Ipswich: Simon Hall loses murder conviction appeal

SIMON Hall’s hopes of overturning his conviction for the murder of 79-year-old Joan Albert were dashed today by Court of Appeal judges.

The news that Hall’s appeal has been turned down will come as a bitter blow to the 33-year-old from Capel St Mary, who has spent eight years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit.

Hall’s solicitor Correna Platt said afterwards: “Simon and his family are devastated by the outcome of the hearing.

“His legal team are concerned by the approach taken by the court in coming to this decision.

“It was agreed by all that this conviction rested entirely on the expert evidence relating to fibre evidence and there is much other evidence that pointed away from Simon’s guilt.”

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Danielle Cooper, the barrister representing Hall in court today, gave notice that Hall’s team would be appealing the decision and asking for a further oral hearing.

In a statement, the Criminal Cases Review Commission said: “The Commission identified specific aspects of forensic evidence that, in our view, raised the real possibility that the court might quash Mr Hall’s conviction and we referred the case to the Court of Appeal accordingly.

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“In this case, as in any other case involving a referral made by the Commission, it is the role of the appeal court to decide whether or not the conviction is unsafe. In this case the court decided it is not.

“As in all Commission referral cases, we will study the court’s judgment in detail to see what lessons it may hold for us.”

Reviewing lawyer and District Crown Prosecutor Nigel Gilbert, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “In reviewing the original evidence we were confident that there was evidence sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and this was subsequently upheld on appeal.

“Being confident in the original conviction we have opposed this referral throughout and today’s decision by the Court of Appeal confirms the safety of Hall’s original conviction.”

At the original trial, Hall had denied the murder of Joan Albert. The 70-year-old, who lived alone, was found dead in the hallway of her house in the Boydlands by neighbours on the morning of December 16, 2001.

She had died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

Key evidence at the trial in the prosecution case concerned fibres from Hall’s clothes being found at the scene.

The grounds of appeal focussed on the facts around the scientific interpretation of the fibre evidence.

Today’s judgement came five weeks after three judges retired to consider their decision following an appeal which started on December 7.

During the three-day appeal the court heard conflicting evidence from forensic scientists relating to the fibre evidence that convicted Hall of stabbing Mrs Albert to death.

Hall, formerly of Hill House Road, Ipswich, was convicted of murder at Norwich Crown Court early in 2003.

Mrs Albert, a widow, was found stabbed to death at her home in Boydlands, Capel St Mary, on December 16, 2001.

Hall has always denied killing Mrs Albert.

During Hall’s appeal, the court heard his conviction relied on the rarity and identical nature of fibre evidence found at Mrs Albert’s home and at Hall’s parents’ house in Snowcroft, where he was living at the time of the murder.

Michael Mansfield, QC, representing Hall, said the trial jury had been inadvertently misled over how rare and indistinguishable the fibres found at the two locations were.

Earlier in the appeal expert textile analyst Tiernan Coyle said he had used a technique called First Derivative to establish there were differences between the fibres found at Boydlands and Snowcroft.

However, Simon Spence, QC, representing the Crown, said an expert from the Forensic Science Service in Huntingdon had used two different techniques to confirm the original finding that the fibres were identical.

He added an independent analyst had backed this conclusion.

In today’s judgement, the Court of Appeal said: “Upon the evidence presented to this court we conclude that Mr Coyle’s evidence does not give rise to any ground for allowing the appeal.

“While we have concluded that the fibre evidence given at trial was incomplete in its description and analysis of the available source material, and in its identification of green polyester fibres, wrong, we are quite satisfied that the scientific support for the assertion that the appellant was the source of the fibres found at the crime scene is compelling.

“We have no reason to doubt the safety of the jury’s verdict and the appeal is dismissed.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “Joan Albert was found dead at her home in Capel St Mary on December 16, 2001.

“After an extensive investigation involving a team of more than 20 detectives, Hall was arrested, charged and subsequently convicted of Mrs Albert’s murder in February, 2003.

“The Court of Appeal has today upheld that conviction, demonstrating that our investigation was both thorough and sound.”

- Check this site for updates and reaction throughout the day.

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