UK News Electronic Telegraph
Friday 31 July 1998
Issue 1162

Pc 'tortured by guilt after the execution'
By Colin Randall, Chief Reporter

Bentley cleared after 45 years

A POLICEMAN honoured for his role in the capture of Derek Bentley was driven to alcoholism and death by an overwhelming sense of guilt about the subsequent execution, a former colleague said yesterday.

Sgt Mike Bennett, who retires soon from the force and as chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said Pc Bob Jaggs told him that he was tortured by the belief that a stray police bullet probably killed Pc Miles. The constable, who received the British Empire Medal, told Sgt Bennett: "If you had carried the secret that I have carried all these years, you would be an alcoholic, too."

By the mid-1970s, Pc Jaggs, long regarded by colleagues as a colourful character who liked a drink, was addicted to alcohol, vodka in particular. He narrowly escaped being dismissed from the force; Sgt Bennett's intervention with a consultant enabled him to leave with an ill-health pension instead.

But his drink problem worsened and led to his death in the early 1980s, when he was found lying in a gutter, having choked on his own vomit. Sgt Bennett attributes his own opposition to capital punishment, contrary to official Police Federation policy, to his conversation with Pc Jaggs.

Although he will not reveal precise details of what the constable told him, he said: "Personally I don't think the real story has ever come out, but it is not one that gives anyone on either side any credit." He stressed that he had no way of knowing whether Pc Jaggs's misgivings were justified. The bullet that killed Pc Miles was not recovered, but Sgt Bennett said: "I understand Craig's gun had different calibres of bullet, and that one of these was similar to the calibre used by the police."

The story he was told by Pc Jaggs therefore made him wonder whether Pc Miles might have been killed accidentally by one of his own colleagues. Bentley's late sister, Iris, who fought tirelessly for a pardon, privately gave Sgt Bennett the impression that the "stray police bullet" theory was not considered helpful to the campaign.

Tamsin Allen, a member of the Bentley family's legal team, said the theory that Miles may have been hit by a stray police bullet had been around for at least two decades. It had not been pursued by lawyers, however, as it had been undermined by a police inquiry in the 1970s. She said: "The inquiry got hold of the times at which the [police] guns were issued to police and it seemed pretty clear that it wasn't a possibility, really."

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