Solicitor jailed for killing sons challenges evidence

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The reliability of crucial evidence from a pathologist that helped to convict a solicitor of murdering her two baby sons was challenged in the Court of Appeal yesterday.

The reliability of crucial evidence from a pathologist that helped to convict a solicitor of murdering her two baby sons was challenged in the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Three judges were told that aspects of the findings by Alan Williams, who made post-mortem examinations of the children, conflicted with the views of other experts.

Julian Bevan QC, for Sally Clark, said he would be calling fresh evidence challenging Dr Williams's conclusions and supporting the proposition that the babies were victims of cot death or, at least, "unascertained death".

Some of his findings were unconfirmed "or just plain wrong", Mr Bevan said.

Statisticians would be called in relation to the prosecution's assertion that the odds of two cot deaths in the same family were 73 million to one.

"Once the jury knew that the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome occurring twice were 73 million to one, it is hardly surprising that they may well have translated this statistic as meaning the chances of innocence were 73 million to one against," he said.

Clark, 35, a corporate lawyer who was given two life sentences at Chester Crown Court last November, has always denied killing Christopher and Harry at the home she shared with her husband, Stephen, in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

She insisted that Christopher, who died aged 11 weeks in December 1996, and Harry, who died aged eight weeks in January 1998, were victims of cot death. Clark told the jury during her three-week trial that she had found both boys "limp and lifeless" and was in "complete disbelief" at having lost two children.

At the start of a scheduled five-day hearing in London, Mr Bevan told Lord Justice Henry, Mrs Justice Bracewell and Mr Justice Richards that cot death involved an unexplained death with no unusual features.

But even a finding of "unascertained death" with unusual features - which was how the deaths of Christopher and Harry were described by the prosecution - did not rule out the possibility that they died from natural causes, he said.

The central questions in Christopher's case were whether marks found on his body and in his mouth were caused before or after death, and whether signs of bleeding in his lungs resulted from a nose bleed he had 10 days before he died. The appeal continues.