Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 16:47 UK

Court quashes murder conviction

Ian Lawless
Mr Lawless said he felt "strange" being out of prison after eight years

A man who has spent eight years in prison for murder has won an appeal against his conviction.

Ian Lawless, 47, was jailed for life in 2002 after confessing to the murder of retired sea captain Alf Wilkins on the Yarborough estate in Grimsby.

Judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that his conviction was unsafe after hearing fresh medical evidence about his mental condition at the time.

Mr Lawless said he felt "ecstatic" after he was released.

He emerged to freedom at the Royal Courts of Justice, supported by members of his family and legal team.

He said he also felt "strange" being out of prison after so long.

Standing outside the court with his daughter Laura Jayne, he said: "I should never have been in there."

'Need for attention'

His solicitor, Mark Newby, said: "Ian is delighted to have his liberty today."

Mr Lawless says he is "delighted" to be free

Mr Newby said the case highlighted the dangers of vulnerable people being pushed through the court process "without putting the necessary safeguards in place".

Mr Lawless and another man were convicted of firebombing Mr Wilkins's flat after wrongly suspecting him of being a paedophile.

The former tugboat skipper's body was found in the kitchen of his smoke-damaged flat with his 12-year-old black Alsatian dog Lucky lying nearby.

Mr Lawless's case had been referred to the Court of Appeal for review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

The judges heard that at the time of his confession Mr Lawless had a "pathological need for attention".

Ian Lawless and daughter Laura Jayne Lawless
Mr Lawless and his daughter Laura Jayne celebrated outside court

Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mrs Justice Gloster and Mrs Justice Dobbs, said the court was satisfied that if the jury had heard the new medical evidence at the trial "it might have affected their assessment of the reliability of the various confessions made by the appellant".

He added: "The verdict might have been different."

Lord Richards said the judges had also borne in mind that the verdict was a majority of 10 to two and was returned after a "very long period of deliberation".

The court heard Mr Lawless had made various "confessions" to third parties, including regulars in a pub and a taxi driver.

He said he was the "lookout" in the attack, but he denied any involvement in police interviews and in court.

It has since emerged that he suffered from a personality disorder and that his need for attention was exacerbated when drinking.

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