Friday, February 21, 2014

Loyal wife who turned detective to clear the man she was divorcing of rape

Alison Gray never doubted her estranged husband’s innocence. Even though they were on course for divorce when Trevor was charged with rape, she remained convinced the allegation was false.

‘I was shocked when I heard; floored, flabbergasted,’ she says. ‘I texted Trevor and said: "For what it’s worth, I don’t believe it." I knew Trevor was a man who does the right thing. He helps people. I never doubted his integrity. I knew he wasn’t capable of rape.’

The case went to court and Trevor, a detective police sergeant with an exemplary record, was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.

But Alison’s faith in her husband of 24 years did not waver. ‘I attended every day of the trial, and when they sent Trevor down I thought, "He has to know I’ll support him,"’ she says.

‘Our two daughters did too. I sent a note via his barrister saying, "Stay strong. We’re here for you." I said I loved him, because I did. Despite our differences, we’d never actually stopped loving each other.’

Alison’s faith has been proved to be justified. Trevor, 49, was released from prison on bail in July last year — after serving 13 months of his sentence — when three Appeal Court judges quashed his conviction. And two weeks ago he was completely exonerated when a crown court jury unanimously cleared him of rape, attempted rape and sexual touching.

But he would never have regained his freedom were it not for his wife’s extraordinary detective work.

For when Trevor was falsely imprisoned, Alison, 48, turned sleuth and traced a vital witness, whose evidence proved crucial in overturning his conviction.

Trevor was, indeed, an exceptional police officer. He had spent three and a half years in covert policing with the National Crime Agency, dealing with terrorists, armed robbers and murderers, and had won six commendations and awards. His heroism included tackling a machete-wielding thug and disarming a gunman on a street.

But his world began to fragment soon after he met his accuser, a 43-year-old mother-of-one, in a Nottingham bar on a night out with friends in July 2011. By then, Alison and he had been apart for three months; she had begun divorce proceedings and they hadn’t spoken to each other.

Trevor and the woman chatted and exchanged phone numbers. ‘We sent each other flirtatious, jocular texts,’ he says.

Phone conversations ensued, and they arranged to meet for a date at a bar in Nottingham on July 23. They each drank three or four glasses of wine and a double vodka — they were tipsy but not drunk he insists — then the woman invited Trevor back to her home.

There, her young daughter and another child, both under four, were asleep in the care of a babysitter.

Trevor recalls: ‘In the taxi we were kissing. Then she said she didn’t want her babysitter — who happened to be one of her employees — to see me, so she told me to wait in the kitchen, out of sight, until the babysitter had gone home.’

When the coast was clear, the woman changed into a short, silk dressing gown. ‘We went into the lounge and had a smooch,’ says Trevor. ‘Then at 1.40-ish she said I’d better go, so I gave her a kiss and walked to the top of the road to try and flag down a cab.’

While waiting fruitlessly, he texted the woman to ask for the number of a local taxi company. She didn’t respond. He texted again, repeatedly, and phoned. Still she failed to respond. ‘I walked back to her house — I’d been gone about 15 minutes by then — and the lights were on.

‘I went to the front door and it was ajar but on a chain. I rang the doorbell and shouted through the gap in the door. There was still no response.’

Trevor’s police-officer instinct then kicked in. ‘I thought, "Nobody goes to bed and leaves the door open, even on the chain." I started to worry something had happened.

‘Even as an off-duty policeman, if you discover problems you must deal with them.

‘I made the decision to forcibly enter the house. I put both hands on the door, pushed and broke the chain. Inside the house I shouted out. There was still no response. That’s when I went upstairs.’

Here, he says, he found the woman in bed. ‘She said, "You might as well stay now." So I undressed and got into bed, turning away from her.’

It was she, he remembers, who initiated sex. ‘She put her arm across me and started to kiss me. We had sex in several positions and it was consensual.’ It is the woman’s contention, however, that she’d fallen asleep and woke to find Mr Gray raping her.

She says the next morning she threw him out of the house. Trevor insists they parted amicably.

‘I got up, we had a conversation and she said it had been a good night. She made me coffee; I programmed the dishwasher. The children were dancing in the lounge. I played with them for a while.

Then she rang me a taxi. When it arrived, we kissed and cuddled on the doorstep. She asked for some reassurance that I’d contact her, and I said I would.’

But two days later two senior police officers arrived at Trevor’s house and told him he was under arrest for rape. He says: ‘I was so shocked, my legs nearly gave way.’

His home was searched, he was questioned and suspended from duty. ‘I just kept thinking, "What are these jokers doing? They’ll find a witness soon and I’ll be vindicated."’

But in November 2011 he was charged with rape. ‘I remember thinking, "Everyone will see through this bull in court. She’ll be exposed as a liar."’

His optimism was unjustified. The woman swore he’d raped her, that she’d thrown him out of her house and slammed the door behind him.

In May 2012 he was found guilty and sent to the segregation unit at Nottingham Prison, alongside sex offenders, rapists and child abusers. As a policeman, he was singled out for verbal abuse and vilification.

For the first three days in prison he despaired. ‘I was trying to be strong, but I was just overcome,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t see how I’d survive.

‘I had a plastic knife. There was nothing else I could use, so I dug into the radial artery in my wrist with it. I used such force, the knife broke but I kept digging deeper and deeper.’

He shows me the scar. For a second he loses his composure and his eyes brim with tears. ‘I cleaned up the wound with tissue. I hid it under my watch strap. I got a grip on myself. I thought, "I will get through this."’

Alison, meanwhile, never wavered in her support. ‘I was due to finalise our divorce six days after the trial but I put that on hold,’ she says.

‘I’d sat through the trial and when Trevor was sentenced I cried. I didn’t believe the woman’s evidence. I never saw her – she sat behind a screen – but there was something about her story that didn’t add up. It seemed like an act; theatre. Trevor had such a strong sense of morality, and I didn’t believe he was capable of rape.’

She resolved to clear his name, and became the detective he had been. First, she moved back into the marital home and examined Trevor’s case files. Then she found a new barrister and a solicitor, Paolo Martini, to represent her husband.

‘Our daughter Laurie and I went to see Paolo with the files,’ she remembers. ‘We all concluded that there was a critical witness — the taxi driver who’d collected Trevor from the woman’s home — who’d never been traced.

‘It would have been too expensive to get the solicitor to trace him, so I decided to undertake the detective work myself.’

It was a gargantuan task. There were scores of taxi companies in Nottingham and thousands of drivers. Even if she found him and he recalled Trevor leaving the woman’s house 18 months ago, he would have to be persuaded to give evidence in court. ‘The chances were slim, but I was hopeful,’ she says. ‘Trevor has an excellent memory. When I visited him in prison he gave me a description of the driver and recalled their conversation. I put all this information on a poster, headed ‘Urgent Witness Appeal’.

Alison circulated copies of the poster throughout Nottingham, and put them up in the offices of the main taxi firms. After four days, she struck gold.

She received an email from a taxi- company boss: he was certain he’d found her man and promised the driver would call her.

‘I was astonished my appeal had worked,’ she says. ‘I was thinking, this is my one chance. I have to do this properly. Trevor’s liberty could rest on this.’

It was another four days before the driver rang her. ‘I’d started to think he didn’t want to get involved,’ she says. ‘But thankfully he did call. ‘He told me he had a photographic memory. He said he’d remembered going to the house because he was unfamiliar with the address and it wasn’t on his satnav. ‘He remembered a woman coming to the door in her dressing gown; a black guy coming out of the house. He told me they’d exchanged pleasantries.

‘At this point I asked if I could give his details to our solicitor. I didn’t want to compromise the investigation by saying the wrong things to him.’

Last July, thanks to the driver’s testimony — and Alison’s assiduous detective work — Trevor’s conviction was quashed.

The driver told the court he had parked 5ft from the woman’s front door on the morning in question. He had seen an embrace, a kiss, and heard the woman say, ‘See you later’ — not the actions of someone who had been raped hours earlier.

Vitally, he corroborated Trevor’s version of events and proved his accuser to be a liar.

But Trevor’s ordeal was not yet over. The prosecution demanded a retrial, and it was not until two weeks ago that a jury at Birmingham Crown Court cleared him unanimously. The witness Alison had traced had proved crucial.

‘It was an absolute miracle that he came forward and remembered every tiny detail,’ she says.

‘The police had the full weight of their resources and influence at their disposal, yet they’d never asked the simple question: "Who picked Trevor up that morning?"

‘I pointed out in court that I’m not a trained investigator; that it was the police’s duty not mine to find this vital witness, but they hadn’t even bothered. It was such an obvious line of enquiry but it had been overlooked,’’

Today, Alison’s health and marriage are restored. She says: When I first visited Trevor in prison, two months after he was sentenced, I kissed him. It felt right.

But although the couple are reunited and justice has prevailed, a residual bitterness remains. Trevor no longer has the job he loved, and is appealing against his dismissal from the Force.

He is sharply conscious, too, that the law allowed his name to be dragged through the mud, while his accuser remains anonymous. He will never know why she brought the case against him; only that her false allegations almost broke him.

He is a plain-speaking man, but occasionally emotion overwhelms him. ‘I am free now and vindicated, and it’s thanks to my dear Alison,’ he says, squeezing her hand. ‘The only good thing to come from this awful ordeal is that it has brought us together again.’

Original report here




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1 comment:

kmccready said...

Your wicked email today used black and asian to describe people. Can I ask why you feel the need to label people this way?