‘Cell confession’ leads to guilty verdict for murder

5 November 2013

Christopher Docherty-Puncheon was convicted by a majority verdict of the shooting of Lieutenant Colonel Robert 'Riley' Workman, following a 5 week trial at St Albans Crown Court.

The Court heard that the 33 year old confessed to the killing of Mr Workman at his home in Furneux Pelham in 2004.  The confession came whilst Mr Docherty-Puncheon was on remand for another offence.  Mr Docherty-Puncheon who was 24 at the time and known as Christopher Nudds, was being held on remand in relation to the disappearance of Fred Moss.  He was later convicted of the murder and received a life sentence for killing Mr Moss.  It was the prosecution's case that he admitted the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Workman.

The prosecutor Richard Latham QC said that the case was a 'whodunit'.  Within hours of the murder, detectives had questioned Mr Docherty-Puncheon, who at the time was working as a pest controller and rat catcher and living with his Mother and Step-Father in the village of Stocking Pelham, a mile and a half from Lieutenant Colonel Workman's home in Furneux Pelham.  Following his initial interview, police released him without charge as he had accepted that he'd carried out work at the property to clear a wasps nest, but denied any involvement in the shooting.  At that stage the police had no direct evidence involving him in the offence.

However, following the introduction of the evidence of the 'cell confession', the police re-arrested him and charged him with the murder. 

In giving evidence, Mr Docherty-Puncheon said that the weeks and months following the shooting were 'like something out of the TV drama Midsomer Murders'.  The prosecution case was that Lieutenant Colonel Workman was shot dead after answering the door of his cottage on the night of the 7th January 2004. 

The trial Judge Mr Justice Saunders warned the jurors involved in the trial that they must treat alleged confessions made whilst in custody with 'considerable caution'.  The Judge told the jury that it was possible that prisoners could get reduced sentences or financial rewards for giving evidence to the police and went on to say "you are not entitled to say 'because the Defendant killed Fred Moss he must have killed Colonel Workman' – it does not follow in anyway".

In sentencing Mr Docherty-Puncheon the following day, Mr Justice Saunders passed a further life sentence, being the only sentence that can be passed in relation to a conviction for murder.  The Judge told him that he must serve a minimum of 32 years in prison before being considered for parole, this despite having already served 8 years of his previous life sentence.  The Judge said "it goes without saying, from what has been proved against the Defendant in two trials that he is an exceptionally dangerous man".

The above is not legal advice, it is intended to provide information of general interest in current legal issues.