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Schoolgirl murder man freed on appeal.

Byline: Cathy Gordon and Sarah Cade

A man jailed for life for murdering a 15-year-old girl and dumping her body after she refused to have sex, yesterday walked free after his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

John Corcoran, now aged 32, of Havant, Hants, who was found guilty of murdering schoolgirl Helen Gorrie by a jury at Winchester Crown Court in December 1999, wept as the decision was announced.

He was in the dock as three judges in London allowed his appeal against his murder conviction, ruling that it was now 'unsafe'.

There were gasps of 'yes' from members of his family in the public gallery.

Unemployed Corcoran had denied murdering Helen, who disappeared from her home in Horndean, Hants, in 1992 after telling her family she would be gone for just a few minutes.

Her semi-naked body was found in undergrowth outside Merchistoun Hall the next day by a guest attending a wedding reception.

Yesterday Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Mr Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Davis, announced the appeal was being allowed and detailed reasons would be given later.

He said the basis of the decision concerned a 'misdirection' by the trial judge on the evidence of three crucial witnesses.

After the ruling, solicitor Christopher Hayes said Corcoran was 'delighted'.

No application was made for a retrial. Corcoran had denied strangling Helen between July 30 and August 2 1992 and said he was with friends at the time of her death.

Speaking outside court, Mr Hayes said Corcoran had always maintained he had nothing to do with the murder.

'He even took and passed a lie detector test,' Mr Hayes said.

'The whole defence team have always felt the conviction was unsafe and thankfully the Court of Appeal have agreed and quashed the conviction, albeit three years after the trial. There was never any forensic or DNA evidence against Mr Corcoran.

'Advances with DNA have produced evidence from bloodstains on the clothes of Helen Gorrie and we hope the police will pursue the DNA leads that now exist.'

During the hearing Corcoran's counsel, Guy Boney QC, said crucial evidence was given at trial by three of the defendant's friends.

The 'single most important question' was whether Corcoran left his friends in a pub car park for up to 40 minutes.

This lay at the heart of the Crown's case, said counsel, adding: 'It was their window of opportunity for the appellant to have committed the crime.'

If he had stayed with his friends, he had an alibi and the Crown had no case.

Mr Boney said the three friends made statements in 1992 to the effect that Corcoran had been with them during the time when they were stealing a wheel from the car park of the Ship and Bell pub. He told the judges that in 1998, when Corcoran was re-arrested, the three agreed to make further statements in which they then said Corcoran drove away from the car park for between 20 and 40 minutes.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 16, 2003
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