DNA on cigarette may clear Plymouth man jailed for 17 years for gay killing (2007)

First Published: Saturday, 27 January 2007
Source: The Independent 

By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
Copyright: Link to Full Article

A pair of cigarette butts have provided crucial DNA evidence that could free a man who has spent the past 16 years in jail for a murder he has always claimed he did not commit.

The police are also thought to have uncovered evidence that points towards a new suspect for the killing of Arthur Eathorne, 74, who was bludgeoned to death in his flat in Plymouth in 1990.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the body that investigates potential miscarriages of justice, is understood to be on the verge of announcing that the man convicted of the murder – 42-year-old Robert Kennedy – should have his case re-examined by the Court of Appeal.

Kennedy, who has been behind bars since 8 October 1990, is at Garth prison in Preston, where he is on suicide watch.

His lawyer claims that his case hinges on new DNA evidence, two disputed cell confessions, and fingerprint evidence that points towards a murder suspect.

He said the conviction and failure to clear his name may also be as a result of homophobia and a climate of fear among the gay community in the South-west during the early 1990s.

“Imagine being locked up for nearly 17 years for a murder you did not do. The ramifications for your mental health and your family are horrendous.”

A murder inquiry was set up after Mr Eathorne was found beaten to death at his flat in Holyrood Place on 18 September 1990.

The pensioner, who was well known in the gay community and had a number of young men visiting his flat for sex, sometimes allegedly for cash, was struck on the head, possibly with an ashtray.

Kennedy was arrested 20 days later and subsequently charged with the killing.

Read the full article at the Independent

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