MICHAEL ROSS: Wrongly Convicted of Murder
Sign for JUSTICE – Sign for TRUTH
Target: The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice
On 20th June 2008 Michael Alexander Ross was convicted of the murder of a Bangladeshi waiter that occurred in the Orkney Islands on 2nd June 1994. Shamsuddin Mahmood was shot in the head at point blank range in front of a room full of customers at the Mumutaz restaurant in Kirkwall, where he worked.
Soon after the murder, police released a description of the killer as follows:
“a man of average build and height (5’8” – 6’) in his mid-twenties wearing track-suit trousers, a navy blue thermal or fleecy jacket on top of a pale blue hooded sweatshirt with a navy blue or black balaclava and light coloured footwear, possibly trainers”
At the time of the murder, Michael Ross was just 15 years of age and he has never attained the minimum height given in the above description. He is 5’7½ as a grown man.
- There is no forensic evidence whatsoever to connect Michael Ross to this murder and he had no connection to the victim. From 1994 to 2006, there were no eyewitnesses that could place him anywhere near the crime scene at the time of the murder. The murder weapon has never been found. The case against Michael is weak and circumstantial.
- The police investigating team commissioned a Crimewatch appeal, which aired in October 1994, four months after Mr Mahmood’s murder. It can be demonstrated that this televised appeal was flawed and omitted to ask for crucial information from the public.
- For 13 years prior to his arrest for the crime, Michael Ross was repeatedly highlighted in the media as ‘prime suspect’, based on selective information released to the media by police. He was officially named by police as the only suspect in 1997. This eradicated his right to ‘Presumption of Innocence’ as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
- A documentary entitled ‘Unsolved – Getting Away with Murder’ was aired in 2004, 10 years after Mr Mahmood’s murder, which presented Michael Ross as the only suspect in the murder investigation. The clear implication from this programme was that police knew who was responsible for the murder, but couldn’t prove it, again violating his human right to the presumption of innocence.
- The case against Michael Ross was eventually brought to court in 2008, 14 years after Mr Mahmood’s murder, after a ‘cold case’ review which commenced after a new witness came forward in 2006 with information previously undisclosed. This witness alleged that he had seen young Michael Ross in a public toilet in Kirkwall on the evening of the murder wearing a balaclava and holding a gun. Not only did he retain this vital fact for 12 years, but he also later alleged that he’d witnessed another sighting of Michael shouting “racist abuse and threats of violence” outside the Mumutaz restaurant on an unspecified date in May 1994. There is no other testimony whatsoever from any other source to corroborate either of these claims and the Appeal Court judge described this witness’s testimony as “less than satisfactory”.
- A Crime Report had been prepared in July 1995 and subsequently submitted to the Procurator Fiscal requesting a Petition Warrant to arrest Michael Ross for the murder of Shamsuddin Mahmood. No action was taken at that time due to insufficient evidence. When Michael Ross was eventually arrested for murder in 2007, the only additional ‘evidence’ obtained were the police statements taken from the witness that had waited for 12 years to come forward. This led to a gap of 14 years between the crime and the trial, which posed memory difficulties for all witnesses that had diligently provided statements at the time of the murder in 1994. Many of these witnesses had been children when their original statements were taken.
Post-Conviction Appeal and Review Processes
- Michael Ross was due to have his appeal heard in 2010; however, the hearing was postponed three times which resulted in a delay of two years.
- The ‘Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’ accepted the case of Michael Ross for review in December 2012. The process took almost 3 years to complete and during the course of the review, not a single witness was interviewed. The review was limited to a paper exercise examining files, trial transcript and processes with no thorough investigation of the issues presented.
We call on the Justice Secretary for Scotland to:
- Commence an open and impartial inquiry into the original police investigation of the murder of Shamsuddin Mahmood and the misguided focus that led to the wrongful pursuit of Michael Ross as the ‘prime suspect’ of the murder
- Demand an investigation into the integrity of the cold case review, particularly the handling and credibility of the new witness whose allegations brought Michael Ross to trial
- Debate in parliament the legal options available to wrongly convicted persons, including the effectiveness of the SCCRC in thoroughly investigating potential wrongful convictions