The long tentacles of the Portuguese Judiciary have reached out and wrapped themselves around another Briton. This time it is not just a name that we read in the papers, it is one of our own, a fellow blogger, indeed one of my fellow authors on this site.
20 years ago, Graham was young, free and single. He took a few days break from work, and went fishing with his friend. Sunshine, a few cold beers, and obliging fish – many of you will have done the same thing, but not with such dire consequences.
They flew off to the Algarve, full of banter and good cheer. So did a young German tourist, Andre Jorling. They stayed at camp sites some 15 miles apart. They did not know each other. Andre Jorling was involved in a skirmish during which he fell or was pushed over a concrete wall and broke his back. He has been paralysed ever since. The entire affair has been a tragedy for him.
Unfortunately for Graham and his friend Warren, a security guard was of the opinion that the two of them were the last people he had seen in that vicinity and he was of the opinion that one or both of them had pushed Andre. Andre wasn’t given the opportunity to identify them, either from photographs or in person.
Graham and Warren were charged with homicidio naoforma tenda, the nearest equivalent of which in British law is unlawful wounding /inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm with intent, contrary to section 18 of the OAPA. To be convicted of this offence, the defendant must be proved to have committed really serious harm, or wounded another person (for example by stabbing with a knife). However, the damage must be intended. It is a very serious offence, in the UK as in Portugal. Bail is unlikely to be given, and a long prison sentence is normal when the case is finally heard at the Crown Court, so what followed for Graham and Warren would have been roughly the same in either country. However, it is hard to believe that in Britain there are any circumstances which would have resulted in Graham having a pistol thrust into his mouth by an officer involved in his arrest.
Graham and Warren were remanded to Faro prison, and there they stayed for 54 weeks, a year and two weeks. When the case finally came to trial, it was revealed that the victim had never identified either man, indeed, had given a description of his assailants which bore no relation to Graham or Warren; when he was given the opportunity to identify them in court, he pointed out two completely different individuals.
Graham and Warren were acquitted of the offence. It is important to reiterate that they were not cleared by some technicality of having been involved in the incident but, perhaps, not having the necessary intent to be found guilty – they were acquitted because there was no evidence that they had been in any way part of the incident.
You might think that having finally got out of a foreign jail after a year, having had a pistol thrust in his mouth, and his life turned upside down, that they might have jumped on the next plane back to Blighty. They didn’t, they had become something of a cause célèbre with the British media by then, who had been making a Panorama documentary of the trial and who kindly bankrolled a weeks rest and recuperation – and a little fishing – before they flew home. They had no ties, they were young free and single!
When they did return to England, it was to their previous home, and to try to pick up the pieces of their life. Graham became a press photographer, specialising in covering demonstrations. He is a big man, an ex Scots Guardsman and well able to take care of himself. He quite enjoys the jostle and commotion of the average EDL demonstration or the Dale Farm saga, and comes away with some excellent photographs. Readers here have been lucky enough to read his first hand accounts of what actually transpires, rather than viewing it through the Main Stream Media prism.
Warren’s parents emigrated to America, and so far, I have only been able to track Warren to Australia, whether he is still there or not, I do not know. Certainly the two friends lost contact some 17 years ago.
Graham married five years ago, and last Tuesday night there was a knock at his door, as he sat eating dinner with his wife. A posse of burly policemen. They had with them a European Arrest Warrant, apparently for the arrest of one large ex-Scots Guardsman wanted for murder. An international fugitive. (The warrant had arrived care of SOCA – the serious crimes squad) They were as sensitive as is quite probably appropriate under the circumstances. Which is not very. Who can blame them? It was dark, seven o’clock at night, and they had a job to do. Without further explanation – for they had no other information – they carted Graham off to Canterbury police station.
Eventually they produced a duty solicitor; Graham didn’t have one of his own, you tend not to do so when you are a law abiding member of the public. She agreed to appear on Graham’s behalf at Westminster Magistrates Court the next morning. Graham spent a sleepless night in the police cells, he was baffled; why would he be being charged with murder 20 years after he had been acquitted of Grievous Bodily Harm? Had Andre Jorling died? Was he even the right Graham Mitchell? He had spent 20 years trying to forget the details of what had occurred, now he was desperately trying to remember everything from the Process number of the Charge to the Portuguese attorney who had defended him. The police knew nothing beyond the fact that he was allegedly a fugitive murderer that they were charged with keeping in custody.
The next day in court there were more surprises. On a European Arrest Warrant there are a number of tick boxes showing the reason for the arrest; things like ‘absconded from bail’ or ‘failed to pay fine’ – none of them were ticked on this warrant, not one. It merely said he was wanted for ‘first degree murder’ – an American term in itself, meaningless under British Law. The Magistrate gave the duty solicitor time during the day to see if she could get any more information – by the end of the day the only reply she had had from the Portuguese was that it would take them three weeks to come up with more information! The Magistrate had no choice other than to remand Graham in custody once more.
This time he was taken to Wandsworth prison. He was labelled an international fugitive, and a man wanted for murder, both of which automatically made him a category ‘A’ prisoner. He spent the night on the wing reserved for the ‘hard nuts’ and the Al Qaeda mob who have taken up semi-permanent residence on that wing. He may be a Scotsman and an ex-guardsman, but even he was being mentally affected by all this. His wife was beside herself.
Fortunately, he and his wife have a large and supportive family. They managed to arrange bail for him, his in-laws standing surety; his passport has been surrendered and he has to report daily to Canterbury police station. They have never moved far from the network of streets where he lived when he was first arrested, he has always been registered on the electoral roll, had utility bills in his name, bank accounts, paid his tax and insurance – whatever was the reason behind this warrant, he could not understand why it had taken the Portuguese authorities 20 years to find him if they had wanted him back. They had never been in communication with him.
I have spent the past few days, with the aid of a more than helpful Portuguese friend, searching the database for the Court of Appeal in Lisbon. She has also searched all the Portuguese media. It occurred to me that perhaps Graham’s acquittal had been appealed and subsequently overturned – it is not unknown under Civil Law. All I can say is that unless there is a spelling mistake on the database, there is no record of any appeal either in the name of Graham Mitchell or his friend Warren Tozer. Nothing
Perhaps Andre Jorling had died and there was some way in which the charge could be reinvigorated? The only mention of his name comes in the Portuguese media at the time of the original case, or in translated versions of what has been printed in Britain over the past few days, and one lone report in a German paper back in 1994. If the man had died you would expect someone somewhere to have taken an interest? Even if Jorling had subsequently died, why re-open the case against a man who was proven to have had nothing to do with the incident?
There is no doubt that Graham Mitchell was acquitted, and under the circumstances I have described – I was cautious enough to have checked that out too, perhaps he had just been released on bail and had misunderstood? But as I said, there was a Panorama team following the trial and the Daily Mail covering it on the ground as well.
Has Warren Tozer been traced and arrested too? No one knows. Another ludicrous aspect of the entire affair – for they were jointly charged, there could not be a retrial of just half of the suspected perpetrators.
As an indication of what may be facing Graham now, the Portuguese national João Vale e Azevedo has been facing a string of charges loosely related to his time as chairman of the Benfica football club. I say loosely because the complexity of the charges and counter charges would make your head spin. HERE if you feel like tackling the only ‘safe’ version written in English rather than Babelfish translations. Football is more than just the ‘glorious game’ in Portugal, it has religious and political status. João is a high flying jurist and international lawyer, a Portuguese national who totally understands his own legal system. He has spent several years in prison, being acquitted of some charges only to be re-arrested and put back in prison on new ones within minutes – and has spent the past five years in London fighting a European Arrest Warrant designed to bring him back into the Portuguese judicial system. If he can’t successfully navigate the Portuguese legal system, it doesn’t bode well for Graham sorting this out quickly.
All the European Arrest Warrant has to say is that you are wanted in ‘x’ country on ‘y’ charge – no evidence has to be laid before the UK courts. Fortunately for Graham the charity Fair Trials International, who helped Graham during the original trial, have stepped in to help him again. He has to appear in court again tomorrow and we wish him luck.
Please show your support for Graham in the comments, and let him know that the blogging community won’t forget about him. My Portuguese blogging friend has already offered to do any translation work that he needs. What he needs most is his moral boosting and the knowledge that he won’t again languish forgotten in a foreign jail for a year.