Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin: posthumously cleared after 46 years

vindication at last for rail workers framed by racist, corrupt british transport officer derek ridgewell

The families of Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin alongside Winston Trew of the Oval Four and APPEAL Co-Director Matt Foot, moments after the two men were posthumously cleared by the Court of Appeal. Photo Credit: Jess Hurd.

On 18 January 2024, Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin had their wrongful convictions posthumously quashed after a battle for justice lasting nearly five decades.

The two men had been fitted up by the racist and corrupt British Transport Police (BTP) officer Det Sgt Derek Ridgewell, who was responsible for several other miscarriages of justice including the convictions of the Oval Four and Stockwell Six.

Saliah and Basil worked as worked as employees of British Rail at a South London goods depot, and were accused of re-labelling mail parcels, directing them to new addresses, and then selling their contents for profit. Both were convicted in 1977 and sentenced to 9 months in prison. The cases against them were based on what turned out to be corrupt police evidence from DS Derek Ridgewell, along with his BTP colleagues DC Douglas Ellis and DC Alan Keeling, who were later convicted in 1980 for stealing £364,000 worth of items from the same depot.

Both Saliah and Basil sadly died before they could see their names cleared, in 2021 and 1991 respectively. The men’s families were represented at the Court of Appeal by APPEAL solicitor Matt Foot and barrister Henry Blaxland KC. The families were joined at Court by Winston Trew of the Oval Four, who co-authored a book on Ridgewell’s corruption.

At the appeal hearing, Blaxland argued there were two “systemic failures” that seriously aggravated this case:

  • Firstly, that Ridgewell was not sacked by the BTP in 1973, despite national media exposing his racist operations, but instead was transferred to another post.
  • Secondly, the BTP failed to review Ridgewell’s files following his conviction in 1980, which would have saved decades of misery for the men and their families.
    Lord Justice Holroyde said in the Court’s judgment that he saw “considerable force” in these submissions. Clearing Saliah and Basil, he said: “We cannot turn back the clock. But we can, and do, quash the convictions.”

The appeal was widely covered in the media, including by the BBC, ITV, Sky News, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Justice Gap.

Families speak outside royal courts of justice

Regu Saliah, eldest son of Saliah Mehmet, said:

“This judgment today brings some relief from an injustice that has lasted nearly half a century and for this we would like to thank our legal team and the Criminal Cases Review Commission for making it possible.

“What he was put through over those years left a traumatic legacy that stayed with him his whole life.

“The injustice he suffered he never managed to comprehend – but even harder for him was knowing that his incarceration left my mother and I penniless and homeless in 1970s London.”

Janice Peterkin, daughter of Basil Peterkin, said:

“He didn’t deserve to spend time in prison.

“He was a law-abiding citizen and a family man. He was unfairly targeted and framed by the ex-policeman Ridgewell who was clearly racist and corrupt.

“Our dad was not given the chance to prove his innocence either at trial or when he appealed.”

Reform campaign

In 2021, BTP deputy chief constable, Adrian Hanstock, stated the force had “examined all available records which suggest that [Derek] Ridgewell was the principal officer in other investigations and have not identified any additional matters that we feel should be referred for external review.” Yet this review failed to identify Saliah and Basil’s case as a potential miscarriage of justice.

Saliah and Basil’s families are now calling for a new law to be passed, which would require a police officer’s cases to be subject to an automatic and independent review once they are imprisoned for a criminal offence.

The families also call for an immediate independent review of Det Sgt Ridgewell’s files to ensure all potential miscarriages of justice caused by his corrupt actions are identified. APPEAL is in no doubt that other cases exist and that the BTP has so far failed to identify them.

“If a police officer is imprisoned there should be an automatic independent review of their files for wrongful convictions, imposed at sentence. That’s what we’ll be fighting for on behalf of these families and all the people who have been victimised by this officer and been treated so badly by the BTP.” – Matt Foot


Who We Are > Wrongful Convictions > Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin

Who We Are > Racial Justice > Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin

Who We Are > Police Accountability > Saliah Mehmet and Basil Peterkin

If you have had direct experience of issues with Det. Sgt. Derek Ridgewell and wish to get in touch, you can email APPEAL’s Matt Foot here:

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