April 2005

Child killer launches a second bid for freedom

CONVICTED child killer Darren Vickers has launched his second bid for freedom.

Former bus driver Vickers, 33, who was jailed for life in 1999 after being convicted of the abduction and murder of eight-year-old schoolboy Jamie Lavis, is waiting to hear if three High Court judges will grant him leave to appeal.

His first bid for freedom fell at the first hurdle in November last year when a top judge refused to allow him to appeal against his conviction.

Now, his mother, Wendy, is hoping the renewed attempt will be more successful. She said: “It’s been so hard while Darren’s been in jail. I feel like I’m in prison too. I just want people to know he’s innocent. I’m doing everything in my power to fight his conviction. I’ve worked tirelessly with Ann Price, who has really campaigned for us.”

Little Jamie Lavis, from Openshaw, disappeared on May 5 1997 after befriending Vickers and riding round on his bus on the day of his death. Some of his remains, but not all, were unearthed five months later in undergrowth in Reddish Vale.

Vickers made countless appeals for help in tracing the youngster before he was arrested for Jamie’s abduction. He even integrated himself into the boy’s family.

Following his conviction, Vickers, who is serving his sentence in the maximum security Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire, did confess to the crime, but his mother Wendy insists this was only to save his family from going to court themselves as she, his partner Faith Stafford, sister Sheree Vickers and friends Ian Tucker and Paul Whitehead, had been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

All five were found not guilty of lying about Vickers’ whereabouts on the day of Jamie’s disappearance, a plot they were said to have cooked up around the kitchen table.

Now, Wendy claims there is new evidence that could help free her son. She said: “We have new evidence and as soon as we were all cleared for lying then Darren had an alibi for the night of the murder.”

Vickers has launched his own appeal bid without the help of solicitors or a legal team.

A spokesman for the Court of Appeal in London said: “On November 22 a single judge refused leave to appeal. We received a renewal application on November 29. At the moment the case is awaiting the summary to be written. Usually with convictions this takes two to three months.”

A police spokesman said: “Greater Manchester Police has received correspondence from the family of Darren Vickers, which it is currently considering.”

May 1999

Covicted killer in confession

A bus driver found guilty of the murder of an eight-year-old schoolboy confessed just five days after his conviction, a court has heard.

In an almost unprecedented hearing on Thursday lawyers for Darren Vickers returned to Preston Crown Court, where he was jailed for life last month, to formally submit his confession.

Vickers, 28, contacted police from Manchester prison and admitted to detectives he had abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered Jamie Lavis (pic below)

Brian Leveson QC, prosecuting, said Vickers, who had tried to point the finger at Jamie’s father John during the police inquiry now admitted Mr Lavis had nothing to do with the death of his son.

Vickers contacted prison staff the day after his conviction on 24 April and asked to speak to Detective Superintendent Roy Rainford, who had led the case.

Four days later in an interview with police he described how he took Jamie against his will, abused him and killed him on 5 May, 1997 at Reddish Vale near Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Vickers had befriended Jamie’s family at the time of the boy’s disappearance and even pretended to helped in the search for evidence.

Five months later, remnants of the boy’s body were found – a torso and jawbone. His clothes had been removed.

Mr Leveson told the trial judge, Mr Justice Forbes, Vickers’ story that Jamie’s father was the real culprit was “dishonest and utterly without foundation”.

But the defence barrister Anthony Gee said: “It’s a bit late for apologies or any explanation or remorse.”

Mr Justice Forbes told the court a transcript of the hearing would be sent to the Home Secretary.

He said he would take the confession into account when considering the recommendation of when Vickers should be considered for release.

After the hearing, Mr Rainford refused to go into detail about the confession but said the important thing was that Mr Lavis’ name had now been cleared.

He said the confession was not only important for members of the family but also the jury to know that their verdict was “sound and correct”.

“I was relieved that the full truth has now come out and that it has vindicated the people and the areas I have previously explained,” said Mr Rainford.