Mother relieved as daughter's 1979 killer is named

The mother of a woman who was murdered 30 years ago spoke today of her "relief" that her daughter's real killer has now been named.



The body of David Lace, who committed suicide, was exhumed last month from a cemetery in Portsmouth.

DNA testing on his body was a complete match for samples found at the original crime scene, Hampshire police said.

The Teresa De Simone murder investigation was re-opened when DNA evidence proved that the man jailed for 27 years for the crime, Sean Hodgson, was innocent.

Detective Chief Inspector Philip McTavish, who is leading the re-investigation into the murder for Hampshire police, said: "Following the exhumation of the suspect on Wednesday August 12, the Forensic Science Service has now completed DNA testing and comparisons against DNA found at the original crime scene.

"It has been confirmed that the DNA from the suspect is a complete match and belongs to David Andrew Lace, born September 2 1962, formerly of Brixham in Devon."

Miss de Simone's mother Mary Sedotti, 77, said the naming of the suspect would give some closure for her and stepfather Michael.

She said: "It does give closure and it is a relief to get it all done.

"Hopefully, we can all start to move on now."

After the exhumation, she said Lace's suicide meant that the motive behind her daughter's murder would never be known.

She said: "In a way, it's hard knowing that he is not here to answer or explain. But then, at the same time, I think that what he did shows he must have had a conscience.

"He must have been very troubled. We will never know why he did it."

The half-naked body of gas board clerk Miss De Simone was found on December 5 1979 in her car parked at the rear of the Tom Tackle pub in Commercial Road, Southampton.

She had been raped and strangled, and her jewellery had been stolen.

Lace was 17 at the time of the murder and was living in his home town of Portsmout.

He took his own life in December 1988 when he was living in Brixham and did not feature as part of the original police investigation.

Lace made admissions to the murder in 1983 following Mr Hodgson's conviction at Winchester Crown Court 18 months earlier.

Alastair Nisbet, senior Crown prosecutor, said: "The CPS has advised Hampshire Constabulary that the evidence would have been sufficient to prosecute David Lace, if he were alive, with the offences of the rape and murder of Teresa De Simone.

"But this is in no sense a declaration that he was guilty of the offences. Had Mr Lace lived, our decision would merely have authorised the police to begin the legal process by charging him.

"Only after trial does a jury decide whether a person is guilty or not, on a higher standard of proof - beyond reasonable doubt.

"We agreed to look at the evidence on a deceased suspect because of the very exceptional circumstances of this case."

The Ministry of Justice gave permission for Lace's body to be exhumed from Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth, after new DNA samples promoted him to Hampshire police's prime suspect.

Police said Lace was thought to have had no prior link to Miss De Simone.

After Mr Hodgson's conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in March this year, police carried out DNA screening of more than 100 people.

Mr Hodgson, 58, from County Durham, consistently protested his innocence.

He confessed to the killing at the time but later denied the charge. He was convicted in 1982 at Winchester Crown Court despite Mr Hodgson's defence team saying he was a pathological liar.

Hampshire police said it was only the second time a suspect in a historic murder inquiry had been exhumed.

The first such case was the exhumation of former nightclub doorman Joe Kappen from Goytre Cemetery in Port Talbot, south Wales, in May 2002.

Detectives gained important DNA evidence from his body, linking him to the murder of three 16-year-old girls in 1973.

Mr Hodgson's lawyer Julian Young said the police announcement means he will look at claiming compensation for his client's years spent wrongfully behind bars.

He said his client had been very ill. He was being cared for at a respite home in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and had not commented on developments.

Mr Young said: "It is all very sad, for a number of reasons.

"Obviously, it brings closure to the victim's family and, equally, it vindicates Sean's position, specifically that he was not guilty.

"It brings great sadness to Mr Lace's family and these revelations mean that Sean and I will have to discuss the question of claims for compensation."