Page last updated at 17:08 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Sean Hodgson in line for pay-out 'in the millions'

Sean Hodgson
Sean Hodgson walked free from the Court of Appeal in March

Compensation to a County Durham man who spent 27 years in jail for a murder he did not commit could run into the millions, the BBC has learned.

The conviction of Sean Hodgson from Tow Law for killing Teresa De Simone, 22, in Southampton in 1979 was quashed after new DNA evidence came to light.

He is pursuing compensation from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Forensic Science Service and Hampshire police.

The MoJ said it could not comment on individual claims.

But a spokesperson said: "Ministers need to approve an application for compensation.

"If they do then it is for the independent assessor to decide how much they should be awarded based on the application made by the individual or their solicitors."

Miss De Simone's body was found in the back seat of her Ford Escort in a car park beneath the Tom Tackle pub.

Suspected killer

Mr Hodgson confessed to her murder at the time of the original inquiry but pleaded not guilty at his trial in 1982, where his defence team said he was a pathological liar.

A new DNA probe in 2008 revealed David Lace as the suspected killer.

Mr Lace, who confessed to the murder in 1983, killed himself in December 1988 when he was aged 26 and living in Brixham, Devon.

Mr Hodgson could be in line for the maximum £1m compensation from the MoJ, while further planned action against the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and Hampshire police could also top more than £1m, it is claimed.

The FSS had been asked for exhibits from the case to be re-examined in 1998 but the service said none existed.

Teresa De Simone
Teresa De Simone was working part-time at the Tom Tackle pub

But in 2008, following a new request, tests on DNA material found at the scene proved it was not Mr Hodgson's.

His solicitor, Julian Young, said doctor's reports were currently being completed which would be sent to the MoJ as part of the compensation process.

"Sean does not want this issue to be dragged out, we want it sorted quickly," Mr Young told BBC News.

"I am in the process of contacting Hampshire police and the FSS.

"I would hope they would get together and provide us with a figure we are all happy with, Sean doesn't want this dragged through the courts."

The BBC understands Mr Hodgson has received a £200,000 interim payment from the MoJ following his release, although his access to the cash is limited for his own protection.

Hampshire police said they have not received any accusations from Mr Hodgson or his legal team about any wrongdoings by police officers.

In October, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said an investigation into Hampshire police's handling of the original inquiry would "serve no purpose".

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