Friday July 31, 1998 5:46 PM
 

Niece Lays Bentley Judgment 
On His Grave

The niece of Derek Bentley completed a 46-year crusade to clear her uncle's name by laying the judgment which quashed his conviction for murdering a policeman by his grave. 

Maria Dingwall-Bentley fulfilled her mother's dying wish by taking the 52-page Appeal Court judgment for which her family had fought to the south London cemetery where Bentley, who was hanged in 1953, lies buried beside his parents. 

But in a further twist of controversy surrounding the case, she branded maverick Tory MP Roger Gale as "appalling" for suggesting that Bentley was still guilty. 

The attack came as Ms Dingwall-Bentley made a poignant gesture to the memory of the 19-year-old, who had a mental age of just 11, by laying flowers at the graveside and speaking of her family's long suffering. 

Standing in front of the black granite tombstone in Croydon cemetery which marks the spot where her uncle lies with his parents and his sister Iris - Ms Dingwall-Bentley's mother, who died of cancer last year - she said: "My mother 42 years ago always said she would take the pardon with her. 

"She wasn't here to do that but at least I can try to fulfil part of her promise to Derek by bringing the judgment to the grave, and it will be staying here for ever and ever. 

"It is a very sad day for me because my mum would have been here and she would have been laying flowers, but at last we have justice." 

Bentley was hanged in January 1953 for his part in a robbery at a Croydon warehouse in which his 16-year-old accomplice, Christopher Craig, fired multiple shots, killing Pc Sydney Miles. 

In a phrase which has become synonymous with the tragedy, Bentley was convicted on the basis of the words "Let him have it, Craig" - which he uttered some 15 minutes before the fatal bullet struck Pc Miles. 

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, in a Court of Appeal judgment quashing the conviction, included an unprecedented attack on his predecessor, Lord Goddard, who presided at Bentley's trial. 
 

  
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