Unsolved Murders

Hensley Wiltshire

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 22 Feb 1989

Place: 34 Conduit Street, Gloucester

Source: news.bbc.co.uk

Hensley Wiltshire was stabbed during an argument at a flat in Conduit Street, Gloucester, and later died in police custody on 6 January 1989.

Two drug dealers were convicted for his murder at Bristol Crown Court in January 1990 but later had their convictions quashed in June 2003. They had both been jailed on 10-year minimum tariffs, but because they had refused to admit their guilt they had not been let out after ten years passed. It was said that they beat Hensley Wiltshire, a rival drug dealer, with a crow bar and stabbed him with a knife, resulting in his death.

It was heard that the first man had admitted hitting Hensley Wiltshire with a bar and stabbing him in self-defence whilst the other man had said that he had taken no part in the fight at all.

The outline of the events overall is:

  • 6 January 1989: Hensley Wiltshire dies in custody after being beaten and stabbed in a manner that would not necessarily have killed him after having been taken to hospital twice an a few hours and receiving a lack of attention and also possibly being beaten in the police cells and having his cries for help ignored.
  • January 1990: Two men are convicted of Hensley Wiltshire's murder. They were both given minimum 10-year tariffs.
  • 1994: Channel Four screened the documtary Trial and Error on the case.
  • 1996: Two men appeal their convictions, but their convictions are upheld.
  • 1997 or 1997: Appeal in House of Lords rejected.
  • 1998: Detective sues makers of Channel 4 documentary Trial and Error for libel after the documentary claimed he lied under oath, but he lost his case and quietly retired. The judge said that the 'verdict of the jury in the libel action is damning condemnation of his conduct'.
  • 1999+: Parole hearings rejected on the grounds that both men refused to accept their guilt.
  • December 2001: High Court ruling concludes that there were doubts over the safety of the convictions.
  • May 2002: Criminal Cases Review Commission referred case back to Court of Appeal.
  • 2003: Two men win appeal on two grounds.  They both later receive compensation.
  • 2005: Reports published stating that the second man had spent all his compensation money on drink and drugs. it was later reported that he had also spent it on sex parties, women and cocaine.
  • 2012: First man convicted dies, aged 53.
  • 2014: Second man convicted was convicted of the manslaughter of his friend and of stabbing another at a flat. He stabbed his friend in the eye after he teased him over wasting his compensation money after the man said that he was facing having to sell his house.

It was heard that they had all been drinking and listening to music with some other people as friends at the flat in Conduit Street and that Hensley Wiltshire had also taken some amphetamines and was starting to pick a fight with the other two men. One of the men said that Hensley Wiltshire then started to attack him and so he fought him off with a crow bar and then as he continued, stabbed him in the legs and thighs in order to ward him off and calm him down, after which they called an ambulance for him. The man said that at no point did he think that Hensley Wiltshire's life was in danger and that he had acted in self-defence and had not cut Hensley Wiltshire near any vital organs.

However, by 3.30pm the following day, 6 January 1989, Hensley Wiltshire was dead.

It was claimed that Hensley Wiltshire would not have died if he had been treated properly at the Gloucester Royal Hospital and that he was in fact a victim of medical negligence.

It was heard that after being treated at the Gloucester Royal Hospital, that he was discharged, in part because he was being uncooperative, and that at 4am he was handed over to the police who took custody of him on behalf of the Metropolitan Police who wanted him on another charge. However, shortly after going into custody he was seen by a police surgeon who sent him back to the Gloucester Royal Hospital as a 'return case'. It was heard then that the same doctor that discharged him the first time discharged him back into police custody and he was put in the police cells. It was further noted that when Hensley Wiltshire was seen the following morning at the police station by an Accident Unit consultant, that he could have been returned to the Gloucester Royal Hospital, but he wasn't.

Further, the two men that were convicted of his murder said that they believed that Hensley Wiltshire was assaulted whilst in custody. It was said that after he died that he was found to have more injuries than were found when he was first admitted to hospital and it was claimed that they were inflicted whilst he was in police custody.

It was further pointed out that photographs taken of Hensley Wiltshire's cell after his death showed that the walls were covered in blood.

It was also heard that the Crown's case relied on two witnesses, one of whom and been in the flat at Conduit Street during the fight, Witness A and another who claimed to have been outside the flat and had seen the events through the window, Witness B, a woman and a man. There was also a third witness in the room but their evidence was not heard and it was claimed that it had been concealed from the defence.

It was heard that Witness A was a drug addict, a police informant and that she had earlier that day been committing chequebook fraud with Hensley Wiltshire. She gave several accounts of what happened in the flat, each time varying the details, first saying that the first man had stabbed Hensley Wiltshire, then saying that both men stabbed him and then that it was the second man that stabbed him. She also told the court that she had been offered leniency over some drug and fraud offences if she gave evidence against the two men. It was noted that in the light of her three statements and her incentive to give evidence that she was still considered by the court to be a reliable witness. It was later claimed at the 2003 appeal that the woman was 'someone eminently susceptible to pressure from the police', and that, 'There is every reason to suspect that improper pressure was put on her'.

The other man that gave evidence at the trial was a career criminal and he said that he saw the fight from the street through a window. However, at the court, it was claimed that he would have required a step-ladder to have seen the events as he described them, and it was similarly noted that his version of events were inconsistent and that he too had been offered leniency on certain charges if he testified. Witness B's evidence was considered unreliable at the appeal, but the judge noted that he thought that his testimony would have carried little weight at the first trial.

Another person that had been in the room on the night was a man who gave a number of statements, the first detailing a version of events that corroborated the first defendant’s statement. It was heard however that when the police told him that he could be implicated in Hensley Wiltshire's murder, he made a new statement in which he said that the second defendant had also been involved with the stabbing. It was also noted that the man even admitted later that his second statement was untrue. The man was never asked to give evidence at the trial and his statements were never given to the defence at the first trial. It was additionally noted that the defence advised the two men not to call the man as they didn't know what he was going to say at the trial. It was also noted at the trial that the jury even asked twice why the man had not been called to give evidence.

When the details of the case were discussed in the House of Lords it was heard that the handling of the third witness was a 'material irregularity’ but concluded that it would not have affected the jury's decision.

The third witness later taped a conversation with a detective inspector, who later lost a libel case related to the events, in which he was told that either the two men went to prison, or he did.

It was noted that when Hensley Wiltshire was sent back to the hospital the second time that he had an additional fractured leg and injuries to his nose. The police said that that didn't happen whilst he was in custody and that the injuries must have been overlooked at his first examination.

The situation regarding Hensley Wiltshire's time in hospital was further expanded upon with it being heard that when he was first sent to hospital, he should have been seen by a 'trauma team' and experienced registrar or consultant, as he had multiple open wounds, but it was shown that he wasn’t and instead he was seen by a junior doctor who took on his management. It was additionally noted that despite the fact that Hensley Wiltshire had multiple wounds and was in a shocked state, that no blood tests were carried out to see if he had lost blood or whether he needed a transfusion. It was also noted that the junior doctor had been unable to document all of his wounds, let alone treat them and also noted that he had not given him any form of pain relief even though the police had noted that he was continually complaining of being in pain. It was additionally noted that Department of Health guidelines also stated that patients needed to be admitted if they had head injuries and appeared confused or if they were having difficulty in assessing the patients’ blood levels, which it was said Hensley Wiltshire satisfied both criteria.

It was noted that at the time Hensley Wiltshire had been wanted by the Metropolitan Police in connection with a serious sexual assault which was why he was being held by the police after being released from the hospital. It was further noted that at the time he was suing the police for a groin injury that he claimed they had inflicted and had also been involved in a burglary at the home of the mother of a Gloucester police sergeant.

It was said that after the Metropolitan Police said that they no longer wanted Hensley Wiltshire in relation to the serious sexual assault, that the Gloucester Police then charged him with possession of a knife which was found in his sock. However, it was noted that there were also significant errors with how that was carried out and handled in that the knife was said to have obviously been a drug tool and not a weapon, and secondly that he was not arrested for being in possession of the knife when it was first found, but several hours later after the Metropolitan Police said they no longer wanted him, a point which was in contravention of Section 31 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which stated that an arrest was required as soon as a crime became apparent, and not several hours later.

It was also noted that another man in custody said that during the time that Hensley Wiltshire was in the cells that he heard shouts of, 'get off me', and 'shut up you black bastard', and that later on he heard, 'he can't breathe, get a doctor and ambulance quick'. It was heard that the man's statement to that effect was not disclosed at the trial and that it was only found during an inquiry by the Police Complaints Authority. It was also heard that three other men had also heard Hensley Wiltshire groaning in pain and buzzing for help and it was later accepted at the appeal that there had been breaches of custody procedure, although they rejected the claims that the police had assaulted Hensley Wiltshire whilst he was in the cells, stating instead that they thought that Hensley Wiltshire's cause of death was a process that was put in motion during the initial fight with the two men whilst in Conduit Street. The judges at the appeal said, 'We are satisfied that there was no break in the chain of causation either by an intervening act of negligence or by an unforeseen and intervening assault upon Wiltshire in the cells'.

It was also heard that the police that had arrested Hensley Wiltshire had told the duty solicitor and police surgeon that Hensley Wiltshire's complaints of pain were a sham and that he was pretending to be unconscious.

Evidence at the appeal was heard from a trauma specialist from the Oregon Health Sciences University who said that he reviewed the evidence and found that Hensley Wiltshire had died from blood loss and then said, 'Wiltshire could and would have survived his injuries if he had been properly treated either during his first or second visit to Royal Gloucester Hospital. He should not have been sent back to a prison cell'.

It was noted later whilst a documentary on the case was being made that a specialist in the analysis of custody procedure who examined Hensley Wiltshire's custody records had determined that Hensley Wiltshire's custody was unlawful and said, 'Its probably one of the worst neglects of duty I've seen in the five years I've been looking at custody records and my police service before that'. When the same specialist spoke in the documentary, he said that the two men 'did not murder him. He died because a lack of medical care'. It was further noted that even the appeal court admitted that if Hensley Wiltshire had been admitted sooner to the hospital and treated correctly that his 'death would not have been an inevitable consequence'.

When the issue was discussed in the House of Lords, a representative of one of the men convicted for Hensley Wiltshire's murder said, 'If the hospital does not apply the right treatment at the right time, and that provides a substantial cause of death, a defendant should not be responsible for murder'.

Despite all the evidence by the defence detailing the various witnesses from the house and the alleged malpractice by the detective and the course of events at the hospital and police station, the court of appeal concluded that they were still of the opinion that the jury would have convicted the two men of murder and their convictions were upheld.

However, their murder convictions were quashed on 17 June 2003 after they were found to be unsafe.

The murder convictions were quashed for two reasons:

  1. Non-disclosure of information.
  2. A document that was put before the jury had been 'unfairly prejudicial to both men'.

After the two men had their convictions quashed, they, along with Hensley Wiltshire's brother and friends called for an independent inquiry into how Hensley Wiltshire died in police custody. They described the investigation that brought about their convictions as at best incompetent, and at worst corrupt, stating that police used dishonest witnesses and unreliable testimonies.

However, the 2003 appeal judge rule that although there had been misconduct by the detective in charge of the case, that there was no evidence of systemic dishonesty in the investigation such that would undermine the integrity of the prosecution as a whole.

The first man later died in 2012 aged 53. After his conviction was quashed in 2003, the first man said, 'One of the saddest things about this case is that the authorities have known from the first day, from the first minute, that neither of us was guilty'.

However, in 2014, the second man convicted of the murder of Hensley Wiltshire and whose conviction was quashed in 2003 was convicted of the manslaughter of his friend who he stabbed in the eye forcing him to try and escape by jumping out of a first floor window which caused him to receive injuries from which he died eight days later. It was heard that the man had been teasing the second man convicted of murdering Hensley Wiltshire over him wasting the compensation money that he had got after their convictions were quashed. It was reported in 2005 that he had spent his money on drink and drugs. He similarly claimed that he had been acting out of self-defence, saying 'In the world I live in you can stab people if they are going to stab you'.

In 1994 the Channel Four Documentary, Trial and Error, was screened that detailed the inconsistencies surrounding Hensley Wiltshire's death and the investigation and trial. In the program one of the detective inspectors in the case was accused of perjury and perverting the course of justice in regards to the events and he took libel action against the program makers but lost after it was proven that he had warned the third witness not to turn up at court else he would be arrested which was something that he denied under oath. It was noted that after losing the libel case, which was backed by the Police Federation who spend £2,000,000 defending him that he went quietly into pensioned retirement. When the judge commented on the fact that the man's evidence had not been presented to the jury, he said, 'any jury would be and, in our view, would rightly be, deeply influenced by this finding if they could have known of it'.

Hensley Wiltshire was known as Hensley 'Willy' Wiltshire and had been an associate of the two men that were convicted of his murder.


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see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Friday 25 July 1997

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 20 February 1996

see Newcastle Journal - Thursday 26 March 1992