Dealers' pitch battle heads for extra time

Two Gloucester drug dealers serving life sentences for the knife and crowbar murder of a rival have won the right to take a challenge to their convictions to the Law Lords.

Gary Mills and Tony Poole, who were jailed for life after conviction at Bristol Crown Court on 26 January 1990 for the murder of Hensley "Willy" Wiltshire, have been given leave to appeal against a Court of Appeal dismissal of their challenges to their conviction on 16 April last year.

Last year's Court of Appeal hearing ended in uproar, with Mills and Poole being dragged from the dock and refusing to hear the remainder of the judgment in which Lord Justice Otton, Mr Justice Ian Kennedy and Mr Justice Keene upheld their convictions.

At the same time, relatives of the dead man, and those of both Mills and Poole hurled insults at each other in the public gallery of the court.

The two men were convicted of attacking Wiltshire at Poole's flat in Conduit Street, Gloucester, and causing injuries from which he later died after a heart attack at Gloucester police station. However, Mills had claimed he acted in self defence during the incident after being attacked by Wiltshire, and Poole claimed he had taken no part in the assault. They claimed that Wiltshire was killed as a result of a beating he received while in police custody.

In the Appeal Court, Lord Justice Otton said Wiltshire had been a visitor from the London drug scene who was to be taught a lesson for attempting to muscle in on the Gloucester market in which Poole and Mills were key players.

Despite what he called reprehensible behaviour by police in respect of a potential defence witness, he and the other two judges found that police conduct had not been such that the convictions should be set aside.