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Gary Critchley enjoys his first day of freedom after being in jail for 30 years ››Sunday Mercury

Mar 4 2012 by Adam Aspinall, Sunday Mercury

A FORMER punk rocker jailed for over three decades for a crime he insists he did not commit has shared his first taste of freedom with the Sunday Mercury.

Gary Critchley

Gary Critchley, 49, from Birmingham, has been released from prison on parole after 31 years behind bars.

And he is currently learning how to deal with a very different world to the one he has been forbidden from seeing since he was locked up at the age of 17 in 1981.

Gary said: “It feels great to be out, it really does. But it is so strange getting to grips with everything because so much has changed.

“It is like the whole of Birmingham has gone up a gear. Everything is so much busier to how I remember it and there are so many more people about.

“Certain neighbourhoods I knew when I was younger have completely changed their character.

“I could not believe what I was seeing when I saw that the Longbridge factory had gone.

“It was very sad.

“Birmingham is also so much noisier then it used to be but it also looks much more modern in the city centre.

“There is so much for me to see and do, and there is so much for me to learn, that it is going to take time.

“I am just so happy to be out. I am enjoying every minute of it.”

Gary was jailed for the murder Edward McNeill, who was found bludgeoned to death in a London squat in 1980. There were no forensics to tie him to the crime and witness statements blaming someone else were never heard in court.

To everyone’s disbelief Gary was convicted of murder and ‘detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure’, the juvenile equivalent of a life sentence with a recommendation that he should serve ‘no more than nine years’.

Gary has since lost multiple appeals and the Criminal Cases Review Commission has, so far, refused to re-open his case.

But the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation and The Innocence Project UK have taken up the fight to overturn his conviction.

Meanwhile, Gary said he was relieved to be finally a free man once more and says he hopes to try to make money by selling his paintings.

While in prison he became a prolific painter and won a Koestler award for some of his works.

He has also been encouraged by staff of Cambridge University, who exhibited several of his paintings in their library.

He even sent a painting to Nelson Mandela, who wrote a thank you letter to him and wished him luck with his bid to clear his name.

He said: “I am really keen to work. But I will not be able to do that for a while due to the demands of my parole conditions.

“As I wait for these to work out I think I am going to try to make some money by selling some of my paintings.

“I have had a lot of praise for them in the past and think if I could set myself up in a studio or something like that I could make a good effort trying to make a living out of it.

“So I am going to focus on enjoying my life and clearing my name.

“It is extremely important for me to do that, not just for myself but also for my long-suffering mum.

“My brother Alan was murdered in 1987 and my dad John was killed by a drink driver so I cannot be the only male left in my family with the tag of a murderer. I will not let that happen and I will clear my name.

l For more information visit http://www.justiceforgarycritchley.org

adam.aspinall@sundaymercury.net

via Gary Critchley enjoys his first day of freedom after being in jail for 30 years – Sunday Mercury.

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