Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Shock over 1979 murder DNA appeal

Teresa De Simone
Teresa De Simone was strangled

The friend of woman killed 30 years ago has spoken of her shock that the man convicted of her murder could be freed.

Sean Hodgson, 57, has served 27 years of a life term for strangling Teresa De Simone, 22, in Southampton in 1979.

The BBC understands an appeal based on DNA tests of semen found at the scene will not be contested by the Crown Prosecution Service next week.

Miss De Simone's friend, Barbara Yates, said her family would be distressed that "justice was not done".

She added: "I keep thinking there's a person who is guilty who is still out there and presumably has led a normal life.

'Dreadful time'

"How distressing again for her family that justice was not done."

The appeal will be heard at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday when Hodgson is expected to walk free.

The friend of woman killed 30 years ago speaks of her shock as the man convicted of her murder could be freed

Hodgson, who is also known as Robert Graham Hodgson, would be one of the longest-serving victims of a miscarriage of justice if released.

Miss De Simone's partially clothed body was found in the back seat of her Ford Escort in a car park beneath the Tom Tackle pub where she worked part-time as a barmaid.

Hodgson made various confessions to the murder but his defence said he was a pathological liar and the confessions were untrue.

At his trial at Winchester Crown Court he pleaded not guilty to a single charge of murder.

The jury found him guilty in 1982 and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mrs Yates, who also worked at the Tom Tackle pub with Miss De Simone, said: "She was a lovely girl, kind and gentle and everybody that worked there all got on so well and it was awful when it happened and devastating to her family.

It was unbelievable that something like that could happen, such a lovely girl. It was a dreadful time
Barbara Yates

"It was unbelievable that something like that could happen, such a lovely girl. It was a dreadful time.

"When I heard about the appeal it brought everything back as if it was yesterday and to think if it isn't this man and he has been imprisoned all that time is obviously wrong."

DNA tests were not available at the time, but after requests from Mr Hodgson's legal team Hampshire Constabulary and the Forensic Science Service undertook a comprehensive forensic case review in November 2008.

Following this review the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) decided to refer the case to the Court of Appeal after two days - making it one of the fastest in the commission's history.

The CCRC has also contacted the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss the possibility of similar murder cases being reviewed in light of DNA evidence.

On Thursday Hampshire Constabulary confirmed it has started an investigation to identify the owner of the DNA found at the scene.

In a statement, a force spokeswoman said: "These techniques take time and are subject to the investigation team locating individuals connected with the original case.

"This in itself could be a protracted process.

"We fully appreciate the emotional impact that this has had on Teresa's mother and stepfather, Mary and Michael Sedotti, and her close friends.

"They have been kept informed of the forensic review and the progress of the current enquiry by the Serious Crime Review team."

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SEE ALSO
DNA may free man after 27 years
11 Mar 09 |  Hampshire

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