Man convicted of 1989 murder in first 'double jeopardy' trial

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A man who was cleared of murder 17 years ago has become the first person in Britain to be convicted of the same charge after a change to the double jeopardy rule.

Billy Dunlop, 43, twice stood trial in 1991 for killing Julie Hogg, 22, at her house in Teesside. On both occasions the jury failed to reach a verdict, leaving the second trial judge no option but to direct that Dunlop should be formally acquitted.

In 1999, while serving a jail term for attacking another woman, Dunlop confessed to the killing. The double jeopardy rule, enshrined in English law in the 12th century, prevented someone from being tried twice for the same offence. It meant Dunlop could only be convicted of perjury, for which he was sentenced to a further six years.

The injustice of the case helped to bring about a change in the law, which came into effect last year and paved the way for a third attempt to convict Dunlop of the murder.

He appeared at the Old Bailey yesterday and pleaded guilty. Ms Hogg's mother, Ann Ming, 64, who was in the public gallery,wept when she heard Dunlop make his first public admission of guilt. She said afterwards: "We knew Dunlop was responsible and my husband Charlie and I were determined not to rest until he had been brought to justice. We made a promise to ourselves that Julie's killer would be punished and everyone we approached over the years has helped me in some way to reach that goal. It has been a long and difficult journey to see him standing in the dock today."

Ms Hogg's disappearance in 1989 was initially treated as a missing person inquiry, but Mrs Ming discovered her daughter's body concealed behind a bath panel at her home in Billingham, Teesside, 11 weeks later. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

Mrs Ming said crucial evidence was lost because her daughter's body lay undiscovered for so long. In 1993 Cleveland Police paid Mrs Ming £10,000 in a settlement after she sued the force for negligence.

Dunlop said he killed Ms Hogg, whom he had known for several years, when he called at her house in the early hours after a party at a local rugby club. He said he strangled her in a fit of rage after she made fun of injuries he had suffered in a fight earlier in the evening.

When he was interviewed by police in 1999 about lying at his trials, Dunlop said he was sorry the murder happened. "There's not a day I'm not bothered ... There's not a day goes by that I don't think about that night and what I done to her ... I can't take it away. It's there all the time. You can go to Julie's mam now and tell her that I have told the truth."

Sentencing was adjourned until 6 October.

The double jeopardy rule was changed under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.The Home Office calculated then that there were 35 murder cases in which acquitted defendants could be reinvestigated.

These were thought to include Ronnie Knight, the ex-husband of the EastEnders actress Barbara Windsor, and the former Kray Twins associate Freddie Foreman, both of whom have written books confessing to involvement in murders. But yesterday a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "There are no other cases being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions."

The former home secretary David Blunkett said: "There was enormous controversy and difficulty in getting this change through Parliament ... but this legal milestone demonstrates how right it was to ensure that justice is done and the truth obtained at last."