An innocent man is free – but there's no release for bereaved

Parents of murdered girl break silence after 27-year miscarriage of justice is exposed
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The Independent Online

The parents of the woman whose murder led to an innocent man serving 27 years in prison have spoken of their agony at not knowing who was responsible for the sexual assault and killing of their only child.

Police have reopened the investigation into the rape and strangulation of Teresa De Simone in the car park of a Southampton pub in 1979 and are trying to trace up to 300 suspects to see if a match can be found with the full DNA profile that this week secured the release of Sean Hodgson, a pathological liar who confessed to the crime.

Mr Hodgson's euphoric response to being released at the High Court in London was in stark contrast to the feelings of Ms De Simone's mother, Mary Sedotti, 77, and her stepfather, Michael, who said that the murder had robbed them of their future and that they were still reminded of their daughter on a daily basis.

The couple had spent almost three decades believing that the killer who sexually assaulted and throttled Ms De Simone in her car outside the Tom Tackle pub was safely behind bars.

Mr Hodgson, 57, confessed to the murder to a priest while in prison on theft charges, but later retracted his statement and pleaded not guilty at his trial. His defence presented evidence that he suffered from a mental illness and lied compulsively, but he was convicted of murder at Winchester Crown Court in 1982.

In a statement, Mr and Mrs Sedotti said: "We don't have any feelings towards Sean Hodgson and nothing will bring our daughter back. Now we know he wasn't responsible for Teresa's death, but at the time he knew things and his confession stopped police finding the person who was responsible. The worst part for us is not knowing who her killer is."

Mr Hodgson expressed his sympathy for Ms De Simone's parents yesterday. He told ITV News: "I'm very, very sorry for what they've had to put up with for years and knowing that I've got out and the person who killed her is either in prison or walking the streets committing other offences. I hope the police get hold of the right one and put him through what I've been through."

Detectives have set up a major incident room to co-ordinate efforts to find the real killer, but it is understood that no match with the DNA taken from Ms De Simone's body has been found on the national police database.

Instead, the Hampshire Police team is returning to the files of the original investigation. It is understood that up to 300 suspects were identified, including four more people who confessed to the crime, as Mr Hodgson did. The murderer's motive has never been identified. Jewellery worn by Ms De Simone, a gas board clerk and part-time barmaid, was stolen by her killer, but police believe this may have been a ruse to cover the trail of someone who knew her.

The statement from Mrs Sedotti and her husband, who still live in Southampton, added: "The police have DNA and it's very hard after 30 years, but we have faith that they will work to try to find the answer. Teresa was our future. She was our only child and we feel empty. There are always times when we come across things that remind us of her. She was a shy girl, we called her Terri."

Mr Hodgson has said that one of the first things he will do is place flowers on his parents' graves in Co Durham on Mother's Day. Lawyers said they will be applying for compensation and expected an admission of responsibility from the Forensic Science Service, which wrongly said samples that could have led to Mr Hodgson's release 11 years earlier had been destroyed.

His brother, Peter Hodgson, told the Daily Mirror: "My poor brother pleaded his innocence from day one, but nobody listened. That's why we never had parole. He could have been out years ago otherwise."