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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Conviction quashed after 12 years
The High Court in London
The conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday
A man who has served 12 years of a life sentence for murder is to be freed after it emerged someone else confessed to the killing 17 years ago.

Trevor Wickens, from Herne Bay in Kent, was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court in 1991 for the 1986 murder of 89-year-old Mabel Crandell.

The Court of Appeal released him on Wednesday after it emerged another man had told his girlfriend he had committed the murder.

His confession had not been mentioned to the jury at Mr Wickens' trial in 1991, on the basis it amounted to "hearsay" evidence.

Mrs Crandell, who lived in a bungalow in Station Road, Herne Bay, was found dead on 1 September 1986 after a fire at her home.

'Confessed to girlfriend'

Her battered body was found lying in the hallway, with multiple facial and neck injuries, which pathologists said appeared to have been inflicted by "stamping with a shod foot".

Mr Wickens was arrested in December 1989, after a Herne Bay couple told police he had confessed to the murder, and threatened to harm them and their children if they told anyone.

The operation of the hearsay rule ... denied Wickens a fair trial within Article Six of the European Convention of Human Rights
Timothy Barnes QC

Mr Wickens' QC, Timothy Barnes, told the Appeal Court his client had always denied any involvement, despite knowing that an admission of guilt would be likely to see him released earlier.

He told the court that Levi Draper, a well-known local drug addict, had confessed to his girlfriend Paula Darby, that he had killed Mrs Crandell.

Miss Darby told police in a statement she believed he had been telling the truth.

'Denied a fair trial'

Mr Draper himself died in 1986, the same year as Mrs Crandell's murder.

Mr Barnes said Mr Draper had been shown to be in Station Road on the day of the murder and had been arrested but not charged.

He said the evidence of Miss Darby and others who had either had or overheard conversations with Mr Draper should have been presented at Mr Wickens' trial.

He said two other men, from Southampton and "members of the travelling fraternity", like Mr Draper, had been arrested in 1987 and had told police they had been in a house in Kent where an old woman had been killed.

The Appeal Court judges overturned Mr Wickens' conviction and are due to give their reasons next Tuesday.

Mr Wickens is not being freed immediately and the prosecution has said it will not seek a retrial.

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