Murder conviction is sent to Appeal Court

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The Independent Online
THE CONVICTION of a man found guilty of murdering an 84-year- old woman is to be referred back to the Court of Appeal after a damning report on the police investigation.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is sending the case of Brian Parsons for reconsideration after a year-long inquiry by the Hampshire force into the actions of Devon and Cornwall officers. The commission concluded that evidence from John Essery, the senior officer in the case and now assistant chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, misled the jury at Parsons' trial. The work of the forensic scientist, Dr John Whiteside, was condemned as "manifestly unsatisfactory" and liable to "impugn his integrity as a professional expert prosecution witness".

Brian Parsons was convicted 10 years ago of the murder in 1987 of Ivy Batten, 84, who was beaten to death at her home in Shute, Devon.

The Hampshire review found that 160 instances of information, some of which undermined the police case, were withheld from Parsons' defence team. Stephen Nunn, his solicitor, said yesterday that the police had "gone to great lengths" to suppress the information.

Prosecution evidence included fibres, from gloves used in the attack, which were found in Parsons' car and a jacket. But the review found clues linking the gloves to a burglar who was questioned about the case.

Mr Nunn said that if it hadn't been for media involvement in the case, "we wouldn't have got this far". He thanked the press, particularly Westcountry Television and Channel 4's Trial and Error, for their help.

From his prison cell, Parsons said: "It is just magic ... I feel sorry for the rest of the Batten family, but I can assure them I did not kill anybody."

A Devon and Cornwall police spokesman said they had carried out three internal reviews into the case and reported to the Home Office. They had assisted Hampshire in every way.

Stephen Phelps, producer of Trial and Error, said: "The question has to be asked - how did the fibres come to be in Brian Parsons' car and the pocket of a jacket he used?"