THE career of Dennis David Woodman, a major Crown witness in the

Arthur Thompson Jr murder trial at the High Court in Glasgow, is exposed

tonight in harsh detail in Granada TV's World In Action. It casts doubts

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yet again on his use by the Scottish authorities.

Woodman, known in England as Wilkinson or by other aliases, gave five

days of colourful evidence, claiming Mr Paul Ferris, the accused, had

confessed to him while they were in the segregation unit at Barlinnie

Prison. However, his testimony was wrecked by incisive cross-examination

from Mr Donald Findlay, QC.

Despite a considerable body of better quality evidence in what was

Scotland's longest murder trial, the jury acquitted Mr Ferris on all


The use of Woodman, one Crown source later said, meant ''the baby was

thrown out with the bath water''.

Mr Steve Bolton, the programme's producer, said yesterday: ''When we

first started hearing of Wilkinson/Woodman's use as a witness in the

Ferris case, we were astonished because we already knew a lot about his

background. It was very clear he had reached the end of his shelf life

in the English courts after seven or eight cases.

''In the case of Kevin Wong at Chester Crown Court, the Judge said he

would be unhappy if the jury convicted on the evidence of Woodman alone.

Peter Brockelsby was cleared at Leeds Crown Court after other prisoners

described Woodman reading court papers beforehand to brief himself.

''His career of lying, aside from the damage he did to individuals, is

a black comedy.''

The programme examines why Woodman, now in the protection wing at

Peterhead Prison, serving a lengthy sentence for the kidnapping of a

Dumfries farmer, began his career as a police informer. It followed an

earlier kidnapping accompanied by sadistic treatment of the victim.

Woodman feared a life sentence. However, a witness says on screen, if

he could show the Judge he had helped the prosecution in other cases, he

could then expect a substantial reduction.

He was held in Risley Remand Centre and, says World In Action, a

string of men who had previously protested their innocence suddenly

queued up to confess to Woodman. The police and a number of English

Judges and juries then accepted his evidence.

World In Action have, however, unearthed another former Risley inmate

who speaks of Woodman attempting to get him to go to the police and say

he had overheard other criminals admitting crimes.

After Woodman assisted the police, a detective inspector spoke for him

in court. For charges of theft, fraud, false imprisonment, indecent

assault, and wounding with intent he received only six years.

The programme then describes how Woodman offered appeal lawyers deals

to retract his evidence for the Crown if he was paid to do so. Also

revealed is the help given to Woodman by the police after he left jail.

After his record as a supergrass was exposed in English newspapers,

Woodman said he hoped for police protection and for rehousing. It was

five years later that he re-emerged in Scotland.

Glasgow solicitor Peter Forbes says on screen that ''it just seemed

inconceivable that anyone would shout details of such a major crime to

any other party in the segregation unit and for Paul Ferris to have done

it was totally and utterly inconceivable.''

World In Action journalist Andrew Bell said yesterday: ''Only a few

weeks ago, John Major was talking about blowing away the cobwebs of

secrecy yet whenever we asked anyone in an official position in Scotland

to talk about the Ferris case they dived for cover.

''I asked the Crown Office, the procurator-fiscal's office in Glasgow,

and Strathclyde Police but none would speak. Strathclyde Police told us

that the case was still sub judice but both the Crown Office and the

procurator-fiscal's office told us this was nonsense.

''We approached two prison governors to interview prisoners under the

more relaxed guidelines which are now in force and both seemed more than

happy to let us in. They were jumped on by the Scottish Office. They

would give us no reason or tell us who had made the decision.''