West Midlands Polygraph Examiner reviews Carl Bridgewater Murder

Carl Bridgewater was just 13 years old when he was killed with a shotgun. Out on his paper round, he stopped at Yew Tree Farm, near Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Usually if the door of the farmhouse was open he would hand a newspaper to its elderly occupants. On 19 September 1978 he found the door open but no one was in. The likelihood is that he disturbed an intruder. However, it’s fairly unusual for a burglar to shoot a child and one has to speculate that Carl was murdered because he recognised the intruder.

Bridgewater Four

During the subsequent police investigation, four men became of interest to the police. They were Vincent and Michael Hickey who were cousins, Patrick Molloy and James Robinson. This was as a result of some violent, armed robberies that were carried out in the West Midlands.  One, carried out on 24 November 1978, involved the robbing of a safe at Tesco’s Castle Vale supermarket in Birmingham.  Petrified shoppers were held at bay by one man while Robinson and Hickey stole from the safe.  A shot was fired over the supermarket manager’s head when he attempted to intercede.

Less than a week later, Robinson and Michael Hickey terrorised an elderly couple when they stormed into their home at Chapel Farm, Romsley, near Halesowen.  Threatening the couple with a shotgun and demanding money, they got away with £200. Vincent Hickey was driving the getaway car.


Molloy was arrested first and was questioned not only regarding the robberies but also about Carl Bridgewater’s murder.  He told the police that he was at Yew Tree Farm in one of the bedrooms, intending to rob the house, when he heard a gunshot downstairs.  A short while after he confessed to being at the farmhouse, Robinson and the Hickeys were arrested.

All 4 men denied murdering Carl Bridgewater but 3 where found guilty of murder on 9 November 1979 at the Crown Court in Stafford. Molloy was convicted of manslaughter. Sentencing took place 3 days later.

Robinson and Vincent Hickey received life imprisonment with a recommendation of 25 years minimum term.  They were aged 45 and 25 years respectively at the time.  Michael Hickey was 18 years old and sentenced to be detained indefinitely at Her Majesty’s pleasure.  However, due to his youth it was likely he would serve less time than the other two. Patrick Molloy was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and was 51 years old. He only served 2 years of the sentence as he suffered a fatal heart attack in prison in 1981.


Several appeals followed but it wasn’t until 1997 that the convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.  The trial was ruled to be unfair since the police had fabricated evidence to elicit a confession from Molloy. However, it didn’t go unnoticed that Vincent Hickey had confessed to being in Yew Tree Farm at the time of the shooting. The Appeal Court judges stated “we consider that there remains evidence on which a reasonable jury properly directed could convict.”

Bert Spencer

A name that has come up time and again in relation to the murder of Carl Bridgewater is Bert Spencer. On the day the teenager was killed witnesses told police that they had seen a blue Vauxhall Viva at Yew Tree Farm. They described the driver as a man wearing a uniform.  Spencer owned such a car and wore a uniform in the course of his duties as an ambulance driver.  With permission to shoot at the farm, Spencer also had a shotgun licence.  However, after the arrests of the Bridgewater Four the police eliminated Bert Spencer from their enquiries.

A short while after this, Hubert Wilkes aged 70 was murdered with a shotgun in his home at Holloway Farm, not far from Yew Tree Farm. His friend, Bert Spencer, killed him.  In 1980 Spencer received a life sentence. He served fifteen years and was released on parole in 1995.

Following the publication of a book entitled ‘Scapegoat for Murder: The Truth About the Killing of Carl Bridgewater”, the author, Simon W. Golding invited Professor David Wilson (criminologist) to interview Bert Spencer.  The ‘Interview with a Murderer’ documentary was broadcast on Channel 4 and is compelling viewing. You can watch it by clicking here

In the course of David Wilson’s research he learned that the “cast iron” alibi given to Spencer by a work colleague wasn’t actually cast iron. Spencer’s daughter said that she felt her father had been at Yew Tree farm on the day of the murder “and possibly saw something”. There were other revelations from Spencer’s former wife.

The conclusion that David Wilson came to was that Spencer was a “manipulative liar” scoring high on the psychopathy scale.

Lie Detector Test UK

During David Wilson’s research it emerged that Spencer’s daughter believed that he had been at Yew Tree Farm, possibly after his shift and after the murder had occurred.  She speculated that he had seen something there that “killed him inside”.   She also said that Hubert Wilkes often discussed robberies with her father, opening up the possibility that Wilkes may have been at the farm on the day of the murder.  Spencer vehemently denied that anything his daughter said was true.

Bert Spencer wasn’t happy with David Wilson’s assessment of him which isn’t surprising.  To stop the speculation which seems to have hounded him ever since Carl Bridgewater was murdered we’d like to make him an offer.  Our West Midlands polygraph examiner will conduct a lie detector test for him free of charge. In this way the speculation ends and the weight he feels he is carrying around on his shoulders will finally be relieved.

We will update this blog should he accept.