By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (October 13th 2014)
Over a quarter of a century ago Michael OʼBrien was wrenched from his family. He suffered a grave miscarriage of justice that robbed him and his family of more than a decade of his life. He always knew that he was innocent of the robbery and murder of Cardiff newspaper vendor, Phillip Saunders – it should have been obvious to others too. During the dark days of his wrongful imprisonment – he was wrongfully convicted along with Ellis Sherwood and Darren Hall – OʼBrien needed an outlet.
He found it in football. He was a Cardiff City and Wales fan. For 90 minutes every weekend he could forget his woes and support his team. In his mind he was on the terraces willing his team on. It helped him cope. OʼBrien was one of the main inspirations for both the Fitted-In Project and Empower-Sport launching our project A Sporting Chance of After-care.
Football had given OʼBrien hope when he needed it most. He survived the miscarriage of justice and he fought tirelessly for others – he still does through the Dylan OʼBrien Foundation.1 Victims of miscarriages of justice are largely forgotten about by society. The euphoria of their release, even in high profile cases quickly wears off. Support and assistance was hard to come by. Many retreat into their shells again unwilling to engage with people who do not and cannot understand.
But football had helped once. Perhaps it could again. Not only had it helped OʼBrien, but anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and his comrades on the infamous Robben Island, too.
We decided that perhaps football could help again. We approached the Football Association of Wales to provide the practical support that our project needed. They readily agreed. It was fitting that OʼBrien was the first person to be helped under our scheme. Along with a trusted person – an essential part of the scheme – OʼBrien was provided with seats to support Wales against Cyprus. He enjoyed the experience greatly including the result as Wales beat Cyprus 2-1 to remain top of Group B. It helped him too.
“Satish should be commended for setting up this project, which can benefit those who have suffered a miscarriage of justice”, OʼBrien said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Wales v Cyprus game and I am extremely grateful to Satish and the FAW for taking part in this project and hope they continue to support this in the future”.
1 The Foundation was established in memory of OʼBrienʼs son whose death aged two could and should have been prevented. Together with his wife Claire, they campaign for greater awareness of the condition that Dylan suffered from and to help others. Dylan suffered from a rare, but tragically undiagnosed condition Mucopollysaccharidosis (see www.thedylanobrienfoundation.com for further information on the Dylan OʼBrien Foundation).