`Innocent' man wants to stay in jail

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The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent

A man jailed for a killing he says he did not commit, will today refuse to leave Long Lartin jail at the end of his prison sentence in a protestation of his innocence.

Patrick McCann - jailed largely on the evidence of his own family - says he will decline to leave the cell where he has served six years of a 10- year sentence, until Michael Howard, the Home Secretary refers his case back to the Court of Appeal or his innocence is established.

The move presents the Prison Service coping with overcrowded jails with an unusual problem. Usually those refusing to leave do so, because of personal reasons - fear, agoraphobia, difficulties at home - and counselling normally works.

A spokeswoman said yesterday: "We would treat a protest in the same way and hope that solves the problem."

McCann, 40, was jailed in June, 1990 for the manslaughter of Richard Holdsworth, in Cardiff after a drunken binge with his family. He was accused of suffocating Holds-worth and robbing him of cash. A previous trial had to be abandoned after a jury could not agree a verdict.

But according to McCann's supporters, the case against him was weak.

An expert pathologist told the jury during the trial that he could not rule out that Mr Holdsworth may have died of natural causes. Further, there was no forensic evidence linking McCann to Mr Holdsworth's flat. Of the 167 items tested none put him at the scene of the crime, but there was evidence, including fingerprints, placing his accusers in the flat. They included his sisters, Bridget and Susan.

The credibility of these witnesses has since been called into question.

Susan was sentenced to four years for robbery after Mr Holdsworth's money was found in her possession - she claimed McCann had given it to her - but she has since absconded from jail and is now believed to be living in Ireland.

And medical records show that Bridget - who has since died and whose evidence about the killing was crucial to McCann's conviction - suffered alcoholic neuropathy. From tape-recordings of her interviews with police, experts for Mr McCann have now suggested that her evidence might be unreliable.

This new evidence was submitted to Mr Howard last year, asking him to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The file is still under consideration. In the meantime, McCann maintains he will not leave prison on parole.

He said yesterday: "I have protested my innocence from day one. The case against me was absolutely ridiculous. I should never have been charged.

"I want to clear my name for my children's sake."