Memoirs of a city solicitor
IN an often controversial 25-year career as a High Street lawyer Roger Terrell has represented clients charged with the most serious headline-grabbing offences of murder and being a member of the IRA and dealt with trivial quibbles over family pets. He ha
HE’S been involved in a high profile murder case, dealt with a man caught up in an IRA bomb plot and been chairman of Peterborough United and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Roger Terrell believes his life as a High Street solicitor has been far from dull and he has now put his experiences of a quarter of a century working within the law down on paper in his memoir An Unusual Brief.
The book reveals that there has been much more to the 58-year-olds’ career than the divorce settlements, wills and probate, conveyancing, petty criminal matters and personal injury cases that have been his bread and butter,
One of his most all-consuming cases was a shocking crime which rocked the village of Uffington, several miles from Roger Terrell’s office in Lincoln Road, Peterborough, in October 1999.
A woman’s body had been found floating fully clothed in the swimming pool of her luxury home and Roger was asked to represent the husband, who was suspected of arranging her murder. His best man was charged with murder and claimed he had been offered £20,000 by the husband to carry out the crime.
The trial that followed was at the centre of a media circus and the court case was on the front page of many of the national newspapers.
The best man was eventually given a life sentence and the husband cleared in July 2000.
It may have been the most dramatic incident of his legal career but it wasn’t the first time Roger had been thrust into the limelight.
In 1995, he stood on the steps of the High Court in London to read a statement after his client Barry Daniels had been awarded £200,000 in compensation over the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he developed following an explosion at Le Maitre Fireworks Ltd in Fengate, Peterborough, where he was the manager.
“We acted for a man who was not physically injured but one man was killed and although Barry did not witness the death of his colleague Michael Darroch he searched the debris and found his body,” said Roger.
“The compensation did not improve Barry’s life and he was the same as all people I have acted for who have received compensation.
“He said to me, ‘Thanks Roger, but I would give all the compensation back to be as I was before the accident’.”
There was more national media attention when Roger got involved in the case of city taxi driver Shabir Khan, who was an innocent bystander in the events that led up to the IRA bombing of the Arndale Centre in Central Manchester in June 1996.
Shabir Khan had been waiting at the taxi rank outside Tesco’s in Broadway, Peterborough when he was approached by a man with an Irish accent. The man gave him the £5 fare and asked him to deliver a package to a travellers’ site in Eye.
Shabir thought nothing of it, did the errand and then got on with his job.
But he later found himself arrested and questioned at Thorpe Wood Police Station by Manchester Police and Special Branch officers in connection with the IRA bombing.
“It later transpired that the package contained £2,000 in cash to pay for a Ford cargo lorry,” said Roger.
“This was later collected from a yard in Fengate, Peterborough, by an unknown person, but now known to be acting on behalf of the IRA, driven up to Manchester, packed with home-made explosives, parked in the Arndale Centre in Central Manchester and subsequently detonated causing massive destruction and injury.”
Shabir was initially a suspect but it soon became clear he was innocent.
Roger later ventured into new territory to help Shabir sell his story to Sunday tabloid The People for a five figure sum.
Roger had decided on a legal career after he realised that some loftier ambitions were beyond his reach.
“I was 17 or 18 years old and I didn’t know what I wanted to do if I wasn’t going to play professional football or cricket,” he said.
Roger had grown up in Yaxley, went to Orton Longueville School in Peterborough and represented Huntingdonshire playing football and cricket.
He studied law at Nottingham Trent University and his first job was in the legal department of Nottingham County Council. Having qualified, he worked for Daltons in Lincoln Road, Peterborough before securing a job as company solicitor for engineering company Baker Perkins.
The job involved dealing with all legal aspects of the organisation, known throughout Peterborough for their work supplying and manufacturing biscuit making and bakery equipment and printing presses. Roger’s job took him all over the world. On one occasion he was told to fly out to Lagos in Nigeria to sort
out a legal matter.
It proved to be an eventful journey with Roger and his taxi driver being stopped at an unofficial roadblock on the way from the airport where they were threatened by men in police uniforms carrying semi-automatic weapons and asking for the equivalent of £10 in the local currency.
Thankfully Roger lived to tell the tale.
When Baker Perkins was sold in 1988, Roger decided it was time to set up on his own.
“I decided to resign from my safe, secure, pensionable employment with private health insurance and a company car and set off on the journey of self-employment and all the inherent risks of uncertainty,” he said.
Roger Terrell & Co Solicitors opened in Park Road in May, 1988 with just two members of staff. He now has 25 people working for him and has been at premises in Lincoln Road since 1995.
Alongside the normal legal matters, he has found himself in Pakistan visiting the British High Commission in Islamabad to sort out an immigration problem at the behest of a waiter in his favourite Indian restaurant in Peterborough.
He also had to deal with the aftermath of a wedding reception where the bridegroom had spent the night in the cells at Thorpe Wood Police Station after an altercation with his wife and members of her family.
Roger has discovered that divorce cases often come down to trivialities such as who gets custody of the family pet.
“Some serious financial matters are put to one side while people are arguing over a cat or dog,” he said.
In one of the most memorable marital battles in Roger’s book, the husband had a substantial pension but his wife said he could have it all if she could have their pet parrot.
Unfortunately he had given the bird away and the devastated wife had to grudgingly accept that there was nothing that could be done.
A LAW UNTO HIMSELF: Roger launching his book about life as a High Street solicitor.