Ruling quashed on balcony death father

John Aston,Press Association
Thursday 07 May 2009 09:53 BST

An inquest ruling that a man unlawfully killed his six-year-old son by throwing him off a hotel balcony when a holiday trip to Crete to salvage his marriage went disastrously wrong was quashed by the High Court today.

Two judges ordered that the case must go back "for further consideration".

Avon coroner Paul Forrest found that former tiler John Hogan "unlawfully killed" son Liam when a holiday to salvage his marriage went wrong.

But Sir Anthony May and Mrs Justice Dobbs, sitting in London, ruled the verdict was flawed.

At a recent hearing, they indicated that a "really quite serious error of law" had occurred because the question of Mr Hogan's mental state "was simply not addressed".

Hogan, 34, of Bradley Stoke, near Bristol, pushed Liam and his two-year-old sister Mia, before jumping himself following a row with his then wife Natasha.

Liam died but Mia survived the 50ft plunge from the fourth-floor balcony of the Petra Mare Hotel at Ierapetra, Crete, in August 2006.

A Greek court found Mr Hogan not guilty of murder but ordered his detention in a psychiatric unit. The jury decided he had been suffering from "an earthquake of insanity".

His older sister, Christine O'Connor, from St George, Bristol, asked the court to overturn the unlawful killing verdict on the grounds that Mr Hogan was "not in control of his actions" because of his psychotic state.

The Hogans went on holiday in a "make or break" attempt to patch up their failing marriage and the incident occurred shortly before they were due to return home.

Before the balcony plunge, an argument started between the couple and the then Mrs Hogan said she intended to leave her husband and take the children with her.

The court heard the Director of Public Prosecutions indicated that there will be no prosecution of Mr Hogan in this country for murder.

The former wife, Natasha Visser, has since married again and now lives in Australia.

Later Mr Hogan's solicitor, Kerstin Scheel, said the case would now go back to a different coroner for a new verdict to be considered.

She said Mr Hogan's family was continuing to mourn the loss of "much loved and greatly missed" Liam.

Ms Scheel said: "Mr Hogan and his family were legally advised that the coroner had applied the wrong legal test in reaching his verdict at the inquest into the death of Liam and believed that an error in a matter of such enormous importance should be corrected.

"The judges have ruled that the verdict should be quashed and referred back to the acting coroner for a new verdict to be considered.

"Mr Hogan and his family continue to mourn the loss of Liam, a much loved and greatly missed little boy.

"They respectfully request to be allowed to mourn the loss of Liam, continue healing and try to rebuild their lives in private."

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