Trial collapses after juror turns investigator

A manslaughter trial collapsed after a juror decided to investigate the case himself.

Dale Paterson, 18, was being tried over the death of 71-year-old taxi driver Raymond Quigley, who suffered a fatal heart attack during a struggle about a fare.

As the proceedings entered their sixth day yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge David Hodson received a three-page list containing 37 questions about the case - and a map from Google Earth of the scene.

It then emerged one of the jurors had been carrying out his own investigations. The court heard the man had:

* been to the death scene and photographed it;

* measured a fence which is at the centre of evidence;

* carried out research into his own theories about what might have happened on the night.

Among the varied questions he passed to the judge included demands for more information on Patterson's baggy skateboard-style clothing.

The middle-aged juror also wanted to know whether there were any clues from his mobile telephone and bank statements.

He also asked whether the jury could hear the audiotape of the police interview of a prosecution witness.

The questions indicated the juror must have visited the scene of the incident, and contained information which neither the prosecution nor the defence had put before the panel to consider.

Judge Hodson discharged the jury after the man admitted he had told other members of the panel what he had been doing and they had been talking about it.

Mr Quigley, from Gateshead and a taxi driver for nearly 40 years, died of a heart attack in the early hours of September 2 last year.

The trial heard Patterson decided to take a cab when he missed his last train home after attending a skateboarding event in Newcastle's Exhibition Park.

Patterson, of Manilla Street, Sunderland, was accused of trying to flee Mr Quigley's taxi without paying his fare from Newcastle to Sunderland.

He was then alleged to have been involved in a violent struggle with Mr Quigley, who collapsed and died.

Today Judge Hodson ordered that the teenager be found not guilty of both charges, saying the evidence offered by the Crown had been insufficient to prove either charge, and that had the case continued he would have directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts.

Judge Hodson said expert medical evidence showed Mr Quigley, who suffered heart disease, could have died at any time and it was not proved his struggle with Patterson was the direct cause of his death.

Nor was not proved he was obliged to pay Mr Quigley at the point at which he was dropped off, the judge said.

"The Crown's case is fatally flawed. I am drawn to the conclusion that the Crown cannot prove that the exertion and stress of the incident was the sole cause of the fatal arrhythmia," He said.

"In these circumstances if I was obliged to make a ruling I would withdraw this count from the jury. This indication is based on the state of the evidence as it is now."

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC said the Crown's evidence was such that it would not be proper to ask for a retrial, and said therefore the Crown offered no evidence.

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