Express & Star

Carl Bridgewater murder – bitter book battle in new court twist

Convicted killer Bert Spencer intended it to be a book that finally silenced claims he murdered paperboy Carl Bridgewater close to 50 years ago.

Prof David Wilson with Bert Spencer

Instead 'Scapegoat for Murder' spawned a bombshell documentary that only intensified the public pressure on the former Stourbridge ambulance liaison officer.

Criminologist David Wilson left viewers of Channel 4’s 'Interview With A Murderer' in no doubt he believed Spencer was linked to the unsolved 1978 crime.

Carl Bridgewater, who was shot in 1978

In one scene, Spencer is seen carrying a stray dog, drawing the response from Wilson: “There’s our hero, a lovable character... and a killer.”

And now the book, published in 2016, is at the centre of a brewing legal battle, with Spencer instigating court proceedings against author Simon Golding in a bid to gain thousands of pounds he says he is owed for the work.

'Scapegoat for Murder. The Truth About The Killing of Carl Bridgewater.' By Simon Golding of Bridgnorth

Papers lodged at Boston County Court reveal 84-year-old Spencer, who now lives in the Fens District, is seeking £5,000 from Mr Golding.

Spencer stressed the figure is based on guesswork because he has been unable to discover how many copies of Scapegoat for Murder have been sold. In press interviews, Mr Golding has described it as a best-seller.

Spencer collaborated with the writer from Bridgnorth and provided manuscripts. Those documents were written behind bars, with the help of fellow prisoner Frank Roden, while Spencer served a life sentence for the 1979 shotgun murder of friend Hubert Wilkes during a drinking session at Holloway House Farm, Kingswinford.

In a “pre action letter” to Mr Golding and included in the court bundle, Spencer states: “During our last communication, you adamantly denied there was ever any verbal contract between us about the book sales monies. I had agreed to share half with you, with my half donated to charity. However, you remain in denial that that any such contract existed.

“You state quite clearly in the book that the original manuscript was written by me whilst in prison. Those are your words.

“According to copyright law in this country, copyright belongs to the original writer of the work. While you are aware of this, you also choose to ignore my ‘moral rights’ and the court will be made aware of this.”

Prof David Wilson with Bert Spencer

He adds: “Looking at the book today and comparing it with my original manuscript, the book you claim is yours is undoubtedly 95 per cent plagiarism and this evidence will be presented in court.”

Correspondence from Boston County Court show Mr Golding was served with the claim on May 20.

He had until June 3 to reply and, according to the letter, can either dispute it or reach an out-of-court agreement with Spencer.

Agreement is unlikely. This week Mr Golding said: “I’ll go to prison before I send him a penny. The over-riding emotion is anger.”

Claims of an agreement that half the cash from book sales would go to charity was dismissed as nonsense by the author. The prison notes were a source of information, like many other sources of information, Mr Golding stressed. He described the words used in them as antiquated, biased and sycophantic. “It was a good starting point, but there was an awful lot of work,” he said. “I’m an author not a publisher.”

And he said Spencer is not entitled to royalties because he cannot profit from his crime. A large part of Scapegoat for Murder deals with the shooting of Mr Wilkes.