Man cleared of 1986 murder

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The Independent Online

A man who spent 16 years behind bars for the murder of a barmaid was cleared and freed by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Michael Shirley, 35, could be in line for huge compensation - although he would not discuss that after being released from the court cells in London. "Life in prison has been hell," he said. "Now I just want to try to get my life back together."

Three judges quashed Mr Shirley's conviction after hearing new DNA evidence established he was "probably not" the man who killed Linda Cook in Portsmouth in December 1986.

Mr Shirley had always protested he did not kill the 24-year-old in December 1986, when he was 18. The jury at his 1988 Winchester Crown Court trial did not believe him. Nor did the Court of Appeal the following year.

But recent DNA tests on trial exhibits, done at the behest of a justice watchdog, pointed to an unknown man who, the defence argued, was the real killer, not Mr Shirley.