There follows an analysis of the BBC’s Crimewatch appeal for information in respect of the murder of Shamsuddin Mahmood in Orkney on 2nd June 1994. The televised appeal was aired throughout the UK on 6th October 1994, four months after Mr Mahmood’s murder. From the police statements and case information now available, it is possible to highlight concerns about the investigative processes used in the initial stages of the police enquiry into the murder. These observations are not intended to imply any wrongdoing on behalf of witnesses featured or the programme makers; however, raises some serious issues about the televised appeal and the competence and integrity of those responsible for the selection of the information released to the public.
1:19 – 1:29
Initially Mr Mahmood responded to an advertisement in an employment agency to work in Orkney but this relates to his first employment on the islands in 1992, not the second. The restaurant owner Mr Miah stated to the police that Mr Mahmood had called him at the end of 1993 looking for work. There were no positions available at that time. Mr Mahmood again telephoned Mr Miah in the Spring of 1994 and was told that there was a waiter’s job available. Mr Mahmood arrived in Orkney 2 weeks later in mid-April 1994. He had actively sought to return to Orkney to work and he had only been back there for 6 weeks when he was murdered. A customer from the Mumutaz gave police a statement to say that Mr Mahmood had said: “I have to be up here”, when asked why he had returned to Orkney.
2:17 – 2:58
In this clip, DI Chisholm states “we do know that he has a brother that lives in London”. Police took their very first statement from Mr Shafiuddin, the brother of the victim, on 5th October 1994, the very day before this Crimewatch appeal was aired nationwide; therefore, this excerpt for the programme was filmed before police had officially noted a statement from Mr Shafiuddin. Despite details contained within his statement that should have given cause for concern and ought to have been followed up, there appear to have been no further statements taken from Mr Shafiuddin by police after 5th October. He states on Crimewatch that his brother was “…about to go home to get married to his girlfriend”. He gave details about the girl in Bangladesh in his statement, but said nothing about Mr Mahmood having an immediate plan to marry her. He actually said that the girl’s family were displeased with the ‘match’.
Mr Shafiuddin told police in his statement on 5th October that he’d had a “heated argument” in March 1994 with Mr Mahmood about an inheritance and about Mr Mahmood not pursuing his “studies” and they hadn’t spoken since then. He stated that had “heard” that his brother had returned to Orkney. It’s hard to see how Mr Shafiuddin could have assumed that Mr Mahmood was about to return to Bangladesh as he stated in this clip, given they had not communicated since March 1994. Had Mr Shafiuddin been interviewed by investigating officers prior to being filmed for this clip, he would surely have been better prepared for participation in the televised appeal. Furthermore, police would have had the opportunity to analyse his statement and determine whether it may have been useful to highlight any of the information given.
Mr Mahmood had sought to come back to Orkney from the south of England. He had telephoned the owner of the Mumutaz at the end of 1993 and again in the Spring of of 1994. Mr Mahmood had also had a heated argument with his brother about an inheritance in March 1994 just weeks before returning to Orkney. This indicates firstly that he was keen to return to Orkney and secondly that he had cause to argue with his brother about gaining access to money from his share of land joint owned by the family. There is no indication from the case files that police ever discovered why Mr Mahmood may have needed a large sum of money immediately prior to his return to Orkney.
3:52 – 4:14
This sighting was reported by two witnesses; the driver and the passenger of the vehicle. Both women said in their police statements that the unmasked man they’d seen was 25 – 30 years old, but there was no mention of this age range on Crimewatch. The man they witnessed had been dressed similarly to the gunman and had exited the end of the lane along which the killer had made his escape at a time that coincides with the time of the killing. This man was never traced or eliminated from the enquiry.
4:14 – 4:21
Please note: DI Chisholm describes the gunman as having a “distinctive stoop” which was spoken of by 9 out of 21 witnesses that saw the killer.
The following home video footage was found in the video archives of a family friend in 2014. As can be seen, Michael Ross at 15 years old does not walk with a noticable “stoop”. He is not the minimum height of 5’8 given in police descriptions and does not look 25-30 years of age.
4:21 – 4:53
Why was this man pacing around outside the toilets before crossing the road and heading towards the restaurant? If he had to psyche himself up, why not do this inside the toilets? Is it possible that he was waiting for a sign from an accomplice? There were two witnesses that saw the balaclava clad man pacing on the pavement outside the toilets; he was not trying to hide himself at this point. Another two witnesses saw him crossing the road towards the lane adjacent to the restaurant.
4:53 – 5:04
George Gough asks for anyone that was in Kirkwall on the day of the murder to come forward. He is localising the killing. At no point does he ask for witnesses that may have been travelling to or from Orkney to enquire if there had been any suspicious sightings en route.
5:04 – 5:46
Who was the ‘identikit’ man? He was described as having similar characteristics to the gunman and was described as aged around 28, within the age range described by the two women that had seen a man running away immediately after the murder. In this clip, it is mentioned that police have found no motive for the killing; however, police have omitted to appeal to the public for potential motives or anyone that knew the victim to come forward, although they have a national audience in Crimewatch.
The witness that reported this sighting and assisted police by drawing up the identikit has since stated that he told police that he did not believe that the man he’d seen was a local. Despite remaining in Orkney since 1994, he has never seen the man again. He states however that, in discussions he had with investigating officers, police appeared to believe that the ‘identikit’ man was a local. On 23rd September, the day that Crimewatch finished filming, this witness was taken for a walk along the main street in Kirkwall by DS Alan Mackenzie, one of the police officers involved in the investigation. He was asked to look specifically at a group of schoolchildren outside a local shop for the ‘man’ he’d seen. He described complete bewilderment at this request and told DS Mackenzie that the only person he’d seen on the street that day that resembled the man he’d witnessed was the actor that had featured in the televised appeal.
6:16 – 6:44
Nick Ross asks George Gough “How can a national appeal help?” and Gough states that he wants to reach the people of Orkney with a reconstruction to “jog memories”. He states that he wants to reach the rest of the UK in order to find anyone that was “holidaying in Orkney”. Again, Gough is localising the search. Police could have used this national appeal to ask for anyone that knew Mr Mahmood from his time spent in England to come forward, but no such opportunity was taken.
6:44 – 7:14
This scene features a sighting of two men arguing with Mr Mahmood in the doorway of the restaurant at 8:30pm on the day before he was murdered; however, there was another crucial sighting that was not included in the Crimewatch appeal. Two men of similar height, build and colouring to the men shown in this clip were seen arguing with Mr Mahmood at the door of the restaurant at midnight on 31st May, two days before he was killed. During this altercation, one of the men was heard to have twice said the words “I’ll shoot you”.
These men were never found or eliminated from the enquiry. This sighting was witnessed by customers within the restaurant and people passing the restaurant, outside on the street. What can possibly explain the decision to omit this sighting from the Crimewatch appeal? Would it be normal for a person to use the words “I’ll shoot you” in the course of a minor disagreement? Surely this additional sighting should have been highlighted during the Crimewatch appeal and would have dramatically increased the significance of the altercation shown in the above clip.
7:14 – 7:41
This sighting is Michael Ross, who was witnessed by several persons wearing a balaclava in Papdale Woods on 19th May 1994, two weeks before the murder. The sighting was only reported to police on 3rd June, the day after Mr Mahmood’s murder. Michael Ross was seen and identified to police as the individual in the woods on 8th September 1994 and he was named by a police officer that knew his family on 9th September 1994.
Witnesses had already identified to the police that the woods sighting was Michael Ross when Crimewatch aired on 6th October and also at the point of filming on 23rd September, and yet it is implied by George Gough that they had no idea who the ‘man’ in the woods was. Michael was first interviewed by police on 24th September and denied behaving suspiciously in the woods. He had been accompanied by his father during the police interview; however, during the interview, officers neglected to tell him that he had been positively identified as the person in the woods.
Did police want Michael Ross to confess prior to the Crimewatch appeal? If he had confessed, it would have been impossible to justify portraying this sighting on Crimewatch as ‘unidentified’. The clip used in the appeal focuses on ‘commando manoeuvres’, but the reality was that, although he did move between the trees, Michael spent the majority of time in the woods hiding behind a wall watching children make their way home from school. This was not mentioned in the clip; however, corresponds with Michael’s later explanation that he was awaiting an adversary whom he expected to be taking this route away from school at the end of the day.
Crimewatch UK Analysis
- Police omitted to ask for anyone that knew the victim to come forward. Crimewatch was a national appeal and Mr Mahmood had been in the UK for 3 years and one month and only 10 months of this had been spent in Orkney. He had only been back in Orkney for 6 weeks prior to his murder. It would have been logical to show footage of places that the victim had worked in England and to have asked for anyone that knew him to come forward in order to attempt to establish potential motives. This opportunity was not taken.
- Police included a clip of footage from the victim’s brother when there had been no official statement taken from him at the point when Crimewatch was filmed. In fact, it appears that there had been very little established about the victim’s family life or background prior to the decision to highlight the case using a Crimewatch appeal and the only official statement taken from a family member in between Mr Mahmood’s murder and the airing of Crimewatch was that of his sister-in-law, soon after the murder. She had been able to give very little information to police.
- Police focused exclusively on the local perspective and there was no sign that they were looking for any suspect out with the islands; however, police only had the resources to check outgoing routes (ferries and flights) for 3 days after the murder.
- During the Crimewatch footage, the witnesses that had seen the man running away from the end of the lane adjacent to the Mumutaz directly after the murder did not state the age of the man they’d seen, although they had been clear in their statements that he was aged 25-30. Why was the age range not highlighted to viewers when both witnesses had given the same age range as each other when interviewed separately by police?
- Police released no information in this appeal on the type of weapon or the type of bullets used in the murder. This is a baffling omission in a public appeal for information on a murder by shooting. The bullet casing left at the scene was the only hard evidence that police had. Crimewatch was aired almost 2 months after PC Eddy Ross had voluntarily surrendered to his police colleagues a full, sealed box of bullets similar to that which was used in the murder. At no point in the investigation did police publicly appeal for information about the specific bullet used in the murder.
- There was a clip included in the appeal of a person in Papdale Woods whom police knew to have been 15 year old Michael Ross who had been identified and named to them on 9th September. Crimewatch filming concluded on 23rd September and the programme aired on 6th October. In contrast, the altercation outside of the restaurant where a threat was made to “shoot” the victim was completely omitted. Two days prior to Mr Mahmood being shot, a threat had been made to shoot him. What can possibly justify showing a sighting that police already knew to be Michael Ross while implying they were unaware of his identity, and at the same time completely omitting a sighting where a threat was made to “shoot” the victim?
- The same actor was used to portray all sightings as well as the killer in the restaurant, thus creating a link between the woods sighting and the murder. There was nothing whatsoever that linked these two events other than the wearing of a balaclava.
- A witness that participated in Crimewatch and had assisted police to compile the identikit used in the appeal was asked to survey a group of school children on 23 September, the day that Crimewatch filming ended. He was asked by DS Mackenzie, the accompanying police officer, if the ‘man’ he had seen was present within the group.
Was this Crimewatch appeal a genuine search for the truth?