Beds, Herts & Bucks

Kevin Lane murder conviction going to Court of Appeal

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Media captionKevin Lane claims he was framed for the murder of Robert Magill

The case of a man jailed 18 years ago for the murder of a car dealer in Hertfordshire is to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

Kevin Lane was found guilty of using a shotgun to kill Robert Magill in Chorleywood in 1994.

Lane now hopes his conviction could be overturned when appeal judges hear the concerns raised about a police officer on his case, who was later jailed.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has also looked at the case.

Lane's solicitor Maslen Merchant told the BBC: "This is a significant development in what has been a long and arduous journey for Kevin and his legal team."

Mr Magill was walking his dog when two contract killers got out of their BMW armed with a shotgun.

A trial heard it was Lane, who has always protested his innocence, who pulled the trigger five times.

There was no evidence directly placing Lane at the murder scene and the weapon used to kill Mr Magill was never found.

Lane's family and friends have continued to support him in his fight to clear his name and win his release.

'Complicated deceptions'

His mother Barbara Tucker, 66, from Bletchley, said she was "lost for words" at the news of an appeal hearing.

"The family's so excited, Kevin has worked so very hard for this but we can't count our chickens. We're all keeping our fingers crossed," she said.

Involved in the police investigation into Lane was a corrupt officer, Det Insp Chris Spackman.

He was later jailed for plotting to steal £160,000 from Hertfordshire Police. It was money seized from criminals.

Spackman handled disclosure evidence in Lane's case and had contact with other suspects and informants.

Questions have since been raised about his handling of Lane's case and new sources have spoken to BBC Look East.

One source in criminal circles has told the BBC that an informant "had it in" for Lane.

"The informant has had a grudge with Kevin for a very long time, the same as the informant has had a grudge against Robert Magill," said the source.

"He laughed it was his revenge, somebody had done his dirty work for him with Bob: he hated him with a vengeance."

Local criminals Roger Vincent and David Smith were initially arrested for killing Mr Magill. Lane was arrested later.

Smith was released but Vincent was charged along with Lane. The judge directed Vincent's acquittal and so Lane stood trial alone.

Image caption Car dealer Robert Magill was walking his dog when he was shot

The jury could not agree a verdict, but Lane was convicted at a retrial.

Author and miscarriage of justice campaigner Bob Woffindon said: "This was clearly a murder by very serious criminals, and did Kevin fall into that category?

"I think Kevin probably didn't. In the years since... various factors have come into the case to throw even more doubt and of course there was the conviction of the policeman.

"It was subsequently said at the Court of Appeal that he [Spackman] carried out complicated deceptions within a police environment."

Nine years after the shooting of Mr Magill, drug dealer Dave King was the victim of a similar gangland shooting outside a gym in Hoddesdon.

In August 2005 Roger Vincent, then 33, and David Smith, also 33, were found guilty at Luton Crown Court of his murder.

However, both have strongly denied being involved in Mr Magill's killing.

The BBC has spoken to sources, including those linked to the police.

'Extensively reviewed'

One source said he had concerns about the way the case was handled by Spackman.

The BBC could not make contact with the former police officer.

Hertfordshire Police said: "All we can say about the management of police informants is there are very tight and regulated procedures and processes in place to protect the integrity of the system.

"The case against Kevin Lane has been extensively reviewed already and the conviction deemed safe."

Police added that every case in which Spackman had been involved had been thoroughly scrutinised.

One conviction was quashed after the case was ruled to be unsafe.

Lane says he will go on protesting his innocence until somebody listens. A year ago, he pleaded with the CCRC to consider his case for a third time.

A spokesman for the CCRC said it had reviewed the case twice under Lane's instruction, before he applied for an appeal, and could find no grounds for it to be heard.

It was conducting a third review but this could not be completed because Mr Lane then applied directly to the Court of Appeal.

The court then instructed the CCRC to look at "particular points" as part of the appeal process and it sent its report to the Court of Appeal last October for it to consider.

A date for the appeal hearing has yet to be fixed.

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