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The Case of Dale Lockin

The Case of Dale Lockin
This case came to us via the prisoner’s extremely supportive and proactive family. In 2010  Dale Lockin had recently become a father for the first time and was living with his long-term partner and their baby who was teething. Woken by the teething baby, Dale’s girlfriend heard the noise of what she thought was somebody breaking into Dale’s work van parked outside complete with all of his tools.  She woke Dale and he went out to investigate.  Within a couple of minutes he’d returned saying it was only a bloke walking home worse for wear.

In the morning the young family woke to a police scene outside their house which was inside the blue police tape. Going outside Dale spoke to a police officer and said about the drunk he’d moved away from his van the night before. Going back into his neat semi-detached house he saw a cap in his front garden and pointed it out to the officer.  Within days Dale Lockin would be in police custody, looking down the long view of a life sentence for a murder he says he did not commit. 

John Lockwood had been out all day celebrating his birthday. By the time he came to be passing Dale Lockin’s house he was having trouble walking the mile or so home. His friend had offered to call John a taxi but he said he’d walk. Evidenced by CCTV footage it was a weaving, stumbling journey which came to a head in Wellington Grove where Dale lived. A neighbour of Dale’s heard somebody outside and, looking out, saw a middle-aged man, obviously drunk lying in the middle of the road, having trouble getting up. He did eventually, urging himself to get a grip, and the neighbour saw him walk off. Later he head the click of a woman’s high heels and her voice asking him if he was alright.

Dale Lockin said when he went out the man was lying near his van. Realising he was incapable of anything much he got him to his feet and described standing behind him and setting him off in motion ‘like you would a kid on a bike.’ He watched as the stumbled down the road before falling slightly into his elderly neighbour’s hedge.  Dale Lockin had gone outside, he said, wearing just his jeans and a pair of flip-flops but the victim, when found five hours later had been stamped on with such force the imprints of the sole of a boot or shoe could be seen on his torso.

A passerby saw John Lockwood sitting in a street around the corner from Wellington Grove at about 7am. She called the ambulance who took the victim to hospital where he later died from massive internal injuries.

Dale Lockin was always going to be of interest to the police because he volunteered that he’d interacted with the victim at the relevant time. However, what really did for him was the testimony of another neighbour who said she’d heard terrible sounds that night and, going to her window, saw her neighbour Dale up the street, backing out of a ginnell, or alleyway, where the victim’s rucksack and one of his shoes had been found. This was not the place where he’d lain when the ambulance attended but it was the location where the prosecution believe the fatal attack had happened after which he’d managed to struggle on further.

Our interest in this case came initially because of Dale’s family who were hard working, articulate, law abiding people who utterly believed in his innocence. We started to write to Dale and read first hand his strong protestations of innocence.  We received hundreds of pages of trial and unused evidence and started the very lengthy process of analysis and review.

The first thing that struck us as odd about the case against Dale Lockin was why he would point out the victim’s cap to the police if he’d been involved. The police scenario was that Dale Lockin had gone outside that night and ‘flipped’; dragging the victim away from his van to the ginnell where he’d set upon him, stamping and kicking repeatedly to his torso. Dale Lockin claimed he’d worn only a pair of flip-flops that night but he had various pairs of boots and footwear and the police had seized all of them.  However, none of the footwear owned by Dale Lockin could have caused the injuries to the victim as none bore the distinctive undersole pattern evident. At trial though this was rather worryingly glossed over by clever cross-examination; the point was made that all of Dale Lockin’s footwear had been eliminated yet prosecuting counsel returned to the subject to ask where his heavy work boots had been stored that night. “In the stair cupboard” Dale had replied.   The matter was left dangling perhaps giving the jury the unfortunately false view that those boots might have been used in the attack. Dale Lockin might have hoped it would be pointed out to the jury at this point that those boots too had been positively eliminated but alas it was not.

Our concern really rose in this case when we discovered we another matter which we believe strongly gave the jury a false impression.  The neighbour who claimed she had seen Dale Lockin suspiciously backing out of the ginnell was visited by the police. We found their notebook entries showed that the view of the ginnell was virtually impossible from her window but they assumed she must have lent out to get a better view.  This was not though what she claimed. She said she was so in fear of being seen she stayed behind her curtain for fear of being spotted. But the evidence around this witness got worse. During the trial, just as this witness was about to take the stand (from behind a screen) it became clear to the defence that photographs had been taken of the view from her window which had not been properly disclosed to them.  The jury was sent out. The judge said “heads will roll” for this serious deviation from procedure.  Over the next short period the defence viewed the photographs. It was clear to them the police photographer had leaned significantly out of the window in order to gain a vantage point to be able to see what the witness claimed; the end of the ginnell, which was on the same side of the street as her house.  The defence argued new photographs should be taken, this time showing the view as she said it had been from behind a curtain. This was good progress for the defence but what happened next added to the damage done to Dale Lockin in his right to a fair trial. 

The judge took the view that it was impossible for a photographer to take accurate photographs in the dark, street lit conditions and so the images should be taken in daylight. The trial was in the middle of winter with deep snow which had derailed the trial for a couple of days already. It was agreed the jury would not have a site visit to see the view themselves from the window, as too much time had been lost already. A photographer would be dispatched to get new, daylight images which would be put before the jury.  

This was done and the new photographs did show that it was impossible for the witness to have seen Dale Lockin backing out of the ginnell as claimed. The view was so restricted it was only possible for her to have seen him when he reached the very edge of the pavement so a view of movement backwards was impossible.  However, it seemed he could still just about be seen at the edge of the ginnell and Dale Lockin was convicted.

Our review focused on both sets of photographs; the undisclosed ones and the new snowy set and we set about answering whether they were an accurate representation of what the witness could see from her window.

Once we’d completed our review of the case it seemed important to us to enlist the help of a good solicitor who could help drive matters on.  Matt Foot of Birnberg Pierce had just successfully worked on Sam Hallam’s appeal which had been a long fight to get undisclosed evidence handed over.  He agreed to take the case on, on a pro bono basis.  

Inside Justice paid the expenses associated with a two day visit to the scene so that our cold-case Advisory Panel scientist, Louise Shorter from the unit and solicitor Matt Foot could attend, speak to witnesses and review the trial evidence.  This case highlights the importance of getting out on the road, revisiting scenes of crimes and seeing for yourself what others are describing verbally. We were all genuinely shocked at the distance from the witness’ house to the ginnell. We were shocked at how dark it is on that street at 2am and felt more strongly than ever that the jury had been given an entirely false view.  Our work in this field remains on-going. We have been talking to visual experts and psychologists and experts who deal with eye witness testimony. 

Simultaneously we have been conducting a full forensic review. Yet again we have a case which could be forensically rich and yet no evidence could be found to i