Tooze case convict to seek bail

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LAWYERS acting for Jonathan Jones, who was convicted of killing his fiancee's parents, will apply to the Court of Appeal for bail next month, pending a full appeal later this year.

Jones, jailed for life for the killing of Harry and Megan Tooze at their South Wales farm, has been granted legal aid for the appeal, which is being made on three grounds, including new evidence about his whereabouts on the day of the murder.

Backing his appeal is Cheryl Tooze, his long-time companion, whose parents were killed with a shotgun on 26 July 1993.

At the trial, the prosecution alleged that Jones travelled to South Wales and killed the couple before returning to the home he shared with their daughter in Orpington, Kent. The jury took two days to convict him.

Jones will have on his side comments made after his conviction to the Home Secretary by the trial judge, Mr Justice Rougier, who said: "I found myself by the end of the trial thinking that if I was the tribunal of fact, despite many suspicious circumstances, I should be conscious of significant doubt."

Jones told the Independent on Sunday in an interview at Gartree Prison in Leicestershire last week that he hoped to be free by Christmas. "Unfair doesn't really seem a strong enough word to describe what has happened. It is such a horrific thing on so many levels - locked away for life for something I did not do. Apart from the effect on me, I can see how it has affected my parents and Cheryl."

The conviction had not been expected by his defence team. "I had brought my belongings in a bag to the court anticipating being freed. I'd even been warned that there were a lot of reporters outside who wanted to talk to me."

Apart from being stopped for having a defective light on his car when he was 18, the first contact 35-year-old Jones had with the police was the investigation into the Tooze murder. Jones, a thin, lanky 6ft 5in, has found a way of surviving in prison. "One of the advantages of prison is that the regime is so boring, it actually dulls the senses to some extent. I now find concentrating very difficult. I try to be ordered and to be positive about things, but I admit I am very angry and very bitter about what has happened to me.

"I wish I had been angrier when the police were asking questions early on. We were just helping them. We wanted to give them all the information we had so they could catch the people who had done it.

"I was so naive that after I was charged I thought I would get bail. After all, people are innocent until proved guilty, aren't they? I was shocked when I was kept in custody."

Jones said that after being sentenced he spoke to Cheryl Tooze on the phone. "I simply told her to start a life without me, to carry on because I wasn't going to be around."

But, far from accepting the verdict, she moved in with his parents in Caerphilly and committed herself to a campaign to get him freed, including the offer of a pounds 25,000 reward for information helping to catch the real killer or killers.

Jones's solicitor, Stuart Hutton, said yesterday: "The Court of Appeal told us they are ready to hear a bail application and we intend to make that application next month. The court has been very helpful and we would like the appeal to be before the end of the year.

"It really is an awful case. When you are in practice as a lawyer you have certain beliefs about the way justice should operate and to see a man convicted on this kind of evidence really does knock you for six."