‘Tragic accident’ as supergrass victim found dead at home

Supergrass Karl Chapman in 1996
Supergrass Karl Chapman in 1996
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A FATHER-OF-TWO in line for a six-figure payout from West Yorkshire Police after misconduct by officers led to a series of robbery and burglary convictions against him being quashed has been found dead at his home.

Gary Ford was one of two men who launched claims for damages after spending a total of 20 years in prison on the basis of tainted evidence procured by officers, who concealed a vast array of improper inducements to supergrass Karl Chapman.

The 54-year-old had the majority of his convictions for robbery and burglary quashed while Danny Mansell, who served 12 years in prison, had his conviction for murder overturned in 2009.

Mr Ford, originally from Leeds, was found dead on Monday along with a 47-year-old man at the address in Bebington, Merseyside, where he had been living for about two years.

Police are set to carry out a post-mortem examination but there are not thought to be any suspicious circumstances. It is thought the deaths may be due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Graham Wilmer, founder of the Lantern Project, a Merseyside-based charity supporting the victims of child abuse, who has worked with Mr Ford since he was released from prison in 2009, said the deaths appeared to be a “tragic accident”.

He said he was helping him with his civil case against West Yorkshire Police as well as in writing a book about his prison sentence and the abuse he suffered at a Catholic care home in East Yorkshire.

Mr Wilmer said: “This is the sort of thing that is really hard to get your head round; why now after everything he has survived? He was getting his life back on track.”

“All the police are saying to us at the moment is that it looks like carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty gas appliance.”

Mr Ford was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1996 for a string of bogus official burglaries and robberies. He was convicted largely on the tainted evidence of Chapman, who was his accomplice, and in 2009 his sentence was reduced to 11 years.

He spent 15 years behind bars when, taking the early release scheme into account, he would otherwise have spent seven years inside.

West Yorkshire Police corrupted prosecutions by allowing Chapman free access to drink, drugs and sex to induce him to give evidence but concealed it all from the courts.

Mr Wilmer said Mr Ford’s claim against West Yorkshire Police for malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office was for £250,000, and he expected his estate would still get a “six-figure settlement” as civil claims can continue after death.

Mr Ford has two grown-up children living in Leeds, as well as a brother and two sisters nearby. The 47-year-old man found dead at his home is thought to be his friend and carer, named by Mr Wilmer only as “Dennis”.

Susie Labinjoh, of Hodge Jones & Allen, which represented Mr Ford in his claim against the police, said she was “saddened” to hear of the death, adding: “Our condolences go out to his family.”

In a statement today, Merseyside Police said the two men found dead in Bebington on Monday “have now been identified”.

A spokesman said: “Following a report being received regarding the safety of a man in a house on Kennet Road, officers attended and entered the property just after midnight.

“Once inside, they found the bodies of 47-year-old Dennis Cheatham and 54-year-old Gary Patrick Ford.

“The next of kin of both men have been informed and, at this time, their deaths are being treated as unexplained.

“Post-mortem examinations are to be carried out* and a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call the police non-emergency 101 number.”