#OTD in 1974 – IRA Coach Bomb Conviction of Judith Ward. Her conviction was quashed in 1992 and she was subsequently released.

Judith Ward is unjustly convicted for the 1972 IRA coach bombing on the M62 motorway in northern England. She was handed 12 life sentences for the 9 soldiers, one civilian adult and two children killed in the bombing. Many more were injured.

The English-born, Ward, had spent some years in Ireland. Following the explosion, the British public and politicians from all three major parties called for ‘swift justice’. The ensuing police investigation led by Detective Chief Superintendent George Oldfield was rushed, careless and ultimately forged, resulting in the arrest of the mentally ill Judith Ward who claimed to have conducted a string of bombings in Britain in 1973 and 1974 and to have married and had a baby with two separate IRA members. Despite her retraction of these claims, the lack of any corroborating evidence against her, and serious gaps in her testimony – which was frequently rambling, incoherent and ‘improbable’ – she was wrongfully convicted in November 1974. Following her conviction, the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau issued a statement:

Miss Ward was not a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and was not used in any capacity by the organisation. She had nothing to do what-so-ever with the military coach bomb (on 4 February 1974), the bombing of Euston Station and the attack on Latimer Military College. Those acts were authorised operations carried out by units of the Irish Republican Army.

The case against her was almost completely based on inaccurate scientific evidence using the Griess test and deliberate manipulation of her confession by some members of the investigating team. The case was similar to those of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and the Maguire Seven, which occurred at the same time and involved similar forged confessions and inaccurate scientific analysis. Ward was finally released in seventeen years later, in 1992, when three Appeal Court judges held unanimously that her conviction was ‘a grave miscarriage of justice’, and that it had been ‘secured by ambush’. This was one of a series of miscarriages of justice during the latter half of the 20th century.

Featured photo: Judith Ward (centre left) walks arm in arm with Anne Maguire, of the Maguire Seven, a former cell mate at Durham jail before leaving the Court of Appeal after her conviction was quashed (Date: 04/06/1992)

Photo: Judith Ward in her London flat, 1993

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