Appeal attempt by child killer Straffen

Paul Peachey
Thursday 09 August 2001 00:00
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Britain's longest serving prisoner will continue to fight his conviction for a notorious child murder as he notches up 50 years behind bars.

Britain's longest serving prisoner will continue to fight his conviction for a notorious child murder as he notches up 50 years behind bars.

Lawyers for John Straffen are applying to have his case reopened claiming he was not fit to stand trial for the murder of a five-year-old girl while he was on the run from Broadmoor. The findings from an "eminent" forensic psychiatrist will be used by his legal team in representations to the Criminal Cases Review Commission who will claim his case should be referred back to the Court of Appeal.

Straffen, 71, confessed to the murders of two young girls in 1951 but was found unfit to plead and was sent to Broadmoor. Straffen escaped for four hours in April 1952 and the following morning the dead body of five-year-old Linda Bowyer was found.

Straffen was charged with murder and went on trial after three doctors found that he was fit to plead. He denied the murder but was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, reduced the sentence to life imprisonment on the grounds that he was a "feeble-minded person".

A lawyer for Straffen, Maslen Merchant, said there was new evidence from a forensic psychiatrist to suggest that Straffen was not fit to have gone on trial. He said: "This report by a psychiatrist who has been practising for almost 50 years confirms our suspicions that this man should not have gone on trial."

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