Mistake #1 – Post-mortem Confusion
“Gifted son gets life for butchering pushy father”.
“He is accused of attempting to dismember him with a saw”.
“He… tried to cut it up with an electric saw”.
“A blade from a saw was found with the corpse… An electric saw was found in the house”
– Excerpts from the Daily Mail et al
On 26 October 2018, The Times published the following clarification: “We said that Mark Alexander dismembered the body of his father before concealing it (July 20, 2018). We have been asked to clarify that, owing to the condition of the remains, the court which convicted Alexander of murder was unable to determine precisely what had been done to the body after death. He was therefore sentenced on the basis there was no clear evidence of dismemberment” (View article).
November 2018: The Independent Press Standards Organisation published a statement about recent reporting on Mark’s case, following a thorough investigation of the facts and evidence available at trial. This included a contemporaneous note of a remark made by the judge to the press gallery before sentencing, recorded by the defence, which stated that there was “no dismemberment of the body – contrary to what was said in the press”.
This is one of the most upsetting and appalling aspects of the case, not only because it’s a horrible thing to be told as a family, but because after putting us all through that, it then turned out to be a mistake. Receiving the news that my father hadn’t just died, but had lost his life in such a horrific and brutal manner was completely devastating and shook us all for months. When the prosecutor’s own expert then revealed that the police had been wrong all along – and that my father’s body hadn’t been dismembered at all – I felt both relieved and outraged. Had this all been some kind of cruel joke? How could they get something like that wrong? And if they could mess this up, what other mistakes were they making?
Three months after my arrest, and two months before my trial, a Forensic Archaeologist and Anthropologist delivered the findings of an examination he had conducted – at the request of the Home Office Pathologist – of my father’s remains. He had been asked to assess “the overall condition of the remains, any taphonomical changes such as burning, and evaluate whether any bone fractures were the result of fire, dismemberment, or peri-mortem trauma”:
“It is my opinion that these bone fragments were not intentionally separated… Most of the fractured edges appeared to be irregular, not clean cut, and therefore broken as a result of the fire and then decomposition. Possible transportation of the body for burial would have likely resulted too in the movement of some bones” – Forensic Archaeologist and Anthropologist, 28 May 2010
Despite this unequivocal revelation, the prosecution ignored their own expert and maintained their original fallacy as if nothing had changed – I can think for no other reason than to generate an emotional reaction amongst the jurors and sway public opinion in the press. Their opening speech seemed purposefully designed to manipulate the jury right from the start. In a gruesome charade, they paraded an electric saw from dad’s tool shed around the courtroom before passing it to the jurors for a good look. Yet their own forensic scientists had already established, a month earlier, that the saw neither had any traces of my DNA on it, nor any traces of my father’s blood – and so was completely irrelevant to the case. Indeed, the blades for this saw – which were also presented to the jury for maximum visceral impact – were just 5cm long. The Crown Prosecution Service had even issued a statement of Admissions to the jury confirming that the saw “has been scientifically examined for traces of blood. None was found”, and that “no cellular material attributable to the defendant was found”.
All I could do was look on in horror and disbelief as this bizarre and macabre pantomime unfolded before me. Seeing them play with my father’s dignity in this way was intolerable. In that moment I lost any scraps of faith I had left in their integrity or impartiality. I’d trusted them to find my dad’s killer, and they hadn’t. I’d put my faith in forensic science to prove my innocence, and they too had failed. At every step of the way our family has been let down, disappointed, or even toyed with simply to meet the prosecution’s own ends. This wasn’t about justice for them, it was about winning, by any means possible: they couldn’t have made a starker demonstration of this had they tried.
Once the Judge realised what had happened, and the allegation was revealed for what it really was, the jury were simply asked to forget all they’d heard and been shown – as if erasing those images was as easy as flicking a switch. But the damage had already been done. I’ve no doubt it left a lasting and irreparable impression upon them, just as the prosecutor had intended. And of course, in the meantime, it had been all over the press. Indeed, the stain of the prosecution’s abuse still lingers to this day. No amount of reporting directions from the Judge seemed strong enough to blot out that mark, they were all ignored, even when delivered before a full press gallery ahead of his sentencing remarks:
“There was no dismemberment of the body, contrary to what has been said in the press” – The Honourable Judge Reddihough, 10 September 2010.
As a family, there are no words adequate to express our disgust at this behaviour, nor the extent to which it has compounded our grief. We only hope that a line can finally be drawn under these falsehoods, notwithstanding that in truth they are symptomatic and symbolic of a much wider injustice yet to be remedied.
Back to: 10 things the Daily Mail got wrong about the trial of Mark Alexander or move on to: Mistake #2