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Conviction overturned after 27 years in jail

ONE of Britain's longest cases of wrongful imprisonment came to an end yesterday when the appeal court cleared a man who has spent 27 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit.

The Lord Chief Justice and two other judges ruled that Sean Hodgson's conviction for the murder of a 22-year-old barmaid was unsafe in the light of DNA evidence unavailable at the time of his 1982 trial.

Outside court, a frail-looking Hodgson, 57, said he was "ecstatic" to have been cleared.

His brother Peter said: "On behalf of my brother I would like to thank the solicitor ... I had a dream for 27 years - I know it's a hell of a long time - but it's finally come true."

Hodgson had denied the charge in court at the time and has always since insisted on his innocence.

Teresa De Simone was found in 1979 raped and strangled in her Ford Escort in a car park below the Southampton pub where she worked.

Hodgson, who had been in the area at the time, was convicted on the basis of confessions he made but later retracted and on a match of common blood types.

DNA testing did not appear in court trials until 1986.

Lord Igor Judge said DNA analysis of sperm taken from De Simone's body had shown it did not come from Hodgson, the Press Association reported.

"The Crown's case was that whoever raped her also killed her, so the new DNA evidence has demolished the case for the prosecution," Judge said.

Hodgson, originally from County Durham, had said he had confessed because he was a pathological liar. He has since suffered from mental illness.

Hampshire Police have reopened their murder probe into De Simone's death.

"This may be a protracted inquiry but we are fully committed to pursuing this investigation," said Detective Chief Inspector Philip McTavish.

Hodgson served such a long time behind bars because he had continued to insist on his innocence, effectively ruling out parole, his lawyer Julian Young said.


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