Murderer involved in killing policeman during robbery has 'incredible' appeal rejected

An armed robber, serving life for the murder of an off-duty police officer, has had his bid to clear his name condemned as 'frankly incredible'.

Thursday, 22nd December 2016, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:19 pm

Getaway driver James Francis Hurley, 54, from Luton, claimed a “maniac” accomplice stopped him giving evidence in his own defence during his trial, in 1989.

He took part in a £14,000 armed robbery in 1988, outside a Barclays bank in Hemel, during which PC Frank Mason was shot and killed.

The gunman was Hurley’s violent accomplice, Charles McGhee.

Hurley admitted the robbery but pleaded not guilty to murder, yet he did not give evidence in his own defence and was convicted .

Hurley, McGhee and fellow robber, Perrie Wharrie, were all handed life sentences.

Challenging Hurley’s conviction at London’s Appeal Court, his barrister, Joel Bennathan QC, argued he was intimidated by McGhee into keeping quiet during the trial.

Hurley claimed he was not aware that a gun was to be used in the robbery, and had nothing to do with the killing of PC Mr Mason.

McGhee had been described by witnesses as a “maniac” and “a volatile person who you would not want to cross,” the court heard.

He died in prison in 2009, and Hurley told the court that was why he now felt able to come forward with fresh evidence to challenge the murder rap.

But Lady Justice Hallett refused to believe his account of events on the day of PC Mason’s murder and dismissed his complaints.

She told the court: “His account has varied over the years in significant respects... he has changed his account several times on when he knew a man had been shot.

“He appears to be the kind of man who is prepared to change his account as and when he feels his interests dictate.”

The judge described his latest version of the events on the day of the killing as “frankly incredible, both in relation to his involvement in the robbery and his relationship with McGhee.”

She added: “This was a well-planned armed robbery committed by career criminals who knew what they were doing.

“In our judgement all the evidence indicates a man fully involved in the planning and execution of the armed robbery.”