Page last updated Wednesday 8th May 2013 at 1030hrs
Anthony Steel was wrongly jailed in 1977 in one of West Yorkshire Police’s most notorious miscarriages of justice. Even after his name was cleared in 2003, Anthony Steel never spoke publicly about his wrongful conviction for the murder of Bradford bakery worker, Carol Wilkinson.
But in a video, broadcast for the first time in 2009 two years after his death, Anthony gave his account of how police ‘persuaded’ him to sign a confession to the killing. During the interview, thought to have been filmed at his home in Halifax whilst he was out of prison on licence, Mr Steel alleges that he was physically attacked during a lengthy interrogation by West Yorkshire Police officers.
He said: “How much do people have to stand? People getting on at you all the time, not leaving you alone and hounding you – a person can only take so much?”
“Now you could put me inside and kick me to death, but I would never sit there and sign a confession again. But I was young and I’d never had experience of being in custody, or anything like it“.
“That pressure builds up and there’s only so much you can take, so to ease that pressure you do something to get them off your back and that’s what I did. They kept intimidating me, telling me what I had done that day. I think I ended up believing what they were telling me.”
Carol Wilkinson, who was 20 and lived in the Ravenscliffe suburb of Bradford, was bludgeoned with a stone as she walked to work in October 1977. Mr Steel, a council-employed gardener thought to have worked nearby, was arrested 18 months later over her murder. Carol’s murder is still one of Yorkshire’s most notorious unsolved crimes and there has been no justice for the Wilkinson family who lost a precious daughter more than 35 years ago.
In the video, Mr Steel says: “They were saying ‘We know you’ve done it. We’ve got the proof, we’ve got the evidence’… I think that, because the case had been going on that long, they were out to get somebody to get it off their books, to put somebody inside“.
“It didn’t matter who it was as long as it fitted in some way, or they could make it fit in some way, and they could put that person inside.” Mr Steel claims he was made to watch while police wrote out a statement for him.
“They promise you everything once you’ve signed it,” he said. “‘You’ll get bail’, ‘You’ll get to see your family’ and all this. “The next minute you’re slung in the cells and you’re sat there wondering what the hell’s going on until the following day comes.”
Mr Steel’s coerced confession was later found to contain many inaccuracies and evidence linking him to the crime scene was considered unreliable. Psychological evidence obtained while he was in prison showed that he was of low IQ, had learning difficulties and was easily led and suggestible.
The Court of Appeal eventually quashed his conviction as “unsafe” in 2003, eighteen years after a BBC Rough Justice TV programme cast serious doubts about his ‘confession’, but at the time of the video interview he was still fighting to have the case reviewed.
Mr Steel received an official police apology and around £100,000 in compensation from the Government, but he was in poor health following his release from prison. He died from a heart attack aged 52 in September 2007.
The Steel miscarriage of justice has striking resemblance to that of Stefan Kiszko, a tax clerk wrongly convicted of the sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in Rochdale in 1975. Mr Kiszko, who had confessed following hours of police interrogation, was freed after evidence proved he could never have been the murderer.
Professor David Gee, the Home Office Pathologist who conducted all the post-mortem examinations on the Ripper victims, said that there were similarities between the murder of Carol Wilkinson and the murder of Yvonne Pearson by Peter Sutcliffe a short time afterwards. Sutcliffe did not confess to Carol’s murder at his Old Bailey trial. A man answering Sutcliffe’s description was also seen running away after an attack on a Bradford schoolgirl just 24 hours after Carol’s death.