Man loses appeal over hammer killing of woman

THE FAMILY of a labourer convicted of battering an elderly woman to death vowed to take the case to the House of Lords yesterday after the Court of Appeal rejected claims that his conviction was unsafe.

Three judges ruled that the original jury's decision to find Brian Parsons guilty of murder was correct. They added that the evidence given by one witness called to try to clear Parsons' name bore "all the hallmarks of a fictional account conceived by those with the talent to embellish a threadbare storyline".

Parsons's wife, Annette, who was in court to hear the judgment, said: "They are protecting the system. They don't want to know about corruption and conspiracy. We all knew that he should have walked."

Parsons, 39, was found guilty at Exeter Crown Court in 1988 of murdering Ivy Batten, 84, during a burglary at her home in Colyton, Devon, in 1987. Mrs Batten, who lived on her own, was found dead on the floor of her living room by a relative, killed by seven hammer blows to the head.

Parsons, who had no previous conviction, was arrested and convicted on the basis of forensic scientific evidence. Days after the murder, the hammer and a pair of gloves were discovered near Mrs Batten's bungalow. The Exeter jury was told that fibres from the gloves were found in Parsons' car and in his coat pocket. Fibres from a jumper found in his car were also detected on the gloves.

During an appeal last October, and one in 1990, Parsons's defence team argued that officers from the Devon and Cornwall police had planted the fibres and that the prosecution had withheld 160 pieces of evidence from the defence.

The case was the subject of a programme broadcast by West Country Television, in which it was suggested that the hammer and gloves had been "mishandled" by the local police constable and that the officer's wife was part of a police conspiracy to implicate Parsons in the murder.

Lord Justice Beldam said the programme "devised a theory to support the allegations of misconduct". Concluding on behalf of himself, Mr Justice Garland and Mr Justice Popplewell, he dismissed the suggestion that evidence had been planted and said: "We are left in no doubt about the safety of the appellant's conviction."

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