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Confait Case

Volume 990: debated on Monday 4 August 1980

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asked the Attorney-General when the Director of Public Prosecutions expects to be in a position to make a statement about the possibility of further prosecutions in the Confait case; and whether the investigations which the Director has been conducting throw further on the verdict of the Court of Appeal in Regina v. Leighton, Lattimore and Salih on 17 October 1975 and on the findings of Sir Henry Fisher as to the balance of probabilities in the report of the inquiry into the circumstances leading to the trial of Ronald Leighton, Colin Lattimore and Ahmet Salih on charges arising out of the death of Maxwell Confait and the fire at 27 Doggett Road, London, SE6, presented to the House on 12 december 1977.

On 22 April 1972 the body of Maxwell Confait was found at 27 Doggett Road, Lewisham. The house had been set on fire but was quickly extinguished. Confait had been murdered.On 24 November 1972 Ronald William Leighton was convicted of the murder of Confait, Colin George Lattimore was convicted of the manslaughter of Confait on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and Leighton, Lattimore and Ahmet Salih were convicted of arson at 27 Doggett Road.On 17 October 1975 all these convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division).On 28 November 1975 Sir Henry Fisher was appointed to inquire into the circumstances leading to this trial and to report.On 19 October 1977 Sir Henry Fisher made his report, which was published in December 1977.Sir Henry found that Confait died not later than midnight on 21/22 April 1972 and probably before 10.30 pm on 21 April. He accepted that Lattimore was at a youth club until about 11.30 pm and that he was not present at and did not take part in, the killing of Confait.At the inquiry, counsel for Leighton, Lattimore and Salih made it clear that he did not allege that the record of the boys' oral and written admissions was

"a deliberately wicked concoction of a written record which was a travesty of what (the boys) said in the questions and answers (and) in their statements."

On the balance of probabilities, Sir Henry found that the confessions of Leighton, Lattimore and Salih to have taken part in the arson were true; and that both Leighton and Salih were involved in the killing.

On the evidence before Sir Henry, death could have occurred at any time between 6.30 pm and midnight on 21 April but it was improbable that it occurred after 10.30 pm.

In January 1980 new information came into the possession of the Director of Public Prosecutions who ordered further investigations to be made in the case and subsequently instructed counsel to advise.

Counsel's opinion was delivered on 23 July. I am satisfied that Confait died before midday on Friday 21 April.

I am also satisfied that if the evidence now available had been before Sir Henry Fisher he would not have come to the conclusion that any of the three young men was responsible for the death of Confait or the arson at 27 Doggett Road.

Counsel have advised, and the Director of Public Prosecutions and I agree, that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute any other person in respect of the death of Confait or the arson.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I are agreed that no further inquiry is necessary.