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Tower block killer fails to win retrial.

A Birmingham man serving life for the murder of a 13-year-old girl more than 20 years ago has lost his attempt to have the case reheard.

Patrick Hassett was jailed seven years ago for the 1978 killing of Candice Williams whose body was found in a tower block.

Hassett had applied for a retrial and claimed developments in DNA testing had moved forward so fast that results at the time of his trial could not be considered reliable by modern standards.

But at the Appeal Court in London yesterday, Lord Justice Rose said: "The evidence before this court shows that in the 20 years since the murder, the case against this appellant has grown progressively stronger."

The odds of Hassett being the killer were now shorter than those given at the time of the trial, he said.

Hassett (40), of no fixed address, was jailed on March 18, 1992 at Birmingham Crown Court after being found guilty of the murder of Candice. Her body was found on a stairway between the 12th floor and the roof of a tower block in Erdington in July 1978.

The court was told there was evidence of rape or "rough consensual sex".

Lord Justice Rose said the girl had been strangled with a shoe lace. Body samples were later found to make a DNA match with hair and saliva samples from Hassett.

Initially the police investigation did not lead to him. But Hassett's former girlfriend walked into a police station to say she suspected him of being the killer and that he had asked her to put up an alibi for his movements around July 24 and 25 - the time of the murder.

When Hassett was in prison for another offence in 1991 he was said to have told another inmate in Winson Green prison that he had committed the murder 13 years before on the top floor of a block of flats.

Mr David Crigman QC, for Hassett, argued that the DNA evidence at the trial had been calculated on an inadequate database and that experts who gave evidence had disagreed about its validity.

The odds of someone else sharing the same genetic profile had been put then at one in 30,000.

The Appeal Court was told that the odds would now be calculated at something nearer one in 12,000.

But Mr Crigman maintained that although the figures had not improved in his client's favour, the new evidence should be put before another jury.

He also argued that the trial judge had not directed the jury properly about what weight to put on DNA evidence.

Lord Justice Rose agreed that DNA on its own was not an exact science but he believed that the judge had been quite clear in telling the jury that it was up to them to decide whether or not to accept the DNA findings.

"DNA has to be considered but it is only one aspect of a prosecution case," he said.

"But it now produces a stronger statistical case than the evidence at the trial."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 22, 1999
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