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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 June, 2003, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Hanged man's conviction quashed
George Kelly
George Kelly's family have always protested his innocence
A man hanged 53 years ago for the murder of a cinema manager in Liverpool has had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Three judges in London ruled that the conviction of George Kelly, who was executed in 1950, was "unsafe".

The decision on Tuesday by Lord Justice Rix, Mr Justice Douglas Brown and Mr Justice Davis brought to an end one of Britain's oldest miscarriages of justice.

The conviction of the late Charles Connolly, who was jailed for ten years for robbery and conspiracy to rob relating to the cinema incident, was also quashed.

The judges were told that a statement given to police by a prosecution witness, claiming that a man called Donald Johnson had confessed to the crime to him, had not been disclosed by police.

Mr Kelly, 27, was convicted of murder on February 8, 1950, at Liverpool Assize Court and sentenced to death.
We've known all along that they were innocent
Eddie Connolly

Leonard Thomas, the manager of the Cameo Cinema in Wavertree, Liverpool, and his assistant, were shot dead during the bungled burglary in March 1949.

One man had entered the manager's office with a pistol to steal the takings and both victims were shot trying to prevent the crime.

Mr Pownall said that Donald Johnson was acquitted of being an accessory in connection with the case in June 1949.

It was after that acquittal that he is said to have told a man called Robert Graham that he had been responsible for the shootings.

Mr Graham's September 1949 statement to that effect was not discovered until 1991.
The Cameo Cinema, Wavertree, Liverpool, in 1949
Mr Thomas was manager of the Cameo Cinema, in Wavertree
Mr Pownall had said that the Crown was "unable to support the safety of Mr Kelly's conviction".

Giving brief reasons for the court's ruling, Lord Justice Rix said that police had failed to disclose Robert Graham's statement about Donald Johnson confessing to him.

Within two months, Graham had made another statement to police - but this time incriminating Kelly and Connolly.

If Graham's earlier statement had been disclosed, Kelly's counsel could have made of Graham implicating Johnson in September 1949 and then naming Kelly and Connolly two months later.

He said that the Crown's case against Kelly was entirely circumstantial and lacked any forensic support.

Lord Justice Rix added: "Once Kelly's conviction has been declared unsafe it is in our judgment unrealistic to regard Connolly's conviction - albeit in terms of robbery rather than murder - as safe.

Mr Connolly's widow, Eileen, was not at court but his brother Eddie said afterwards: "Words can't explain how I feel after 54 years - not just for us but all the family and friends who believed in his innocence.

'Deeply regretted'

"A lot of doubters at the time will have been proven wrong today.

"We've known all along that they were innocent."

Robin Makin, the Kelly family's lawyer, said it was a "deplorable" situation.

He said: "There is tremendous concern about the way in which matters were handled at that time.

"It's a great pity that some of those who fought for many years for Mr Kelly are not here today."

Lord Justice Rix said: "However much the Cameo murders remain a mystery we regard the circumstances of Kelly and Connolly's trials as a miscarriage of justice which must be deeply regretted."

The BBC's Niall Dickson
"After 53 years, the Court of Appeal has finally delivered justice"

Murders that shocked a nation
10 Jun 03  |  Merseyside
Appeal over 1949 double murder
07 Nov 02  |  England

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