, did not succeed, though he did try again in prison in 1982 by suggesting that someone else, not Kamara, had been his partner. Once he moved to another prison, away from those allegedly intimidating him, he again claimed that he was innocent and has maintained that position ever since.

He has not been a model prisoner in Home Office terms and has been convicted of an assault while in prison. This verdict is being challenged.

On the other hand, while in Durham, he voluntarily undertook three sponsored runs around the prison yard to raise funds for young people needing medical care. In total he raised over £1400. These runs took a great deal of training and commitment.

For the last 19 years since 1982 he has maintained his innocence. If he had taken the parole road, admitted guilt, and behaved himself, he would certainly be out of prison now. He is a determined man and if he has to admit his guilt before he is released, then he will spend the rest of his life in prison. Today his case would never have gone to trial. A confession from a young man of mixed race with a speech impediment, obtained as Gilbert's was obtained, however honest the policemen involved, would be rejected as evidence.

However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, in March 2000, denied Gilbert access to the Court of Appeal. When the Commissioners made that decision they could not have known that Kamara's separate appeal would be upheld in May 2000. This decision by the Court of Appeal undermines the credibility of Gilbert's entire confession. In their March 2000 ruling the Commissioners discounted the evidence of Ms Tunstall, who is a very experienced psychologist, and accepted the police version of the interrogation and confession without serious question.

A new appeal has now been made to the CCRC on the basis of European human rights law. Gilbert's solicitors have however been told that this request must take its place in the queue. Even if they allow eventually access to the Court of Appeal, it could be years rather than months before the case is heard.

"Lose no sleep over Gilbert." I have visited him five or six times in the last two years and have tried to keep up with the extensive correspondence about his innocence which he conducts from prison. I do not lose sleep, but I do have a strong conviction that his guilt has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is that which is required before a jury can bring in a "guilty" verdict. Will someone in authority please look at this case again?

Bruce Kent
June 2001

To know more about Ray Gilbert's case, check


Ray Gilbert

The Background of the Case

Raymond Gilbert and John Kamera were charged with robbery and the murder of John Suffield, a betting shop manager in Toxteth, Liverpool. This took place on Friday 13th March, between the hours of 9.30 am and 10.30 am

John Suffield suffered from speech impediment which meant he was unable to reveal the safe's code the robbers, this resulted in him being stabbed.

There were main eye witnesses that were passing the betting shop at the time of the crime. One witness saw two coloured men standing in a doorway near the betting shop just before the crime (at 9.15 am), another witness (at 9.30 am) saw two men struggling with a third man, slouched against a lamp post near the betting shop. This person was to be the main identification parade witness.

Raymond Gilbert was arrested Monday 16th March 1981 whilst entering a barber shop and John Kamera was picked up at a later date. Although there is a serious doubt on the saftety of convictions and there is evidence to prove that both Raymond Gilbert and John Kamera are innocent of these crimes, the police used various dirty tricks to ensure a conviction and in Liverpool Crown Court on 16th December 1981, Raymond Gilbert and John Kamera were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, and 6 years for robbery to run concurrent with the life sentence.

Reasons why the conviction is unsafe:

1) No identification - Three Main eye witnesses did not pick out Raymond Gilbert on any of the ID
2) No Forensic Evidence to link either to the crime
3) Uncorroborated statement evidence used in prosecution
5) Alibis of the accused were not properly investigated by the Police.
6) 2 Juries Dissmissed (one of point of law, the other not disclosed)
7) Interferance of defence witnesses
8) Destruction of custody records
9) Deals with Police by remand prisonsers for shorter sentences were made for testifying against Ray and John, with all interviews, notes and statements not released.

What's happened since the conviction

An investigation was made in 1987 on behalf of John Kamara after one prosecution witness admitted his statement was fabricated and all remand prosecution witnesses re-questioned in 1992 after serious concern over their statements against the Toxteth Two For further information contact:
Newcastle ABC, PO Box ITA, Newcastle, NE99 ITA

Raymond Gilbert

Ray said:

"A forensic psychologist report has been compiled and will be submited to CCRC this week, My solictor is optimistic about the outcome" (4/99)

Ray (Dec 2000) can be contacted at:

Ray Gilbert H10111
HMP Woodhill
CSC 'A' Unit,
Tattenhoe Street,
Milton Keynes

He has moved around alot recently.

For more information on Raymond Gilbert one could contact Sheffield ABC (PO Box 446, Sheffield, S1 1NY) or Wolves ABC (PO Box 339, Wolverhampton, WV10 7BZ) who supplied this copy of a letter from Ray; note he has moved from Hull prison.

Ray's letter

						H.M.P. Long Lartin
						Basic Wing
						South Littleton
						Worcs WR11 5TZ
Dear Comrades,

I write this heart felt appeal to your sense of justice. As I languish in this penal system trying to right a wrong. Punished for my stance of innocence. Stitched up by a conspiracy of police & inmates who swore my life away. With both the police and home office ignoring my protestations and pleas for all documentation on the case. Three subsequent inquiries have failed to alleviate our stress & anxiety at the cover ups by both official bodies to protect there informants. Documentation collated by myself lost by Rough Justice that has caused severe problems in my attempts to replace it.

Successive home secretaries and most of the tory politicians ignored my letters throughout this 16 years, 3 months of torment, Anguish & loss. My family can't comprehend what am going through, not wishing to assist because they are only interested in me keeping quiet to get released. IN this hive of heartache I have lost my best friend my Father who meant the world to me. I have been berated by family for an Aunty & uncle passing away through no fault of mine. Besides all this the prison system deems fit to prevent me contacting the media with leaflets in contravention of the law. Everywhere I turned to was like a brick wall. Only the dedication of various ABC groups and other organisations has made me realise. People do care and believe my plight. They have been magnificent in there steadfast support throughout turbulations in prisons and the work they have to do to highlight my case so far. I am a victim of a gross injustice and so are the victims family who are aware of the fight to clear our names of this hienas crime. I ask you all to raise this case with all politicians at every level. Newspapers throughout the country, and to give people like me support by either enquiring through Newcastle, Wolverhampton or Arthur of Sheffield ABC groups or to contact me here at the above named prison. My liberty & life is in your hands please do all you can to make people aware nationally and internationally of this case. As we're political prisoners as well with the policy adopted towards miscarriages of justice.

I need your help! please help vindicate us! My sincere wishes to you all. kind regards.

Hostage of the State
Raymond Gilbert

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