Two pensioners implicated 23 years ago in the alleged murder of a teddy bear manufacturer are likely to be cleared by the Court of Appeal after judges agreed yesterday both men should be free on bail.
The case of Terry Pinfold and Harry Mackenney, both 70, was heard during a three-day hearing. The Court of Appeal was told the alleged victim had never been found and the evidence of the chief prosecution witness was wholly unreliable.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, sitting with two other Court of Appeal judges, ordered the release of Mackenney and extended the bail conditions of Pinfold, who was first freed from prison in 2001. Criminal law experts said they expected both convictions to be quashed when the Court of Appeal delivered its reserved judgment in the next few weeks.
Mr Pinfold and Mr Mackenney were jailed for life in November 1980 after being implicated in the murder of Terry Eve by a former employee of the two men, Bruce Childs, who confessed to a series of contract killings.
Their appeals failed but, in August 2001, the convictions were referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Lawyers for the two men argued they had been convicted on the testimony of a pathological liar. They called psychiatric evidence to show that Childs, who had since retracted his accusations against the pair, was a skilled fabricator and "highly intelligent psychopath".
Pinfold and Mackenney first met in prison in the 1970s and later set up a business making underwater diving equipment.
One weekend in November 1974, another former inmate, the teddy bear manufacturer Terry Eve, who shared their factory space in Dagenham, Essex, went missing. Four years later Childs implicated his former employers in his crimes. Because of his evidence, Mackenney was convicted of four murders, including those of a haulage contractor, George Brett, and his 10-year-old son, Terry.
Mackenney was acquitted of murdering Eve because of lack of corroboration but Pinfold was convicted on a charge of procuring Mackenney and Childs to murder Eve.
Eve's body was never found, and the Court of Appeal judges were shown evidence from a police file indicating a Scotland Yard Commander, the late Bert Wickstead, believed Eve was living under an assumed name in London more than three years after his supposed death. Defence lawyers said the evidence, if it had been disclosed at the trial, would have "shot Childs' credibility to pieces".
Childs is still serving a life sentence for six murders. None of the bodies has ever been found - Childs claimed he had dismembered them and burnt them on his domestic grate.
When the credibility of that claim was challenged at the trial of Mackenney and Pinfold, the prosecution produced evidence of tests made using a pig carcass to show that it could be done.
During the appeal hearing, Lord Woolf said that, when he read Childs' account of how he disposed of bodies, "my common sense told me it was a pretty unlikely story".
Outside the court, Pinfold said he was astounded at how long it had taken for him and Mackenney to get justice.
Mackenney said: "I'm shattered at the moment. I'm very relieved. It's been a long time coming. It's 23 years too late. The case should never have got to court in the first place. It was a fiasco."