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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 22:08 GMT
25-year murder conviction quashed
Robert Brown
Robert Brown was freed after 25 wrongful years in jail
A man who has spent 25 years in prison for murder has been freed by Court of Appeal judges after having his conviction quashed.

Robert Brown was jailed for life in 1977 for killing 51-year-old Manchester spinster Annie Walsh after confessing to the crime.

But Mr Brown, originally from Drumchapel in Glasgow, always claimed he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice because police had bullied him into signing a false confession.

Annie Walsh
Annie Walsh was battered to death
Lord Justice Rose, sitting with two other judges in London, on Wednesday ruled: "In our judgment, this verdict cannot be regarded as safe.

"That is so because we could not possibly be sure on what we have heard that the jury, had they known what we know, would have reached the same verdict.

"It is, to put it at its lowest, a possibility that they might have reached a quite different verdict. Accordingly, this verdict is unsafe. It is quashed. The appeal is allowed."

Mr Brown showed no emotion as the conviction was overturned at the Court of Appeal, but his supporters stood and clapped.

He was led back to the cells after the announcement to await release, and afterwards he said: "I would have fought this for the next 25 years if I'd had to. It's nothing to do with freedom, it's to do with justice, liberty and truth."

'Desperately ill'

Mr Brown would have been eligible for parole 10 years ago if he had shown that he had "come to terms with his offending" by admitting the crime.

But the 45-year-old said the need to clear his name was more important.

Robert Brown and his security guard
Robert Brown was handcuffed on a day visit

He had also wanted to clear his name for his 75-year-old mother Margaret, who is now described as being "desperately" ill.

Mr Brown was convicted of battering to death Ms Walsh at Manchester Crown Court in October 1977.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and had an application for leave to appeal against conviction refused by the Court of Appeal in 1978.

His solicitor Robert Lizar said: "I will be urging Manchester police to reopen the investigation into the murder because the family of Annie Walsh have not been properly served by the justice system in any way."

'Utmost seriousness'

The Greater Manchester force later released a statement which did not rule out such a move.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Green said: "We have noted the initial findings of the court and will now re-examine the three main areas of concern raised at today's appeal."

And he added: "No decision has yet been made whether to reinvestigate the murder of Annie Walsh or to review other cases investigated by the officers involved, but we would like to reassure the public of Greater Manchester that this matter is being treated with the utmost seriousness and the appeal findings will be thoroughly examined."

Robert Brown
Robert Brown was jailed when he was just 19
Mr Lizar also claimed his client could be entitled to "very substantial" compensation which he estimated would run into millions.

However, Mr Brown said he would have to sit down with his lawyers before deciding whether to pursue a claim.

The appeal hearing before Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Gibbs and Mr Justice Davis, which was expected to last at least a day, took a dramatic twist on Wednesday morning after submissions from Julian Bevan QC, for the Crown.

Mr Bevan said that if asked whether the fresh evidence now in front of the court "might reasonably have affected the decision of the jury to convict this appellant I have to say on behalf of the Crown that it might".

After Mr Bevan outlined the Crown's stance, emphasising that the final decision on the safety of the conviction was for the court, the judges said they had no need to hear further argument on behalf of Mr Brown.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Raphael Rowe
"He said his determination to clear his name kept him going"
Robert Brown
"I cannot convey what I've been through"
BBC Scotland's Bob Wylie
"You can imagine that after 25 years unjust imprisonment he was quite emotional when he spoke"
See also:

13 Nov 02 | Scotland
30 Jul 02 | Scotland
12 Jun 02 | Scotland
09 Apr 02 | Scotland
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