Killer solicitor's conviction upheld

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The Independent Online

Solicitor Sally Clark has lost her appeal against her life sentence for killing her two baby sons.

Solicitor Sally Clark has lost her appeal against her life sentence for killing her two baby sons.

Fresh evidence, which backed her story that the tots were cot death victims, or "unascertained deaths", was rejected by the Court of Appeal in London.

There appeal judges ruled evidence against her was "overwhelming".

Sitting in the dock, she burst into tears when the decision was announced.

Corporate lawyer Clark, was given two life sentences at Chester Crown Court last November.

She denied killing 11-week-old Christopher, and Harry, aged eight weeks, at the luxury home she shared with her lawyer husband Stephen in South Oak Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Clark insisted Christopher, who died in December 1996, and Harry, who died in January 1998, were victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), known as cot death.

The policeman's daughter, originally from Devizes, Wiltshire, told the jury during her three-week trial she found both boys "limp and lifeless" and was in "complete disbelief" at having lost them.

At an appeal hearing earlier this year, judges heard new evidence challenging some of the findings made by pathologist Dr Alan Williams, who carried out the post mortem examinations.

And two statisticians were called in relation to the prosecution's assertion that the odds of two cot deaths in the same family were 73 million to one.

Clark's lawyers argued the jury might well have translated this statistic as meaning the chances of innocence were 73 million to one against.

Today, the appeal judges - Lord Justice Henry, Mrs Justice Bracewell and Mr Justice Richards - said the fresh medical evidence "does not have any possible effect on the safety of the convictions".

In fact, had the evidence been heard by the jury, it might even have undermined the defence case because it was capable of affirming the credibility of Dr Williams.

The judges agreed the prosecution adopted an erroneous approach to the statistical evidence and that approach appeared to have been endorsed by the trial judge, Mr Justice Harrison, in his directions to the jury.

But in the context of the trial as a whole, the point on statistics was of minimal significance and there was no possibility of the jury having been misled.

"Had the trial been free from legal error, the only reasonable and proper verdict would have been one of guilty," the judges said.