Murder trial witness 'confessed to killing'

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TWENTY-ONE years after Paul Cleeland was jailed for life for murder, another prisoner is said to have confessed to the crime.

In this latest twist in a case which has long aroused concern among MPs who have sought to get it re- opened, a witness at Cleeland's original trial is now said to have admitted the Hertfordshire killing to a fellow inmate in Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London.

The man is said to have admitted shooting Terry Clarke because Mr Clarke had 'grassed him up' for an armed robbery.

Cleeland, now 51, who has always protested his innocence was jailed for the killing in 1973 and has been in prison ever since. He is expected to be released on licence next month, but said at the High Court yesterday - where he failed yet again to get a judicial review of his case - that he will not come out of jail until his name is cleared.

A governor at Wormwood Scrubs confirmed that a copy of a letter with allegations of such a cell confession had been placed on Cleeland's prison file and that a detective constable from Hertfordshire police had been in contact with the jail over the affair.

But yesterday, a spokeswoman for the force refused to confirm that the case was being reopened. After initially saying the force had 'no comment' to make, she eventually issued a statement saying: 'If any further information came to light concerning this or any other case, it would be carefully considered by the appropriate authorities.

'At this moment in time, however, there is no fresh evidence before us.'

A series of anomalies in the evidence against Mr Cleeland persuaded MPs, including Baroness Williams of Crosby (formerly Shirley Williams), to take up his case.

They included the fact that the killing was witnessed by Mr Clarke's wife, who would have recognised Cleeland, a friend; that the alleged weapon could not have caused the injuries; that Cleeland's prison records were altered, possibly to destroy part of his defence case; that lead traces on his clothing could have come from paint - he was a decorator; and that the result of an inquiry into allegations of perjury by officers in the case has remained secret to this day.