Notorious Police Killer Could Be Freed

Man who murdered police officers has spent 42 years behind bars

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A man who was involved in the killings of three policemen in Shepherd's Bush 42 years ago looks set to be released from prison after having spent most of his life behind bars.

Harry Roberts was jailed for life in 1966 for what was to become one of the most infamous crimes of the 1960s.

Pc Geoffrey Fox, 41, Sgt Christopher Head, 30, and Det Con David Wombwell, 25, were all unarmed and in plain clothes when they were gunned down in Braybrook Street, Shepherd's Bush on August 12, 1966 by Roberts and accomplice John Duddy.

The officers were shot in broad daylight after pulling over a van which was waiting in a street near Wormwood Scrubs prison and which contained Roberts, Duddy, and a third man, John Witney. The gang then went on the run but, within a few months, they had all been caught and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The killings caused a nationwide outrage, sparking calls for the recently abolished death penalty to be reintroduced.

At the Old Bailey in December 1966, Roberts was jailed for a minimum of 30 years and he has already served 12 years more than this.

While the victims' relatives say the notorious killer should remain behind bars, the 72-year-old insists he is no longer a threat to the public. “I'm not Harry Roberts, police killer. I'm Harry Roberts, old-age pensioner,” he said. “I want to get out of prison and make something of the last years of my life. I can understand why the families of the three policemen could never forgive me and wouldn't want me released, but I feel I've served my time.”

Roberts has completed the first stage of a Parole Board hearing which could result in his release within months. Under current rules, he can only be kept in prison if he is still considered dangerous or a risk to the public.

Roberts is currently being held in a low-security prison near Newton Abbot in Devon.

Duddy died in Parkhurst Prison on 1981, while Witney was released from jail in 1991, becoming the first convicted police killer ever to be freed. Eight years later, he was beaten to death with a hammer by his flatmate in his Bristol home.


3 March 2009