Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

'Everybody said he was innocent'

By Michael Stoddard and Damon Embling
BBC News

Sean Hodgson
Mr Hodgson said he felt "ecstatic" that he was a free man again

An old friend of Sean Hodgson, who has been freed after spending 27 years in jail, said everybody in his home town "knew he was innocent".

Kathleen Williams, from Tow Law, County Durham, went to the same school as Mr Hodgson and was shocked when she heard he had been sentenced to life for the murder of Teresa De Simone in Southampton in 1982.

She said his mother would have been "over the moon" to have seen him walk free from the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

"She always said he was innocent and used to cry over him."

Mr Hodgson's murder conviction was quashed after tests proved DNA from the scene was not his and police have reopened the case.

'Normal teenager'

Mrs Williams said: "Everybody said he was innocent.

"Our headteacher said straightway he was innocent.

"Everybody was shocked when they heard but justice has been done."

She said he was a "normal teenager" during his time at school.

Kathleen Williams
Mrs Williams said many of the community thought he was innocent

"He was just like every other lad, just getting into the odd mischief which any other teenager would do," she added.

At the time of Mr Hodgson's trial, DNA tests were not available, with the first use of such evidence in court not taking place until 1986 in Leicester.

Hampshire Police and the Forensic Science Service undertook a comprehensive forensic case review in November 2008 after requests from Mr Hodgson's legal team.

It discovered that DNA evidence found at the scene did not match a sample given by Mr Hodgson.

Mr Hodgson is one of the longest-serving victims of a miscarriage of justice in the UK.

"He has had most of his life spent in jail. I can't imagine how that feels," Mrs Williams said.

She does not believe he will come back to his hometown in the near future but said he would always be welcome.

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