Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 16:00 UK

Mitchell loses Jodi murder appeal

Lord Hamilton's ruling

The mother of murdered schoolgirl Jodi Jones has spoken of her relief after her daughter's killer failed in a bid to have his conviction overturned.

Luke Mitchell, now 19, was ordered to serve at least 20 years in prison after being found guilty of murdering his 14-year-old girlfriend in June 2003.

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh heard his appeal in February.

Three judges upheld the verdict - but criticised police for the "outrageous" way they interviewed Mitchell.

Jodi's mother, Judith Jones, who was surrounded by members of her family, covered her mouth with her hands and stared ahead as the judges' ruling came to an end.

As she left court she said she felt "relief, total relief". Asked for her reaction to the ruling, she said: "Brilliant."

As Mitchell's mother Corinne left court, she said: "Luke is innocent. The fight goes on."

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Following the decision, the solicitor general, Frank Mulholland QC, said: "I am pleased that the appeal court has today upheld Luke Mitchell's conviction for the murder of his girlfriend Jodi Jones.

"As the trial judge said when Luke Mitchell was originally convicted, 'This was a truly evil murder and one of the most appalling crimes that any of us can remember'.

"The decision of the appeal court will be a comfort to Jodi's family that justice has been done. Our thoughts remain with Jodi's family at this time."

Mitchell, wearing a black suit and blue shirt, remained impassive as the judgment was delivered.

Mrs Mitchell stared straight ahead as her son was led away to continue his life sentence.

The appeal was heard by Scotland's top judge, the Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton, sitting alongside Lords Osborne and Kingarth.

Lord Hamilton said they were satisfied there was "sufficient evidence in law" for a guilty verdict.

However, he added that the conduct of police who interviewed Mitchell was deplorable.

Luke Mitchell
Mitchell has always protested his innocence

Mitchell's lawyers had claimed that the interview was conducted in circumstances which were wholly and manifestly unfair to the teenager.

"Having considered the transcript of the interview, we are driven to the conclusion that some of the questions put by the interviewing police officer can only be described as outrageous," Lord Hamilton said.

"At times, the nature of the questioning was such that the questioner did not seem to be seriously interested in a response from the appellant but rather endeavouring to break him down into giving some hoped-for confession by his overbearing and hostile interrogation.

"Such conduct, particularly where the interviewee was a 15-year-old youth, can only be deplored."

A police spokeswoman said: "We duly note the comments made by the appeal judges.

"We will talk time to consider the statements; it would be inappropriate to comment further.

"This was a grave crime and our thoughts are with the family at this time."

Newspaper headlines

Jodi was stripped, tied up and stabbed to death in woods near her Dalkeith home. The judge at Mitchell's trial described it as the worst murder case he had ever seen.

Mitchell, who has always protested his innocence, was found guilty after the longest single-accused murder trial in Scottish legal history.

During the 10-day appeal against his conviction and sentence, Mitchell's lawyer Donald Findlay QC claimed his client did not receive a fair trial because of the imagery of newspaper headlines which would have been read by jurors before the case came to court.

Mr Findlay also claimed there was insufficient evidence presented to the jury to allow them to find Mitchell guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

BBC Scotland cameras were in court to film the proceedings.


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