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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
New evidence in 'Cinderella murder'
Anita Bromley
Anita Bromley says Shirley is entitled to compensation
After 16 years behind bars, it was scientific evidence which finally proved Michael Shirley's innocence and secured his release from prison.

Mr Shirley, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was an 18-year-old naval rating when barmaid Linda Cook was brutally raped and murdered in Portsmouth in December 1986.

He was on shore leave at the time of the murder and was arrested shortly afterwards.

In January 1988 he was convicted by a jury at Winchester Crown Court.

Third person

Now 34, he has always denied any involvement in Miss Cook's murder and during his time in prison has staged rooftop protests and carried out hunger strikes in an attempt to highlight his case.

However the breakthrough came last year when Mr Shirley's lawyer Anita Bromley announced new DNA evidence cast doubt on his conviction.

He has lost his youth. He went into prison as an 18-year-old boy, never having been in trouble before
Solicitor Anita Bromley

His case had already been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) but the move helped secure a date for his appeal.

Fresh tests on slides containing samples recovered after the murder revealed an unknown third person had been at the scene at the time of the murder.

Ms Bromley said: "The DNA results which put this case back into the court of appeal indicated that first of all someone else's DNA was present in the semen recovered from the victim's body.

"After more than two years extensive testing, they haven't found any evidence of the victim's DNA on Michael's clothing and shoes. And these shoes are supposed to have stamped this victim to death."

Crushed larynx

She added: "There were no fibres from Michael on the victim, and none of the victim's fibres on Michael's clothing. In fact there is nothing to associate them at all.

Barmaid Linda Cook
Linda Cook was on her way home when she was murdered

"If the jury had had the evidence at the time of the trial, they certainly would not have convicted him and it is doubtful that it would even have found its way to court."

Mr Shirley had only been in the navy a short time when Miss Cook was murdered.

The 24-year-old victim had been walking home from a friend's house in the town when she was raped and killed. Her naked and battered body was found yards from a school playground.

Miss Cook's jaw and spine were broken and her larynx had been crushed by the heel of the killer, who had stamped so hard on her he left an imprint of the "Flash" logo from the sole of his shoes on her stomach.

'Miscarriage of justice'

Police immediately launched a hunt for the shoes, leading to the case being dubbed the "Cinderella murder".

They discovered that about 250 pairs had been sold in the town the year of Miss Cook's murder.

Shirley, who was on shore leave in Portsmouth at the time of the murder, owned a pair. He also shared a blood group type with the murderer.

Anita Bromley and Pat Shirley
Ms Bromley and Pat Shirley have worked tirelessly on the case

Taken together, both facts were enough for the jury to produce a guilty verdict.

Mr Shirley could have walked free last year after serving the recommended minimum 15 years in prison.

But he has always protested his innocence resulting in his parole being refused because he was regarded as having "failed to address his offending".

But Ms Bromley said she had believed in Mr Shirley's innocence all along.

"Within five minutes of meeting him, Michael impressed me by the way he was talking that he was extremely level headed.

"He wasn't deluding himself and he was aching with the pain of being locked up for 16 years."

Now he is finally free, she said he had "a lot to think about".

"Michael will need to have time to think about how he wants to proceed, but he is entitled to compensation.

"However, there is no compensation for losing half your life.

"He has lost his youth. He went into prison as an 18-year-old boy, never having been in trouble before."

She added: "He will have a lot of adjustments to make - a lot of anger - and he will need an awful lot of support."

Sailor freed after 16 years
03 Jul 03  |  England
Sailor gets murder appeal date
14 May 03  |  West Midlands
Inmate's bail bid rejected
16 Jul 02  |  England

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