LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Court of Appeal on Wednesday cleared a man who has spent 27 years in prison for murder, ruling that DNA evidence showed he could not have been the killer.
Sean Hodgson, now 57, was sentenced to life in prison in 1982 for the murder of Teresa De Simone, a 22-year-old part-time barmaid who was found strangled in 1979.
He pleaded not guilty, but was convicted on the basis of a pre-trial confession and blood samples found at the scene.
Hodgson, who was described by his lawyers at his trial as a pathological liar, is amongst the longest-serving victims of wrongful conviction in Britain. Another case in which a man spent 27 years in prison for murder was overturned in 2002.
Following a hearing in the Court of Appeal, Chief Justice Igor Judge ruled the conviction was “unsafe” and should be quashed. Hodgson was expected to be released immediately.
“This decision leaves some important unanswered questions,” Justice Judge said as he handed down his decision. “Perhaps the most important is that we do not know who raped and killed the dead girl.
“We can but hope that, for the sake of the appellant and the family of the murdered girl, that her killer may yet be identified and brought to justice.”
After Hodgson’s lawyers raised concerns about the conviction, police agreed in November last year to re-examine samples collected at the murder scene. Tests showed the DNA on the evidence did not match Hodgson’s.
DNA evidence was not used in a trial until 1986.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to oppose an appeal against the conviction, which led to Hodgson’s release.
“As soon as we were advised that further evidence may be available which could cast serious doubt on this conviction, we took steps to hasten the further analysis of samples taken from the crime scene,” the CPS said in a statement.
“It is not in the interests of justice or victims and their families to allow unsafe convictions to stand.”
Following the decision Wednesday, the CPS said it was considering a proposal to review all similar murder cases in which convictions were made before DNA evidence was available.
Reporting by Luke Baker