Two men jailed on the word of a corrupt police officer with a history of racism have been posthumously cleared at the Court of Appeal.

British Rail workers Basil Peterkin and Saliah Mehmet died with convictions after British Transport Police officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell accused them of theft from a site he later admitted stealing from.

Their convictions were quashed by appeal judges at a hearing in London on Thursday, after the men’s cases were referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – a body which investigates miscarriages of justice.

Families of the two men, who watched the proceedings in a packed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice, called for a new law that would allow for the automatic independent review of cases involving police officers who are jailed.

Miscarriages of justiceBasil Peterkin died in 1991 (Family handout/PA)

Regu Saliah, son of the late Mr Mehmet, said his father’s conviction “left a traumatic legacy that stayed with him his whole life” and that his imprisonment “left myself and my mother penniless and homeless” while Ridgewell “was kept in his position of power where he continued to victimise families like ours”.

Ridgewell, who previously served in the South Rhodesian, now Zimbabwean, police force, was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s.

The CCRC previously said it has referred 11 cases which relied on his evidence.

He died of a heart attack in prison in 1982 at the age of 37.

Mr Mehmet, who died in 2021, and Mr Peterkin, who died in 1991, were both sentenced to nine months in prison in 1977, over the theft of parcels from the Bricklayers Arms goods depot in south London, where they worked.

They said the items found in their possession had been planted, and that any admissions said to have been made by them had been fabricated by the police.

In 1980, Ridgewell was jailed for seven years for stealing property worth £364,000 from the same site, while his colleagues Detective Constable Douglas Ellis and Detective Constable Alan Keeling were sentenced to six and two years respectively.

Miscarriages of justiceSaliah Mehmet did not live to learn of his ‘vindication’, a judge said (Family handout/PA)

The CCRC previously said it has been investigating the “historical racist and corrupt practices” of Ridgewell, whose corruption has led to the convictions of members of the so-called Oval Four and Stockwell Six being overturned in recent years.

Nine other convictions relating to Ridgewell have previously been quashed.

Henry Blaxland KC, representing Mr Peterkin and Mr Mehmet, told the court that they were “two perfectly respectable and entirely innocent British Transport employees” who had been “fitted up” by Ridgewell – a “dishonest, corrupt and racist” police officer.

The barrister said delays over investigating their wrongful convictions meant evidence had been lost and that neither man was alive to have the “satisfaction” of seeing them quashed.

Mr Peterkin was left with a “profound mistrust in the police”, as was Mr Mehmet – so much so that when he was later robbed as a minicab driver he didn’t want to report it, the court heard.

Mr Blaxland said Ridgewell “should have been sacked in 1973” amid concerns about his actions in a different team.


Ridgewell was moved into a department investigating mailbag theft, where he joined up with others with whom he split the profits of stolen mailbags.

The CCRC had taken “commendable” action over Mr Peterkin and Mr Mehmet’s case, Mr Blaxland said, but added that “it frankly should not have been necessary for them to have become involved so many years later”.

He said there had been a “systemic failure on behalf of the British Transport Police” over investigating prosecutions that relied on Ridgewell’s evidence.

The barrister explained that the only reasons the convictions were at the Court of Appeal was due to the research of another of Ridgewell’s victims.

In January 2018, Stephen Simmons’ 1976 conviction for stealing mailbags was quashed after he discovered that Ridgewell was jailed for a similar offence two years after his own conviction.

“The failure to investigate has led to lamentable delays,” Mr Blaxland said.

Megan Millar, representing the Crown, said the appeals were “not resisted”, adding that new evidence “undermines the safety of the convictions”.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Garnham and Mr Justice Andrew Baker, said: “We can’t turn back the clock, but we can quash these convictions.”

He added that judges “express our regret that so many years have passed before action was taken” following the efforts of Mr Simmons.

The senior judge said that if jurors had been aware that prosecution witnesses “were themselves engaged in the very same criminal activity as that which they alleged against Mr Peterkin and his co-accused” it would have been “very telling”.

He added that it was “very unfortunate” that so many years had passed before families had seen justice “rectified” and that Mr Peterkin and Mr Mehmet “have not lived to learn of their vindication”.