Sam Hallam has spent six years in jail for a murder he swears he did not commit. Now, he has received the news he thought would never come - that the case is to be reopened

 

When Sam Hallam was a teenager he was tried and convicted of a murder he says he did not commit.

Now, five years later, he is still a prisoner – number MW5897 – but from his cell in HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire, the 23-year-old is still pleading innocence.

Now it seems the authorities are listening. The Independent has learnt that Mr Hallam's case is to be re-investigated by a new police force, raising hopes that his conviction could eventually be quashed.

The revelation comes more than a year after this newspaper revealed that his case was being examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), after a campaign group unearthed new evidence suggesting Mr Hallam's innocence. Now the CCRC has ordered Thames Valley Police to re-investigate a case originally handled by Scotland Yard.

It is a move which carries some significance. Since 1997, when the CCRC was formed, the organisation has completed 12,224 case reviews but only 44 have warranted a new police investigation. Of those, 26 were subsequently referred to the Court of Appeal, and 19 of those ended with convictions being quashed. If the new investigation concludes that Mr Hallam's conviction is unsafe it will be referred to the Court of Appeal, which will either order that Mr Hallam be retried, or simply acquit him.

Last night Sam's mother Wendy Cohen said: "We never allow ourselves to get too excited, but we are treating this as good news. We have got to be hopeful as it is another step towards our ultimate goal of having Sam home again."

Mr Hallam was convicted in 2005, at the age of 18, for the murder of Essayas Kassahun, an Ethiopian chef. Mr Kassahun, 22, was murdered on 11 October 2004 when he intervened to stop a gang attacking his friend Louis Colley. Of the eight people charged with his murder, just two, Sam Hallam and Bullabek Ring-Biong, 20, were convicted. Mr Hallam says that not only was he not a member of the gang that attacked Mr Kassahun, he was not even present when the attack, near Old Street underground station in east London, took place. He says he was playing football with a friend half a mile away.

The Independent reported last June that eight new witnesses have come forward to say that Mr Hallam was not involved. Now many of those witnesses have been interviewed by a team of 25 detectives led by Detective Chief Inspector Steve Tolmie of Thames Valley Police.

The decision to appoint a new investigating officer was taken last year, because the CCRC decided that every witness who gave evidence in the original investigation needed to be re-interviewed, and the original police notes re-examined – something it lacks the manpower to do. The secrecy was thought necessary to prevent the witnesses, who all live close to one another, colluding before they were questioned.

The CCRC also feared that witnesses would need to be interviewed under police caution – powers they lack – but this has not happened.

DCI Tolmie's investigation has now spoken with all of the witnesses from the original trial, including two who gave statements naming Mr Hallam as one of the attackers during the investigation but subsequently withdrew those comments during the Old Bailey trial.

One girl told the court: "I was just looking for someone on the spot to blame," while a male witness said that Mr Hallam was "the only white boy I know from Hoxton, so I said it was Sam".

It is understood that the new investigation has turned up at least one new significant line of inquiry. During the original trial some witnesses mentioned that they had been told that "Sam" was involved. It is believed that the new inquiry team have discovered that this "Sam" is not Mr Hallam.

Mobile phone records, which were not sought by either the prosecution or defence in the original trial, would, Mr Hallam's legal team believe, prove his innocence. It is not known whether the CCRC investigation or DCI Tolmie's inquiries have been able to recover them.

Mr Hallam was sentenced to a spend a minimum of 12 years in prison, but because he will not admit to his crime he is only likely to be released if his conviction is quashed. Any parole attempt is likely to fail because without an admission the parole board is unlikely to accept that he has been rehabilitated.

While Sam's family welcomed the new investigation, they are frustrated at how long it has taken to materialise. Sam's campaign group submitted the new witness statements to the CCRC in February 2008, but his case was not allocated a case worked until seven months later. In February this year the CCRC decided a new police investigation should be launched, but it has still refused to set a deadline for when it will decide whether or not to refer the case to the appeal courts.

Sam's campaign is run by Paul May, the man who successfully campaigned to have the Birmingham Six and the Bridgewater Four freed. Mr May said: "This is a highly significant development. It is very unusual for the CCRC to order such an enquiry, but we are still frustrated at the amount of time this is taking. Sam effectively lost his teenage years when he was convicted – how much of his twenties will he lose before he is free?"

A spokesman for the Criminal Cases Review Commission said: "It is regular practice for the Commission to require the appointment of an investigating officer from an outside force for reasons of impartiality and independence. The appointment of an investigating officer from a force other than the Metropolitan Police should not be taken to imply that the Commission has concluded that there was anything wrong with the original investigation."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?