Andrew Malkinson, who was convicted of a rape he did not commit, told how he had thoughts of suicide several times during the 17 long years he spent behind bars.
When he finally won the battle to have his name cleared this week, he said of his verdict: “For the first few weeks, even years, I was in complete shock.
“I can’t put into words how I even managed to get through this.
“I’ve thought about suicide many, many times.”
He told BBC Radio 4: “It has taken an extremely high toll on me as a person, on my psyche, on my psychology, on my being, on my soul.
“I’ve spent 17 years guarding against every threat, 17 years counting down the minutes to incarceration so I could be behind my door and safe from other prisoners – but not safe from my own sanity.”
Andrew had been jailed in 2004 for a brutal attack on a woman in Salford, Manchester.
But DNA evidence that could have freed him had been in a police database since 2012.
Recent findings now link a 48-year-old man to the crime.
He is likely to be charged.
Andrew served most of his sentence at HMP Frankland, County Durham, which housed some of Britain’s most dangerous inmates, including gunman Charles Bronson, serial killer Levi Bellfield and Wayne Couzens, who murdered Sarah Everard.
His nightmare began in the summer of 2003 when he was working as a security guard in a Manchester shopping centre.
He was lying on a mate’s sofa in Grimbsy the night a 33-year-old woman was raped, choked and left to die at a motorway embankment.
The friend later said they were confused about the exact night he stayed.
Andrew became a suspect after two police officers, who had previously stopped him for riding in the back of a dirt bike, thought he matched the attacker’s description.
Andrew was convinced that an identity parade would prove his innocence.
He said: “My great hope was that the matter would be resolved soon.
“I thought the Identity Parade will surely fix that.
“But then I was identified by the victim and the world opened up beneath me.”
It later emerged that another witness had originally chosen a different man in the line, but changed him to Andrew after he left the room with the police.
There was no DNA linking Andrew to the attack and police ignored the victim’s statement that her attacker was tall, had a Bolton accent and a hairless chest – none of which matched Andrew.
The case ended up in court in 2004.
The jury was never told that the witnesses had criminal convictions or that any of them were addicted to heroin.
They were also not shown any pictures proving the victim had fought back so fiercely that they broke a fingernail – while Andrew had no marks on his face.
Andrew was sentenced by a majority verdict to life imprisonment with a minimum of seven years.
He said: “I was kind of paralyzed. It felt like everything around me was being manipulated.
“It’s like a car crash in slow motion. You walk through the windshield and there’s nothing you can do.
“It was like a bad dream happening in real time.”
As the bars of his prison cell fell shut behind him, he experienced “terrible” times in his first few months in prison, scared of other inmates and trying to figure out who to trust.
He banned his mother Tricia, now 76, and his half-sister Sarah from visiting.
Andrew, originally from Grimsby, said: “My mother convicted her son of a horrific rape.
“If you have seen the newspaper headlines, an emotional case. . . she suffered immensely.
“I wouldn’t let them visit me. It’s too emotionally exhausting.”
Andrew’s only chance of getting his early release was by admitting his guilt or by listening in on rehabilitation therapy sessions and listening to real life rapists, pedophiles and sex offenders talk about their crimes.
He admitted he was “tempted” but quickly ruled it out, saying the idea was “even more terrifying” than spending more time in jail.
He emphasized: “The idea of lying in that group and hearing terrible stories. . . The guys that came out of those therapy sessions looked really burned out from the experience and I suppose those guys were to blame.
“So the idea of sitting there and pretending I’d done something so horrible — I couldn’t even think about it.”
He added that the thought of inventing a twisted, “extremely emotional” narrative in which “the victim says things like, ‘I have babies, please don’t kill me,’ has choked him.”
In prison, he tried to plead his innocence, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
To find a way to get by, he turned to Buddhist meditation and majored in math and science.
He said: “It was a really devastating experience and I don’t even know how I managed to get through it.”
“I’ve often thought about suicide. I never told the authorities.”
“You would be under 24-hour security, and 24-hour security makes your life even more unbearable because someone opens the door for you [door] Flap every few minutes.”
Andrew had a failed appeal attempt in 2006.
And he twice asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to review his detention, but to no avail.
He eventually got help from the charity Appeal, which found that a DNA sample on the victim’s shirt partially matched another man who was added to the police database in 2012.
But other items of clothing that might have yielded more conclusive DNA samples had since been destroyed by Manchester police.
Andrew was released from prison for good behavior in December 2020 before awaiting appeal this week.
When he was finally released after two decades, he criticized Manchester Police, calling them “corrupt” and accusing them of trying to hide their own incompetence.
He said: “Greater Manchester Police have been trying for 20 years to cover up how they wrongly convicted me.”
He turned to the rape victim and said: “I am so sorry that you were attacked and brutalized by this man that night.”
“I’m not the person who attacked you, but what happened to me isn’t your fault.”
Manchester Deputy Police Chief Sarah Jackson apologized to Andrew, but he said it now feels “hollow”.
Emily Bolton, head of the charity Appeal, said: “Faced with compelling DNA evidence proving Andy’s innocence, the Court of Appeal had no choice but to permanently overturn his conviction.”
Andrew, who now wants to start anew abroad, said reforms were needed to prevent other people from going through a similar ordeal.
He said: “I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m an everyman I was just picked up by the state and kidnapped. That’s how it felt.
“Slowly and painfully, I was discovering aspects of myself that I never knew existed, but it was an awful, awful way to learn how to be a survivor.”
The police are to blame
AFTER the Court of Appeal overturned Andrew’s conviction, these are the questions that investigating Greater Manchester Police must now answer:
- Why didn’t police provide Andrew’s defense team with images supporting the victim’s report that she broke a fingernail and scratched her attacker’s face in the process? His face was free of any marks.
- Why didn’t the cops reveal the criminal past of two witnesses who found Andrew at the crime scene? One was a heroin addict and both had criminal records involving dishonesty.
- One of the witnesses was arrested for traffic offenses on the day he told police he saw the attacker through a car windshield. Why wasn’t this disclosed?
- Why did one of the key witnesses at the Identity Parade identify another man but change her mind after exiting the room with a police officer?
- The victim and one of the witnesses were driven to the lineup together, in violation of identity parade guidelines. Why was this allowed to happen?
- Why were the victim’s top, bra, panties and other clothing items destroyed by GMP while a backup order was still in effect? A retest was only possible because Andrew’s legal team found small samples of her clothing in a national archive.