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Op-Ed: True crime author Ian Hitchings investigates murder mystery Special

By Alexander Baron     Oct 31, 2011 in Crime
True crime author Ian Hitchings has come up against the most perplexing murder mystery of his career, but it isn't the murderer giving him headaches, it's the legal authorities.
Not to be confused with any other author named Hitchings, you can read all about him in his own words here. One word that might describe him is pugnacious; he is certainly not the type who is easily swayed by a sob story, and saw through convicted murderess Linda Carty, as can be seen here. So when he says he has doubts about a murder conviction, maybe we should pay attention. Maybe the legal authorities should?
He is currently looking into the case of Kenneth Black, who was convicted of murder half a century ago. Now in his seventies and in poor health, Mr Black is still proclaiming his innocence like Michael Luvaglio, or maybe not like Michael Luvaglio! Before he goes to meet his Maker, he wants the Mark of Cain lifted from his name. This is where the author comes in. Here he is in his own words:
AB. How did you become involved with the Kenneth Black case?
IH: In my capacity as an eminent True crime writer and author, I was approached in the early months of 2011 by his solicitor, a professional whom I hold in the highest esteem, Shannon Michael Haynes of Criminal Defence – Milton Keynes. Mr Black was seeking a crime writer to compile a manuscript for him surrounding the background and circumstances of his tragic crime.
AB: What was your first impression of this particular case?
IH: Over the years, I have learned to keep an open mind when I first take on a commission and rely heavily on the documented evidence.
AB: Did Mr Haynes give you an insight to the background of the case?
IH: Yes, very briefly he provided me with just the skeleton. It’s my job to thoroughly undertake the methodical research and carefully sift through the endless pages of relevant evidence.
AB: Have you every personally interviewed Kenneth Black?
IH: Yes, I have undertaken a thorough in-depth interview of Mr Black lasting many hours. From the ethical reasonable questions I put to him, he appears very convincing that he hadn’t actually committed any murder. Let alone a gruesome multiple stabbing.
AB: When was Mr Black actually convicted of this murder?
IH: At the tender age of 22, he was convicted by a jury after a paltry four day trial at Birmingham Assizes in 1961, before his honour the presiding Judge Mr Justice Edmond Davies.
AB: Did Mr Black have any previous convictions or had he ever been in any trouble with the police?
IH: No. He had previously been of good character, a hard working Jamaican lad.
AB: After his conviction, to what prison was he sent?
IH: HMP Winston Green, Birmingham.
AB: Did he continue to protest his profound innocence throughout his sentence?
IH: Yes, with every ounce of strength in his body, he vigorously and tireless constantly protested his innocence.
AB: When was Kenneth Black released from prison?
IH: Eventually, he was released in 1970 from HMP Pentanville, London.
AB: So how many years did he actually serve behind bars?
IH: 9 years, which in itself is unusual and relatively short for any murder conviction. This only goes to show Mr Black was a model prisoner.
AB: Since being released, does he have any restrictions placed on him by the Probation Service?
IH: Like all convicted killers - whether protesting their innocence or otherwise – he will firmly remain on life licence issued by the Home Office for the rest of his natural life.
Mr Hitchings concludes: "A fundamental principal in this countries judicial system is 'justice must be seen to be done.' So its only right and proper I pose the sensible ethical question, how on God's Earth can anyone realistically achieve this when they are forbidden from accessing the most basic relevant facts surrounding Mr Black's tragic murder case, let alone delving deeper? Common sense should prevail!"
A few comments here, in 1961, murder was still capital in Britain, although not all categories were, so theoretically Kenneth Black could have been sentenced to death. His serving nine years does sound rather lenient.
Mr Hitchings and Mr Black's solicitors have been refused access not only to Mr Black's legal papers but to the pathologists's report on the victim.
In a letter dated October 24, 2011, Lynne Hart PA to HM Coroner Birmingham & Solihull Districts states: "Unfortunately, all parts of murder files are totally closed to the public. I would therefore be unable to release any part of the file."
This claim is not true, and it is certainly not true for Birmingham, as I know from personal experience, having actually obtained a pathologist's report on a murder victim, albeit through the sister of the victim - who saw her brother murdered.
The victim in the current case, Christakis Phitides, appears to have been an ordinary sort of bloke, and the circumstances of his murder far from exceptional. It remains to be seen why there should be a veil of secrecy over it, but as can be seen, the case papers have been closed until 2042.
Kenneth Black in 1961.
Kenneth Black in 1961.
Donated by Ian Hitchings
One other thing should be mentioned, I don't believe there is any sort of racial angle to this case, and as my own researches have revealed, justice in Britain is, and always has been, colour blind. Some enlightening examples can be found here, including from Birmingham.
Kenneth Black in 2009.
Kenneth Black in 2009.
Donated by Ian Hitchings
The most likely explanation, as Mr Hitchings has suggested, is that there was some sort of police corruption angle to the case. The Birmingham police were notorious, more so in the 1970s, and especially their detectives.
Whatever the true facts of this run of the mill murder, someone should take a deeper look at it. It does not appear to have been reported in the Times, but would obviously have been covered by the local press. Perhaps it is time for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to get involved, in fact it remains to be seen why it hasn't apparently so far. If nothing else, this body has the power to obtain documents that even Britain's most pugnacious true crime author cannot.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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