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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 11:46 GMT
Freed lawyer's accidental death
Sally Clark with husband Stephen
Sally Clark, with husband Stephen, after being cleared on appeal
An inquest has ruled that Sally Clark, who was wrongly jailed for the murder of her two sons, died accidentally as a result of acute alcohol intoxication.

The 42-year-old was found dead at her Essex home in March.

In the days following her death Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray was told by pathologists that the solicitor had died of natural causes.

Following the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner said there was no evidence that Mrs Clark intended to commit suicide.

Sally Clark Timeline
February 1998 - Arrested over deaths of her two sons Christopher and Harry
October 1999 - Trial begins at Chester Crown Court. Prof Sir Roy Meadow, an expert witness, tells the court there is a "one in 73 million" chance of the children dying from cot deaths
November 1999 - Found guilty of murder and given two life sentences
October 2000 - First appeal fails
January 2003 - Conviction quashed by court of appeal due to "unsafe" evidence
June 2005 - Prof Meadow appears before General Medical Council (GMC) charged with serious professional misconduct in relation to Mrs Clark's trial
January 2006 Prof Meadow launches High Court challenge against GMC decision to strike him off, which he wins in February
March 2007 - Found dead at her home

In a statement shortly after her death, her family simply said of her passing: "Sadly, she never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice."

Mrs Clark's conviction for murdering her newborn sons Christopher and Harry, led to her spending three years in prison before her conviction was quashed in January 2003.

Her family said the effects of "this appalling miscarriage of justice" had left their mark.

Three judges decided that the conviction of the solicitor, who used to live in Wilmslow, Cheshire, was "unsafe".

Reacting to the Court of Appeal's decision when it was made, 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."

She had always protested her innocence since being jailed for life in November 1999 at Chester Crown Court.

She was accused 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.

Cause of death

A first attempt to have her conviction quashed was thrown out by the Court of Appeal in October 2000.

It was evidence uncovered by her husband, which had not been revealed to the jury or defence team, which proved the key to unlocking her cell door.

Home Office tests on Harry had found "lethal" levels of bacterial infection - indicating he died of natural causes.

The crux of the case revolved around whether it was conceivable the "cot deaths" of Christopher and Harry - Sally Clark said she found both babies lifeless - were coincidences.

Paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who appeared for the prosecution, estimated the likelihood of two siblings dying of "cot death syndrome" were one in 73 million. This proved to be damning evidence.

But the Royal Statistical Society took the unprecedented step of writing to the Lord Chancellor stating that there was no statistical basis for the figure, and that the odds were much lower.

'Loving wife'

Among other bodies, the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths had evidence that second cot deaths in the same family occur "roughly once a year".

Despite this her first appeal in 2000 failed.

The Court of Appeal said that while it accepted that Sir Roy's statistic was flawed, the judges remained convinced that there was "overwhelming" evidence of her guilt.

Sadly, she never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice
Family statement

In 2001, scientists at Manchester University found a genetic link among cases of sudden infant death syndrome - suggesting multiple cases could be more likely than previously thought.

Sir Roy was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the medical register - but both decisions were later overturned on appeal at the High Court, when Mr Justice Collins ruled that any witness giving evidence in a court of law is protected from civil prosecution.

In a statement following Mrs Clark's death, her family paid tribute to a "loving and talented wife, mother, daughter and friend".

The statement added: "Sally, aged 42, was released in 2003 having been wrongfully imprisoned for more than three years, falsely accused of the murder of her two sons.

"Sadly, she never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Family statement pays tribute to Sally Clark



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