The murder of Shamsuddin Mahmood on 2nd June 1994 was tragic and horrific. Nothing like this had ever been seen on the islands of Orkney, either before or since. The conviction of Michael Ross, to many people in our community, is also tragic. It's a blight on our landscape and we can't allow this miscarriage of justice to be swept under the carpet. On 20 June 2017, Michael Ross will have spent 9 years in prison, wrongly convicted of murder.
There is a huge number of people in Orkney, Scotland, the UK and worldwide that are uneasy about the way that this conviction was obtained and the more that we delve into the facts, the more information we discover that casts further doubt on the police investigation into the murder and the subsequent targeting of Michael Ross and his family by police.
In 2016, the world was gripped by the American Netflix series 'Making a Murderer'. In our view, a similar manipulation of events occurred in this case. Our goal is for this case to be exposed as the travesty of justice that we know it to be.
This case is now over 20 years old. Its complex and people find it difficult to follow. Michael was a teenager at the time of this murder, but by the time he came to trial, he was a grown man of 30 and had been a serving soldier; a sergeant in the Black Watch regiment, decorated for bravery. He has, at times, acted out of desperation and perhaps not helped his case for innocence in the eyes of many. Despite this, we must remember that he was a child of 15 at the time of the original crime and there is not one single aspect of the weak circumstantial case against him that cannot be discredited.
Our campaign group has grown over the last few years and since the conviction in 2008, public support has increased dramatically. Some of us that work hard on this campaign did not know Michael or the Ross family prior to becoming involved in this cause. We believe this conviction to be an outrage.
Michael's legal defence has been funded through legal aid to date. On hindsight, the case was so complicated that it would have been a near impossible task for his legal aid lawyers to unpick the detail in the period allowed for pre-trial preparation. At the time of Michael's trial, the evidence was 14 years old and many of the witnesses called to give testimony had been children when their original statements were taken. The guilty verdict was a huge shock and there was a sense of disbelief that Michael had been convicted with so little evidence presented.
An appeal against the conviction was rejected in 2012 and a 3 year review completed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review commission failed to refer the case back to the appeal court in 2015, although the case made for miscarriage of justice was strong and highlighted multiple issues with the police investigation and conviction.
Michael has been unrepresented legally in recent years, which has allowed him to access some of his own case files. Our campaign group wish to try to raise money to appoint an experienced and respected human rights lawyer to take his case forward, and we hope that this fundraising page will be the catalyst that will turn this situation around.
Michael has exhausted all legal options that were available to him, therefore legal aid in his case would be minimal. We believe that Michael has a huge amount of support and many people have told us that they would gladly donate to his cause to give him the chance to clear his name and gain his freedom.
We have set an initial target of £10,000 and if this can be raised, we will then stretch the target by a further £25,000. The total amount we need to raise is £35k. The initial sum will allow Michael's appointed legal firm to begin working on his case, and the further sum will allow us to progress with planned case work.
If we raise the money we need, this would be used to fund the following:
- Further detailed investigation into several aspects of the police investigation
- Legal work required to submit a detailed complaint to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner in Scotland (PIRC)
- Legal work required to submit an updated case to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, with a view to gaining a referral to the Court of Appeal
Members of J4MR will continue, on a voluntary basis, to fight in every way possible to raise awareness and further this cause; however, we cannot do this alone any longer and we need your help to provide Michael with the best legal representation available. This approach will give Michael the best possible chance of having his conviction quashed. There are no guarantees, but the goodwill and support Michael Ross has received over the last 9 years has been incredible and it inspires us to push forward.
Over recent years we have worked hard to keep this case in the public eye, and some of our media successes can be viewed on the campaign website.
Ironically, the conviction of Michael Ross was achieved after 14 years of biased media coverage implying his guilt of the crime, and we now rely on our friends in the media to counteract what has gone before. The Hillsborough campaigners have been an inspiration to us and we hope that we will succeed in presenting the truth to the world eventually, as they did.
If this Crowdfunding campaign proves to be a success, it will give hope to Michael and other people fighting wrongful conviction. Public support and scrutiny sadly appear to be the only method of highlighting and eventually overturning miscarriages of justice. Michael is lucky to have strong backing from members of the public, many friends and ex-colleagues.
He has also received public backing from the MP for Orkney and Shetland, Alistair Carmichael:
The campaign is having an impact far and wide. We have achieved over 2000 signatures on a petition which can be viewed here: https://www.change.org/p/michael-ross-wrongly-convicted-of-murder-sign-for-justice-sign-for-truth
These are some quotes from people that have been in touch with us or commented on the petition:
"Like many local people here in Orkney I have for many years considered that the police and legal system in Scotland must have been extremely thorough in the investigation of Michael's case. I can now see that I have been extremely naive where this is concerned. Far from there being evidence supporting the prosecution it looks to me that all the presented evidence shows his innocence, not guilt. I believed that someone found guilty in a trial by jury would have had justice served on them, that the jury would not make such a terrible mistake and that the guilty party would be found out in the end. I was wrong. Worse than that I was judging an innocent man while I was not in possession of all the facts. I sincerely hope that this desperate miscarriage of justice can somehow be reversed, and that Michael might win his freedom to be reunited with his family and friends, and that the guilty party is caught and punished. I hope many more people have read (the) website and have thought long and hard as I have."
"I'm an American and a scientist that is very familiar with forensic testing and evidence. I saw a documentary on Netflix entitled 'Witness' about Michael. I cannot find any possible way to determine guilt or innocence based on this very circumstantial evidence and shaky eye witness at best that came forward after years of his face being plastered on the television for 15 years. I find it very strange and if I were family of Mamood or Ross, I'd want more scientific evidence for proper justice of both parties."
"I served with Michael and there is no way he would have carried out what he has been found guilty off. Time to release him and find who really carried out this shocking crime."
"Having lived next door to the Ross family for many years, I will never believe that Michael was the person who committed that crime. He was always a pleasant young man who became a soldier and it was no surprise to me that he was highly respected by his comrades, a credit to the Black Watch regiment."
"In my opinion this conviction is so flawed that it is totally ludicrous"
CAN YOU HELP US WITH OUR CAUSE?
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable" Louis D Brandeis
The shooting of Shamsuddin Mahmood in cold blood has left a deep scar on our community; however, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the many obvious flaws in the case against Michael Ross.
Our goal is to get closer to the truth and ultimately see the investigation into Mr Mahmood's murder re-opened. For over 14 years, the focus of the police investigation was Michael Ross. Other more plausible avenues have not been pursued and there were multiple leads not followed through to any conclusion.
Our fight is for justice. For Shamsuddin Mahmood and for Michael Ross.
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