February 2015

Sex offender who fled to Turkey went on the run because he ‘feared homophobic Plymouth’

A FUGITIVE sex offender has been ordered to serve an extra ten months for jumping bail after a judge rejected his claim he was fleeing from a culture of homophobia in Plymouth.

Letting agent Alfred Palmer fled from the city to Turkey in 2006 just weeks before he was due to be tried for sexually assaulting teenaged care leavers at flats which he rented out to them.

He says he fled Britain because he feared he would be murdered by his three victims, who he branded as ‘vicious and violent thugs’.

He said he was living in fear of homophobic attack because of the murders in Plymouth of Terence Sweet and Arthur Eathorne in and 1990 and 1995.

Palmer went on the run to Turkey in October 2006, shortly before he was due to stand trial at Plymouth Crown Court accused of sexual assaults on three teenagers.

He and fellow defendant Daniel Tapper jumped bail together after asking for permission to go on holiday to help them cope with the stress of the forthcoming trial. They did not come back.

He remained at large until he was caught and extradited to Britain in November 2011 and he has been protesting his innocence ever since. He is serving a five year term after being convicted in his absence in 2007.

Palmer was due to be released on March 25 this year but will now serve an extra ten months after Judge Francis Gilbert rejected his claim that he had good reasons for jumping bail. The maximum penalty is a year.

Palmer, aged 57, of Alcester Street, Plymouth, denied breaching bail but was convicted at a fact finding hearing held without a jury at Exeter Crown Court.

The Judge told him he could have explained his reasons to the court or his solicitors at the time but did not do so.

He said: “The offences themselves were the serious abuse of young vulnerable men who were left to wait several months before the trial in your absence.

“Once convicted, they were left in doubt whether the sentence would ever be served for the offences committed against them.

“I find your failure to stand trial and decision to abscond to another jurisdiction was deliberate and done in an attempt to avoid the trial and its consequences. It was a determined attempt to avoid the court and your intention was never to stand trial.

“You sold all your properties in Plymouth and moved to Turkey and did not disclose where you were to the court or your solicitors and once arrested you did everything you could to avoid extradition. You absence was lengthy.”

The sentence means that Palmer will serve half of the extra sentence, putting his release date back from March to September.

Palmer told the Judge he fled the country because he feared for his life and was ‘acting under duress of circumstances’.

He claimed be was the victim of a homophobic conspiracy by which the police were deliberately withholding protection from him in the run-up to the trial because they did not want him to be able to expose collusion and perjury by their officers.

He alleged that all of the three men who he was convicted of abusing had attacked, threatened, or blackmailed him in the past.

He said:”This is a case in which three vicious and violent thugs carried out intimidation against me in a homophobic vendetta. The police did not want me to have any protection. It was in their interest I was not present at my trial.

“I moved to Turkey because I feared I would be murdered. Every time a car stopped outside our house we were trembling with fear about what might happen. I was in genuine fear of being murdered.

“Our case was in the media and we received a great deal of abuse. I felt the only way to deal with the situation was to step away from it. I had a simple choice. I could stay and run the risk of being murdered or step away.

“I was not in a condition where I could face the possibility being murdered. It was a question of an evil which was to be avoided.

“The whole basis of my trial was about homophobia. The Devon and Cornwall police are known in the gay community to be particularly homophobic and the courts are not friendly towards it.”

Andrew Maitland, prosecuting, said the long delays in Palmer being punished for jumping bail are all of his own making.

He said: “He has balked and balked and balked at every opportunity to prevent this case being heard.”

Palmer’s co-defendant Tapper fled to Turkey with him in and was extradited in 2009. He has since served his sentence and been released.

The hearing at Exeter brings to an end a saga which has spanned three decades and two millennia.

He was arrested in August 2005 over allegations dating back to the late 1990s of abusing boys aged 16 or upwards who had just come out of care.

Palmer, aged 57, of Alcester Street, Plymouth, was a wealthy letting agent with offices in Mutley Plain, Plymouth, who helped the boys find somewhere to live and then abused his position by demanding sexual favours.

His first trial, involving two complainants, started in May 2006 but the jury were dismissed on the second day after complications over the evidence which needed further investigation.

His retrial was set for December but in the meantime he was charged with further offences against a third man. He appeared at Plymouth Magistrates on September 13, 2006 and his case was committed to the Crown Court.

He was due to appear on October 17 but instead went to Turkey and Judge Gilbert issued an arrest warrant on October 23.

He was tried and convicted in his absence in April 2007 and given an indefinite sentence with a minimum term of five years, which was later amended by the Court of Appeal to a five year sentence.

Palmer remained on the run until arrested in Turkey in November 2009 on an extradition warrant. He fought extradition and as a result he spent two years in a Turkish jail before being returned to Britain on November 25, 2011.

He first appeared before Judge Gilbert in August 2012 for the breach of bail and has been disputing the case ever since.

October 2012

Dangerous Plymouth paedophile may be set free by a legal loophole

  • Alfred Palmer, 55, has been allowed to appeal his five year jail term after his lawyers found a legal loophole

  • Palmer and his boyfriend preyed on teenage boys but in 2006 their trial collapsed and he was allowed to go on holiday because he was ‘stressed’

  • He was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection that was then changed to a five-year jail term

  • Now his lawyers argue such a change can only be made in the presence of the defendant at the Court of Appeal

A DANGEROUS paedophile from Plymouth who spent five years on the run could be freed again within weeks because of a legal loophole.

Rogue estate agent Alfred Palmer preyed on teenaged boys and fled to Turkey shortly before he was due to face trial in 2006.

He was tried and convicted in his absence and remained at liberty until he was arrested in Adana, Turkey in November 2009.

He then spent two years fighting extradition before being returned to Britain to start his sentence in November 2011.

Now the 55-year-old’s lawyers are mounting a series of legal challenges which could see him being freed.

Palmer originally received an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) when he was jailed in his absence at Plymouth Crown Court in 2007 with a minimum term equivalent to a five-year sentence.

Palmer was found guilty of four indecent assaults against two teenage boys and the judge passed the indefinite sentence because he considered he posed a serious risk to the public.

The Judge, Francis Gilbert, QC, then realised that the IPP was not lawful because Palmer’s offences pre-dated the legislation which introduced the sentence.

He changed it to a five-year term and the court register recorded this as the sentence.

However, Palmer’s legal team have discovered a strange legal anomaly by which any correction of a sentence has to be made in the presence of the defendant.

Palmer was 1,000 miles away in Turkey at the time, so they say the original, unlawful sentence must stand and can only be overturned by the Court of Appeal.

His lawyers are also considering a challenge to the legality of his extradition in the High Court on the grounds that it was based on an invalid sentence.

Palmer, of Alcester Street, Stoke, appeared before Judge Gilbert again at Exeter Crown Court to ask him to send the case to the Court of Appeal, which he agreed to.

The former letting agent also faces an additional sentence for jumping bail, but that case was adjourned indefinitely.

Mr Malcolm Hawkes, defending, said Palmer would also argue at the Court of Appeal that the two years he spent in a Turkish prison while fighting extradition should count as part of his sentence, meaning he would almost certainly be due for immediate release.

He said: “A sentence pronounced in court can only be changed by the Court of Appeal, and they should also consider if the time spent in custody in Turkey should count towards his sentence.

“This case needs to be listed for an urgent hearing at the Court of Appeal.”

Mr Andrew Maitland, prosecuting, said the case had to go to the Court of Appeal because any correction of a sentence has to be made within 28 days and with the defendant present.

Judge Gilbert said he expects the Court of Appeal to confirm the five-year sentence and to have little sympathy with Palmer’s attempt to count his Turkish jail time, since it was his decision to fight and delay his return to Britain.

He said:”In my view the Court of Appeal will simply delete the IPP.

“As far as his time in Turkey goes, he could have come back in 2009.”

In the original trial a jury heard how Palmer, and his partner Daniel Tapper (pic below), aged 56, preyed on two vulnerable teenage boys who were looking for a home after leaving council care.

Palmer ran a lettings agency in Mutley Plain and used his position to bully the young tenants.

He forced them to strip off and take part in sex acts as the price of them getting somewhere to live.

Palmer fled Britain in 2006 after persuading a judge to allow him to go on holiday to cope with the stress of his forthcoming trial.

He and Tapper were both traced to Turkey and arrested in 2009.

Tapper was brought back in early 2010 and sentenced to a further 36 months for jumping bail.

November 2010

Pervert jailed after spending years on run

A convicted paedophile who fled to Turkey with his lover to escape prison has been jailed.

Daniel Tapper, (pictured above) formerly of Mansfield who had been on the run since 2006, was sentenced yesterday at Plymouth Crown Court for failing to answer bail.

Tapper and his partner, landlord Alfred Palmer, (pictured below) both skipped British justice some time after May 2006 following the halting of a trial which saw them accused of sexually abusing young men.

Palmer, then aged 52, faced five counts of indecent assault, while Tapper faced one count. In October 2007, following an unsuccessful manhunt, the pair were tried in their absence and found guilty on all counts.

Palmer was finally arrested by Turkish police at Adana airport on November 13 last year, after an international warrant for his and Tapper’s arrest was issued by Plymouth detectives.

Tapper was picked up in the same town by Turkish police in January this year.

Yesterday the court heard that since being arrested overseas, Tapper had spent a total of 252 days in a Turkish prison. Since being extradited to the UK in September he has also spent time at Wansdworth Prison. Judge Gilbert sentenced the 54-year-old to 36 weeks in prison to run in addition to the three-year sentence he received in his absence in October 2007.

November 2009

Turkish police catch sex attacker

A Plymouth landlord who went on the run after he sexually assaulted two vulnerable teenage tenants has been arrested in Turkey.

Alfred Palmer, 52, owner of letting agency Palmer and Co, was first arrested in 2005 for a number of sexual offences dating back to the mid 1980s.

In 2006 he fled abroad with partner Daniel Tapper, 53.

Palmer was jailed for five years and Tapper, a director of the agency, for three years, in their absence in 2007.

The arrests follow an appeal on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme which led to sightings of the pair in Turkey.

Palmer will now appear in court in Turkey to face an extradition ordering bringing him back to the UK to start his jail sentence.

The first trial in 2006 heard how Palmer abused two teenage boys just out of social services care.

Palmer even threw one out of his flat and threatened to have him beaten up after he repeatedly refused Palmer’s sexual advances.

The trial was halted when police admitted both men had “left the force area to evade arrest and prosecution”.

At the trial in the absence of the pair in 2007, Palmer was convicted of four counts of indecent assault and Tapper of one indecent assault.

In February 2009 an appeal on Crimewatch led to sightings of the pair among the expat community in Turkey.

Investigators found the pair had taken £300,000 with them after selling two houses and their cars.

An arrest warrant was issued in September 2009.

Investigating officer Det Con Sarah Lovatt told BBC News she was “thrilled” at the arrest of Palmer by Turkish police and predicted that the arrest of Tapper was “only a matter of time”.

She said: “It will bring closure to the victims.

“They are still struggling with what happened to them all those years ago.”