27 years for innocent man
by 4WardEver UK
Compiled from various sources – 10th April 2009
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Sean Hodgson had an ‘unsafe’ murder conviction quashed after 27 years behind bars. On his release he said that he was “ecstatic” as he walked free after having his conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal. He had spent 27 years in jail for the murder of typist Wendy Sewell in Bakewell Cemetery. His conviction was overturned in 2002 after a campaign by former Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale.
Sean was sentenced to life in 1982 for the 1979 murder of 22-year-old gas board clerk and part-time barmaid Teresa De Simone, who was found strangled in Southampton. His conviction was quashed after new DNA evidence revealed he could not have been the killer. Sean, now 57, became one of the longest-serving victims of a miscarriage of justice in the United Kingdom.
Emerging from the Royal Courts of Justice in London a free man, he waved from the steps at the large crowd of waiting journalists. Asked how he felt, he said simply: “Ecstatic.”
At the time of hi trial, DNA tests were not available, with the world’s first use of such evidence in court not taking place until 1986 in Leicester. Mr Hodgson is eligible for a £1 million payout and his lawyers are also likely to sue the Forensic Science Service (FSS) after the appeal court heard that the tests which freed him should have been carried out 11 years ago.
Sixteen years after he was convicted, his then lawyers contacted the Forensic Science Service to ask whether there were exhibits from the murder scene that could be examined for DNA. The FSS said the evidence no longer existed. But this proved to be incorrect.
Hodgson’s new lawyers found the evidence in a police laboratory in Nottingham and in November last year they asked for the case to be reviewed and the items analysed, and within months he was free. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said there would be “understandable public concern” about the mistakes and the error is subject to an official investigation. Peter Hodgson, Sean’s brother, branded it “disgraceful”.
Questions still arise about the quality of life that Sean has ahead of him. The Daily Mirror Newspaper have been quoted as saying; “After the agony of being locked up half his life for a crime he didn’t commit, I doubt he’ll ever know what freedom truly is. He won’t be free of bitterness, he won’t be free to lead an independent life after nearly three decades of being institutionalised and he’ll never be free of the thoughts in his head of the life that he’s missed.”
In 2004 Paul Blackburn was released from prison, having served 25 years for attempted murder – a crime he did not commit. He was 39. “I didn’t have a national insurance number,” he says. “I didn’t exist. I was released into a world that I had no knowledge of.” Blackburn recognised the look of bewilderment, even fear, on the face of Sean Hodgson as he stood outside the High Court, a free man for the first time in 27 years.
Both men are victims of miscarriages of justice, and Blackburn believes that just as he continues to struggle with life in the community, so Hodgson will discover that making this multifaceted adjustment is impossible without specialist support. “Sean Hodgson needs care,” says Blackburn. “But is he going to get it? Or is he just going to be pushed from pillar to post and have to find his own way?”
At the end of the original trial, the judge, Mr Justice Sheldon, said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that you were guilty of the appalling crime. What’s also criminal is that it has taken 27 years to rectify this mistake.”
Mystery of missing evidence
23 March 2009
Sean Hodgson: out, innocent and in need of help
20 March 2009
Sean Hodgson timeline
18 March 2009
Man’s 1979 murder verdict quashed (includes video)
18 March 2009