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."

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?