Innocent man freed after 23 years

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The Independent Online
A PENSIONER wept on the steps of the High Court yesterday after his conviction for murder, for which he spent 23 years in jail, was quashed.

Patrick Nicholls, 69, was cleared of suffocating and beating to death an elderly family friend. He can now expect up to pounds 400,000 in compensation after spending more than a third of his life behind bars in one of the worst-ever miscarriages of justice.

As The Independent revealed on Tuesday, Mr Nicholls' conviction was overturned after new evidence showed that the woman he was convicted of killing most likely died of natural causes.

After the hearing Mr Nicholls, seated in a wheelchair at the entrance of the London Law Courts, said: "I would like to thank my mother, Ida, for the help she gave me in these past 23 years. She died a year ago," before breaking down in tears.

He later said: "I always knew I would get out. Always. Somehow or other I still retained a little faith in the system." He added that it was "wonderful" to be free.

Mr Nicholls, who has been on bail since March, was jailed in 1975 for the murder of Gladys Heath, 74, at her home in Worthing, West Sussex. Mr Nicholls always claimed he found Mrs Heath collapsed on the floor.

Lord Justice Roch said yesterday: "We allow this appeal because the pathological evidence that ... natural causes could be excluded has now been shown to be unreliable."

Tale of two Paddys, page 3