Statements which “exonerated” a murder suspect were kept out of court TWICE on grounds that they were “hearsay”, the Court of Appeal has been told.

Judges have been told a man called Eric Samuels admitted to police during a car journey that while he was involved in a fatal robbery, his co-accused Oliver Campbell had nothing to do with it.

He even named the man he said was the real shooter of Hackney shopkeeper Baldev Hoondle.

But Samuels then refused to put the information in a statement or testify, apparently fearful of both self-incrimination and reprisals from the man he said was the real shooter.

Barrister Michael Birnbaum KC told the Court of Appeal that Samuels made similar assertions to several more people over the following decade.

But the “exonerating” statements were banned from being used as evidence in both Mr Campbell’s trial and his appeal.

He ended up convicted in 1991 of murder and conspiracy to rob.

Mr Hoondle was shot by one of two young black men who entered his shop – the G and H Supermarket in Lower Clapton Road – in July 1990.

Mr Campbell, who lived in Stratford, was linked to the crime by a distinctive baseball cap he had purchased a week before the robbery.

But in a statement written by a police officer, Samuels (now deceased) claimed his real accomplice had stolen Mr Campbell’s hat from his head hours before the shooting.

On December 14, 1990, while being driven from a police station to a prison, Samuels requested a cigarette, smoked it and then told the police: “I was going to tell you before but the solicitor told me not to… Oliver wasn’t there… It was someone else.”

Samuels said he had been socialising in Leicester Square on the day of the robbery with Oliver and two other men, one of whom he knew as Harvey.

“This Harvey taxed [stole] Ollie’s hat and he couldn’t do anything about it so he just went off,” said Samuels.

Then, Samuels said, Harvey showed him a gun and said he wanted to “do a rob”.

Hackney Gazette: Oliver Campbell and his lawyers, Michael Birnbaum KC and Glyn Maddocks KC, are met by press and TV cameras outside the Court of AppealOliver Campbell and his lawyers, Michael Birnbaum KC and Glyn Maddocks KC, are met by press and TV cameras outside the Court of Appeal (Image: Charles Thomson)

Samuels told police he and Harvey drove around looking for somewhere to rob, ending up in Hackney, where they initially looked for a target in Cambridge Heath.

After selecting G and H Supermarket, said Samuels, “He went in and did it and he f***ing shot him! He’s crazy! He’s a crazy man… He done it. He shot him. Not me.”

After the shooting, Samuels said, he and Harvey fled through an estate, caught a train to Manor House and went to a club called the Warren.

They then went to another club, in Lewisham, to sell the gun.

“I asked him why he shot him,” Samuels told the police. “He said he was wanted and he wasn’t going back to prison.”

He said he had heard Harvey had already served seven years for a prior armed robbery.

“This isn’t the first time he’s shot someone,” Samuels added.

“That, we suggest, is a very plausible and even cogent account, for a number of reasons,” said Mr Birnbaum – not least because he had made the admissions “against his own interests”, with the potential to get himself into even more trouble than he was already in.

“If you ask the question, which is the more credible account: his or Oliver’s, then it answers itself,” he added.

Mr Campbell, who was brain-damaged and mentally impaired, made a series of admissions in police interviews with no lawyer present, which Mr Birnbaum called “a tissue of nonsense” and “divorced from reality”.

But Samuels refused to put his claims in a statement or testify at Mr Campbell’s trial.

As he could not be cross-examined, the jury was banned from hearing what he had told the police.

“By not giving evidence, Eric effectively prevented the jury from hearing the very evidence that might have exonerated Oliver,” Mr Birnbaum told the court.

“As you know, such a thing would not happen today.”

Hackney Gazette: Brain-damage patient Oliver Campbell made a series of confessions after being interrogated by police without a lawyer - but his barrister Michael Birnbaum said they were 'a tissue of nonsense'Brain-damage patient Oliver Campbell made a series of confessions after being interrogated by police without a lawyer - but his barrister Michael Birnbaum said they were 'a tissue of nonsense' (Image: Charles Thomson)

Three years later, history repeated itself when Mr Campbell was mounting an appeal.

A man from the same prison as Samuels came forward and gave a statement, saying Samuels had admitted to him that Mr Campbell was innocent.

“He said the other guy had got involved because of the hat and that this hat had been taken from the guy down in the West End,” the prisoner said in a statement.

“He explained that the police had exploited the guy for being so simple.”

But, said Mr Birnbaum, “This was regarded as hearsay by the Court of Appeal and was not admitted.”

In the early 2000s, Samuels was covertly recorded by the BBC’s investigative journalism series Rough Justice, once again stating that Mr Campbell was not involved in the crime.

He told a reporter that “Olly wasn’t there” but had “said some silly things” to police.

He said Mr Campbell had mentioned to him that “his hat is on the TV”, after the case was featured on Crimewatch, but Samuels told him to keep quiet about it.

”It’s not even nothing to do with him,” Samuel’s told the BBC reporter. “He said some things that I couldn’t believe.” 

Then, last year, Mr Birnbaum discovered in old case files an anonymous letter which had been posted to Mr Campbell’s defence team ahead of his 1991 trial, from somebody in the prison where Samuels was remanded.

“He has admitted to us that he was not with Oliver when the crime took place,” the anonymous author wrote.

Mr Birnbaum told the court: “The wording of the letter, which has a certain formality about it, suggests that it is a member of prison staff, rather than a fellow prisoner.”

The Government is contesting the appeal.

The hearing continues.