Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 16:48 UK

Chloroform murder appeal man free

Craig McCreight
Craig McCreight was serving life for murdering Yvonne Davidson in 1999

A Lothian man in prison for murdering his partner with chloroform has been freed after judges ruled he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Craig McCreight, from Broxburn, was the victim of "bad science" at his original trial in 2002, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh heard on Wednesday.

Mr McCreight, 37, was found guilty of murdering mother-of-three Yvonne Davidson in 2002.

He had been serving life with a minimum of 18 years in jail.

But Lord Nimmo Smith, sitting with Lord Clarke and Lord Hardie, ruled his conviction must be quashed.

The three appeal judges also held on a majority decision that they would refuse a Crown motion to grant authority for a fresh prosecution against Mr McCreight.

Lord Nimmo Smith told Mr McCreight: "The consequence is that so far as the court is concerned the appellant is free to go."

We have now had a procession of experts who say the science was bad
Lord Clarke
The Court of Criminal Appeal

The senior appeal judge said they were "entirely satisfied" that new evidence produced was of such significance that it was reasonable to conclude that the verdict of the jury amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

Mr McCreight's mother Sylvia, 64, said afterwards: "I am just happy he is free. His legal team has been brilliant."

Mr McCreight had denied murdering his partner at the home they shared at Fairinsfell, Broxburn, in West Lothian, during his trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2002.

The Crown alleged he placed chloroform at her mouth and nose and caused her to inhale the poisonous chemical, rendering her unconscious before placing her in a neighbouring garden.

The trial judge told the jury that if they were satisfied that Ms Davidson, 34, had swallowed the chloroform rather than inhaled it they should acquit.

During Mr McCreight's appeal, fresh evidence was led which challenged the expert testimony at his trial.

Evidence produced at the trial showed that the dead woman's liver contained 1,064 mgs of chloroform per kilo on analysis.

'Seriously misled'

But the appeal heard that the concentration of the chemical had been overstated 1,000 times following an arithmetical error in a laboratory and the true result was 1.064 mg for kilo of chloroform was present.

Further analysis of the stomach contents also revealed a level of chloroform that would be consistent with ingestion of the chemical.

Pathologist Paul Fineron, who gave evidence at the trial, had also altered his position that the poison was corrosive and now agreed that the signs found were consistent with the chloroform having been swallowed.

Lord Nimmo Smith said: "Not one witness, including Dr Fineron, would now exclude the ingestion hypothesis."

Lord Clarke said: "We have now had a procession of experts who say the science was bad.

"I cannot get away from the fact that this jury was seriously misled as to the science."

Mr McCreight's solicitor advocate Jim Keegan told the appeal judges that the evidence given at the original trial was based on "gross error".

It had been suggested that a possible reason for taking the chemical might be to help a person sleep.

Ms Davidson was found dead in the garden of a neighbouring house on 8 February in 1999.

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