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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 17:51 GMT
Solicitor accused of killing sons freed
Sally Clark and her husband Stephen outside court
Sally Clark and her husband Stephen outside court
A solicitor jailed for murdering her two baby sons has been cleared by the Court of Appeal.

Three judges decided that Sally Clark's conviction was "unsafe".

The 38-year-old, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, had always protested her innocence since being jailed for life in November 1999 at Chester Crown Court.

She was convicted of smothering 11-week-old Christopher in December 1996 and shaking eight-week-old Harry to death in January 1998 at the luxury home she shared with her husband Stephen.

Sally and Stephen Clark in happier times with their first son Christopher
Today is not a victory. We are not victorious. There are no winners here.

Sally Clark
A composed Mrs Clark emerged from the cells at 1540 GMT to be hugged and kissed by her husband.

Mrs Clark said: "Today is not a victory. We are not victorious. There are no winners here.

"We have all lost out. We simply feel relief that our nightmare is finally at an end.

"I would like to thank the hundreds of people who have written to offer me their support.

"These letters have been my lifeline - a source of great comfort especially during my bleak times and I've read and re-read every single one.

Brain infection

"Be in no doubt, it was a tough experience to be in prison.

"The support that I received while I was in there has made it much more bearable."

Sally Clark Case Timeline
Dec 1996 11-week-old Christopher dies
Jan 1998 Eight-week-old Harry dies
Nov 1999 Sally Clark jailed
Oct 2000 Court of Appeal: "overwhelming" case against her
Jan 2003 Freed after new appeal
The court had been told that new medical evidence that suggested Harry Clark may have been suffering from a brain infection was withheld from her defence team.

The judges, Lord Justice Kay, Mr Justice Holland and Mrs Justice Hallett, told the court: "We are satisfied that the trial of this appeal was not a fair trial in that the jury were deprived of the opportunity of hearing and considering medical evidence that may have influenced their decision."

The General Medical Council (GMC) said it was considering whether to take action against two pathologists whose evidence helped convict Mrs Clark.

Dr Alan Williams initially said Harry had died from being shaken - and then changed his finding to smothering during the trial.

Michael Green, professor of forensic pathology at Sheffield University, who has since retired, also changed his opinion about the cause of death.

Frank Lockyer
It's very easy to be proud of one's daughter when they are taking A-levels and university degrees. But the real time to be proud is how they react when the chips are down

Frank Lockyer
A GMC spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the doctors and are considering whether action, if any, needs to be taken."

Mrs Clark burst into tears as the verdict was announced and later mouthed "I love you" to her husband.

Frank Lockyer, Mrs Clark's father, said his feeling was one of "total admiration" for his daughter and son-in-law and for the way they had coped over the last five years.

He added: "It's very easy to be proud of one's daughter when they are taking A-levels and university degrees.

"But the real time to be proud is how they react when the chips are down."

Earlier, the Crown had indicated that if Mrs Clark won her appeal they would not be seeking a retrial.

Pathologist criticised

Clare Montgomery QC, for Mrs Clark, said that new evidence emerged in 2000 that there was a staphylococcus aureus infection which had spread as far as Harry's cerebral spinal fluid.

She said the prosecution pathologist Dr Alan Williams, who had carried out post mortems on both babies, had known about this evidence since February 1998.

Microbiological test results demonstrated Harry probably died suddenly in reaction to the bacteria, she added.

Lord Justice Kay also criticised Dr Williams, saying the medical evidence was not disclosed because of his "failure... to share with other doctors investigating the cause of death information that a competent pathologist ought to have appreciated needed to be assessed before any conclusion was reached.

"The Court of Appeal on the previous occasion reached their conclusions wholly unaware of this aspect of the matter."

He added: "We have no doubt that the resulting convictions are, therefore, unsafe and must be quashed."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sally Clark gives her reaction to the ruling
"We have all lost"
The BBC's John Sweeney explains how flawed
evidence sent a grieving mother to prison
See also:

29 Jan 03 | England
29 Jan 03 | England
29 Jan 03 | England
28 Jan 03 | England
02 Jul 02 | England
29 Jan 03 | Health
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