Hanged man cleared 46 years on

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The Independent Online
A SOMALI sailor, who was hanged 46 years ago for murdering a shopkeeper, was yesterday cleared of the crime - the first person to have their conviction quashed in Britain after being executed.

The family of Mahmood Hussein Mattan, who was hanged in Cardiff jail in September 1952, are expected to be awarded compensation estimated between pounds 500,000 and pounds 750,000.

South Wales police are also to re-open their murder investigation after evidence emerged to suggest that a suspect, who was later convicted of a similar crime, was ignored. The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction after hearing evidence that the key witness in Mattan's murder trial was unreliable.

The decision to overturn the conviction follows 46 years of campaigning by Mattan's widow, Laura, her family, and campaigners. Previous convictions involving the death penalty have only be given a pardon, which does not clear the defendant of a crime.

Mattan, 28, was hanged after being convicted of murdering pawnbroker Lily Volpert. Her throat was cut and pounds 100 taken in an attack at her shop in the city's docklands.

The Crown yesterday conceded that the witness central to the conviction - Harold Cover, now 78 - was not "credible".Descriptions given by Mr Cover, who was later convicted of attempting to murder his daughter by slashing her throat, did not match Mattan. Mr Cover, who was in court yesterday, denies that he killed Miss Volpert.

It has also just emerged that another Somali sailor, Tahir Gass, whom Mr Cover had originally said had been in the area at the time of the murder, was arrested within hours of Miss Volpert's killing. He left the country but was convicted in 1954 of murdering a farmhand by cutting his throat.

Gass was found guilty but insane. He was detained in Broadmoor, but later released and deported. It is not known whether he is still alive.

Mattan's widow, who was in court, gasped with relief when the judges announced their decision. Outside the court Bernard De Maid, the family's solicitor, said the family would make an immediate application for a posthumous pardon, for compensation and for an inquiry into police handling of the case.