Killer's new hope for freedom

CONVICTED killer Simon Hall was given fresh hope of freedom last night after it emerged the pathologist who gave evidence at his trial is being investigated for alleged errors in his work.

By Danielle Nuttall

CONVICTED killer Simon Hall was given fresh hope of freedom last night after it emerged the pathologist who gave evidence at his trial is being investigated for alleged errors in his work.

Forensic pathologist Dr Michael Heath is facing a disciplinary tribunal later this year as a result of two complaints about his expertise in cases where two men have been jailed for murdering their partners.

Dr Heath was one of the prosecution's central witnesses in the case of Hall, who was found guilty of the murder of Capel St Mary pensioner Joan Albert in March 2003.

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Although Hall's case is not among the complaints being investigated, if a tribunal found Dr Heath had made mistakes, then hundreds of criminal cases he has been involved with may have to be reviewed.

Dr Heath is now seeking a judicial review into the decision to call a tribunal.

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This means any hearings will not take place until the outcome of the review.

A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed last night: “The complaints were considered by the committee in September and it was determined both should be referred to a disciplinary tribunal.

“It's likely to take place later in the New Year because Mr Heath has sought a judicial review on the decision to send it to a tribunal.

“You have to wait for the result of that first.”

Last night Hall's mother Lynne said news of the tribunal gave the family new hope.

“He (Dr Heath) was involved in Simon's case in a big way and it does give you hope the truth will come out,” she said.

“We have learnt now not to get too excited about anything because the law moves in mysterious ways.

“It's a new area to follow but all we can do at the moment is go through the legal system and the CCRC (Criminal Cases Review Commission), which is what we are working towards.

“It's new hope to prove the truth. This is what we're up against. We are all as strong as ever. It's just finding the right advice and people to help you. It's a little bit of hope.”

Hall, 26, of Hill House Road, Ipswich, who worked in Colchester, was found guilty of murdering Mrs Albert at her home in December 2001.

During Hall's trial, Dr Heath told the court Mrs Albert had suffered at least five stab wounds inflicted with a carving knife from her kitchen.

In addition, he said she had suffered facial cuts and a leg wound up to 30 minutes after she had died.

He told the court: “If a wound is inflicted in life, you will have a reaction around that wound, bruising. “If you inflict a wound after death, the wound will have no bruising, no inflammation, and no oozing of blood of any type.

“What the body requires to make this reaction is cells still alive in the body and the heart to pump blood around the body.

“None of them (superficial wounds) had any quality to indicate there had been a reaction in life. In my opinion, they happened after death.”

One of the complaints against Dr Heath's work involves the case of Steven Puaca, from Lowestoft, who was sentenced to life in jail at Norwich Crown Court in November 2002 after a jury decided he murdered his partner Jacqueline Tindsley at their flat in The Hemplands.

His charge and eventual conviction was based mainly on the evidence of Dr Heath, who told the trial that Mrs Tindsley, 55, had died of asphyxia, possibly by having a pillow placed over her face in the flat.

However, three other pathologists working for the Government's Policy Advisory Board on Forensic Pathology have challenged Dr Heath's diagnosis and claim that Mrs Tindsley probably died from an epileptic seizure brought on by a drugs overdose.

Hall's case is now being backed by Manchester-based organisation Innocent, which campaigns and fights miscarriages of justice.

Its website supports and provides updates on numerous cases in which prisoners are believed to have been wrongly convicted.

Mrs Hall said the organisation had to believe in the prisoner's innocence before offering its support and described it as a good source of help to the family.

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