Second-trial killer gets life

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The Independent Online

The first person to face a murder retrial following the discovery of new forensic evidence was today jailed for life.

Odd-job man Mark Weston, 35, was originally cleared of battering mother-of-two Vikki Thompson near her home in the Cotswold village of Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire in 1995.

But after the so-called "double jeopardy" rule was removed in 2005, Weston was found guilty in a second trial at Reading Crown Court today.

Jailing Weston for a minimum period of 13 years, Judge Mr Justice David Bean said: "It has taken 15 years for justice to catch up with you, but it has done so at last today."

Vikki, 30, was found bludgeoned near a railway line after her dog returned home alone from a country walk. She died in hospital six days after the savage attack.

Small amounts of Vikki's blood, missed during the initial investigation, were discovered on a pair of Weston's boots when Thames Valley Police reopened the case.

Mr Justice Bean added: "The jury have found you guilty on compelling evidence of the brutal murder of Vikki Thompson.

"Her death at the untimely age of 30 was a devastating loss to her husband, her children, her parents and family."

Pete Beirne, a retired detective recruited by police to investigate unsolved crimes, said after the trial: "This is the first time using double jeopardy legislation that new forensic evidence has been used to secure a conviction, so it's very significant."

Detectives believe Weston chased Vikki as she was walking her dog on August 12 1995, because she caught him watching her and masturbating.

Police found a plastic bag near the scene containing two bras stained with semen matching the DNA profile of Weston.

Forensic scientists said it had been deposited within days of the bras being seized on August 14.

This key piece of evidence was not allowed by the judge in the first trial, but it was put before the jury this time.

The judge added: "It seems that the reason why you attacked her was that she observed you masturbating in Shipton Lane.

"You attacked her in the lane, dragged her across a field and finished her off in a railway embankment."

Vikki Thompson lived with her husband and two young children. It was at 4pm on a Saturday night when she decided to go for a walk with the family dog, a collie called Daisy.

A farmer and three local residents heard screams a few minutes after that, lasting up to 45 seconds and coming from near where her body was found.

Her husband first knew something was wrong when the dog returned home alone.

Jonathan Thompson went looking for her with his children and neighbours. It was a local couple who eventually found her, still alive, at about 7.15pm.

Prosecutor John Price QC told the jury that she was found lying on a collection of rocks on a railway embankment.

He said: "There was a lot of blood. She moved, and in the minutes that followed, her husband having arrived at the scene and before Mrs Thompson could be taken away by air ambulance, she was able to speak, though not in any coherent fashion.

"She was not able to say what had happened to her, nor was she able to say who was responsible."

She was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford suffering skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

Six days later her brain stopped functioning and her life support machine was switched off. She had received three heavy blows to the back of the head and two to her face.

Mr Price said evidence gathered at the post-mortem examination and at the scene of the crime suggested that after the initial attack, Weston lifted her over a fence and dragged her across a field by her arms before dumping her.

Detectives think she may have been moved to make it appear she had been struck by a passing train.

Weston faced trial at Oxford Crown Court in 1996, but the jury found him not guilty after just 50 minutes of deliberation.

The foreman of the jury wrote to Weston after the trial wishing him luck and urged him to pursue the police for compensation.

Jury foreman Kevin Coran told him: "I hope you are all getting on well now and hope you go ahead and get big compensation from the police as they had no evidence of any sort whatsoever."

In 2005, on the tenth anniversary of her murder, Thames Valley Police reopened the case and evidence was submitted for further examination.

Weston was arrested again at his home in Ascott-under-Wychwood on October 21 last year.