Suffolk: Evidence which convicted man of murder was flawed, court hears

SUFFOLK: Evidence central to the murder conviction of Suffolk man Simon Hall was flawed, the court of appeal heard today.

The 33-year-old was convicted at Norwich Crown Court of stabbing to death Joan Albert based on expert evidence relating to fibres ten times smaller than a human hair found at 79-year-old Mrs Albert’s Capel St Mary home and properties connected with Hall.

Michael Mansfield QC told three judges at the Royal Courts of Justice that expert Judith Cunnison had told the original Norwich Crown Court jury in February 2003 that the three types of fibres were indistinguishable.

The appeal court heard trial judge Justice Rafferty had mentioned the word indistinguishable, relating to the fibres, on 17 occasions in front of the jury when Hall was convicted of Mrs Albert’s murder which occurred on December 16, 2001.

However, Hall’s team said another expert has now claimed this was not the case.

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Mr Mansfield said: “At trial the position centrally was this. There would have been no trial, let alone a conviction, had there not been the presence of fibres that could be linked.

“This is a case that entirely depends on the reliability of the expertise of those who examined the fibres.

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“At trial there was a main expert who gave evidence for the Crown, Judith Cunnison.

“The jury was repeatedly told one and the same thing, namely the fibre evidence was essentially they were indistinguishable. All three areas were linked together as being identical.

“The picture your Lordships are dealing with is entirely different. The one thing that is abundantly clear is this trianglular link is broken in all three directions.”

Mr Mansfield added the three batches of fibres that were at issue were miniscule items of around point five of a millimetre long, ten times smaller than a human hair.

The court heard the three types of fibres were a black nylon flock, a pigmented polyester – which was said to be green at Hall’s trial but is now said to be carbon black, and a colourless cotton.

Mr Mansfield said two properties connected with Hall, his parents’ home in Snowcroft, Capel St Mary where he was living at the time of Mrs Albert’s murder, and Hill House Road in Ipswich where he later moved to were searched during the police inquiry.

A number of fibres were recovered, in particular the black nylon flock and the pigmented polyester at the properties Hall was associated with which were also found at the murder scene.

At Hall’s trial it was said that a Tesco’s store Hall had visited twice stocked jeans which would have contained these fibres.

However, on the two occasions Hall visited the superstore, once was only for petrol and the second time was to withdraw money from a cashpoint, Mr Mansfield said.

He added Hall did not purchase any goods on either occasion and no clothing to link Hall to Mrs Albert’s home was found during police searches.

The court heard from Tiernan Coyle, a specialist in textile analysis, who said the fibres which were claimed to be identical at Hall’s trial were in fact distinquishable.

Mr Coyle carried out various tests shining a light through the fibres to look at their features and found there were differences in colour, thickness and sheen.

The appeal continues.

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