Tenacious fiancee triumphs as her lover is cleared of farmhouse shotgun killing

Cheryl Tooze refused from the first to accept that her lover, Jonathan Jones, had killed her parents. Yesterday, her tenacity was rewarded as she walked arm in arm with him after the Court of Appeal set him free.

An only child, all she had in the world after the deaths of her mother and father was the man she had loved for 12 years. With his arrest and conviction last year, her world collapsed.

Harry and Megan Tooze were each shot once in the back of the head at close range with a shotgun at their farm at Llanharry, Mid-Glamorgan, in July 1993. Mr Tooze, 64, was shot inside a cowshed. His 67-year-old wife was shot at the farmhouse as she tried to run for her life.

Mr Jones, 37, of Orpington, Kent, was convicted of the double murder after a 55-day trial at Newport Crown Court last April on a majority verdict of 10-2 after the prosecution claimed that he had paid a surprise visit to the farm and had tea with the couple before shooting them for the sake of a pounds 150,000 inheritance.

Yesterday he was freed amid dramatic scenes at the Court of Appeal after the three judges said they were all "of the clear view" that the convictions were unsafe.

Just days after the trial in Newport, doubt hovered over the conviction. The presiding judge, Mr Justice Rougier, released his confidential remarks about the trial which revealed that he thought the prosecution case had "fallen decidedly flat". Had he been a member of the jury, he said, he "should be conscious of significant doubt". He was disturbed by "the contrast between the total ruthlessness and pitiless determination of whoever killed Harry and Megan and man who sat in the dock and for four and a half days in the witness box".

John Rees QC, representing Mr Jones, returned to this theme in the Court of Appeal: "The shotgun was fired from approximately three feet away. They were, in short, executed," Mr Rees said. "Both were killed in identical fashion in the most callous way possible."

The killer was an experienced and accurate shot. Mr Jones had no experience with any firearms. There was a lack of forensic science evidence to link Mr Jones to the killing. The murder at close range would have left the killer covered in blood and brain tissue. Police examined Mr Jones's clothes and car and even took washbasins apart to try to find evidence linking him to the killings. He has to wear glasses at all times: police examined the minutest crevices of his glasses but there were no traces of blood or tissue.

The prosecution, Mr Rees argued yesterday, was based on "suspicion, speculation and conjecture . . . Cheryl believes he could not have killed Harry and Megan and has supported him throughout".

Despite having led a sheltered life, Miss Tooze braved considerable personal criticism to stand by Mr Jones, appearing on the BBC television series Modern Times to back the man convicted of murdering her parents. She offered a pounds 25,000 reward out of her inheritance to catch the real killer.

She supported Mr Jones through his trial, his conviction only intensifying her efforts to prove he was innocent. Living with his parents, Graham and Pauline Jones, at Caerphilly, she attended countless meetings with lawyers and made the 300-mile round trip to Gartree jail, Leicestershire, to see him every week.

Because of her campaign, Cheryl is now estranged from several of her relatives. Yesterday she was vindicated.

She summed up the decision succinctly: "It is a victory for love and truth."

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