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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 16:04 GMT
New probe into judge's fire death
Andrew Chubb
Mr Chubb's death was ruled accidental
A new inquest has been ordered into the death of a judge who was killed in a fire in his garden shed.

Judge Andrew Chubb, 58, died in a fireball at his home near Chard, Somerset, in July 2001.

Less than an hour earlier, he had asked his wife Jennifer for a divorce to end their 34-year marriage.

His mistress, Kerry Sparrow, challenged an inquest ruling which said his death was accidental. On Wednesday, the High Court ordered another inquest be held.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips and Mr Justice Roderick Evans accepted that a fresh investigation might cause "distress" to the judge's family.

Timetable of events
1967 - Andrew and Jennifer Chubb get married
1995 - Mr Chubb is junior prosecuting counsel at the trial of Rose West
1999 - Mr Chubb, by now a judge sitting in Portsmouth, begins an affair with Kerry Sparrow
early July 2001 - Mrs Chubb learns of the affair
27 July 2001 - Mr Chubb asks for a divorce. An hour later he is killed in a fire in his garage
12 Dec 2001 - Accidental death verdict at first inquest
29 May 2002 - A new police inquiry leads to Mrs Chubb being arrested and questioned
Nov 2002 - Crown Prosecution Service decides against bringing charges against her
1 Nov 2006 - High Court orders a fresh inquest into Mr Chubb's death

But they said: "Nonetheless, we have concluded that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to leave undisturbed... a verdict which is based on only part of the relevant evidence - and which the balance of the relevant evidence suggests may be open to doubt."

Speaking after the decision, Ms Sparrow said: "This has been a long journey, but I remain determined to do whatever is necessary to achieve a full and proper inquiry into the circumstances of his death, and I look forward now to the fresh inquest to that end."

Lawyers for Ms Sparrow had argued there was "lack of a sufficient inquiry" into the death at the original inquest, conducted by the East Somerset Coroner in December 2001.

Martin Westgate, appearing for Ms Sparrow at a recent High Court hearing, said that new evidence had come to light which cast doubt on the "accidental death" verdict.

Mrs Chubb was arrested and interviewed under caution in connection with her husband's death.

Documents before the High Court stated that she was suspected of murder and perjury in connection with her evidence to the inquest, mainly in relation to her assertion at the time of her husband's death that he had committed suicide.

Exploding building

Mrs Chubb was not charged on either count.

The High Court said there was "not a shred of evidence" to support an unlawful killing verdict, but suicide was still a possible verdict and justified a new investigation.

Mrs Chubb had told the original inquest her husband, one of the prosecutors in the case against convicted killer Rose West, had gone outside to a shed where lawnmowers and petrol were stored.

The garden where Mr Chubb died
A second inquest will now be heard

She then saw the building explode.

Mr Westgate told the High Court more witnesses had now been traced and their evidence suggested that a fire was well established before the explosion in the shed occurred.

The judges said: "It is right that we should say that nothing that has come to light lends positive support to the suggestion that Judge Chubb was unlawfully killed.

"What the fresh evidence does do is to render it more difficult to explain Judge Chubb's death as being an accident and to lend support to the possibility that he may have taken his own life."

Tim Nesbitt, appearing for the widow, had told the court that Mrs Chubb felt "with great confidence" that if a proper forensic examination had been carried out, it would have eliminated "the lingering cloud of suspicion generated against her".

Even in the light of the new evidence brought forward, accidental death was "far more probable than third party intervention", he said.

But Mr Nesbitt also suggested that, despite the new evidence, a new inquest would serve no purpose and not result in a different verdict.

Ruling over dead judge challenged
17 Oct 06 |  Somerset
New inquest hope for dead judge
07 Apr 06 |  Somerset
Wife arrested over judge's death
31 May 02 |  England
Judge 'died in garage explosion'
12 Dec 01 |  England

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