Sometimes, Google really is your friend. A 62-year-old man from Surrey, England has finally cleared his name after he went to jail at age 19 for stealing mailbags. According to the BBC, Stephen Simmons has long maintained his innocence despite being found guilty of theft in the 1970s. He ended up serving eight months in a youth jail for the offense.
Recently, he Googled the name of his arresting officer and found some pretty interesting information. That officer, Det. Sgt. Ridgewell of the British Transport Police, had been found guilty of a similar crime that Simmons was convicted of. He went to prison for stealing mailbags, selling their contents and then framing others for the deed. Ridgewell died in prison in 1982.
Because of Simmons' internet search, the Court of Appeal ultimately determined that Simmons was framed. It has now overturned his convictions. Simmons has credited the criminal cases review commission for doing “meticulous research” after Simmon’s initial search. That, he said, led to the appeal.
"We would wish only to note our regret that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied,” Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett stated.
Simmons feels like justice has finally been served.
"I can't tell you how relieved," he told the BBC. "It has only taken 43 years, but I have got there at last."
Ridgewell also allegedly framed multiple young black men of muggings in the London Underground. One of those framed victims is Winston Trew, who showed up for Simmons’ appeal. He wrote a book called “Black for a Cause,” describing the experience of being set up by the former detective.
“Today is a great day,” Trew said. “This opens the door for me to present my case. It means that evidence that Ridgewell gave in our trial is as tainted as in Stephen’s case.”
Simmons, now a businessman, husband and father, has called the day his convictions were overturned one of the happiest in his life, according to the Guardian.
“It has hardly sunk in, but I am not a criminal anymore. I can hold my head up high,” he said. “One of the hardest things for me was that my parents did not believe me because they were of the generation that believed that the police could not lie.”