Hilda Owen murder case conviction quashed

Hilda Owen
Image caption Hilda Owen was found dead at her home

A Nottinghamshire man jailed for life for murdering his 71-year-old neighbour has had his conviction quashed.

Peter Smith, 46, of West Hill, Skegby, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court in 2008 of killing Hilda Owen.

She was hit 29 times over the head with a claw-hammer and screwdriver at her home in March 2007.

Mr Smith now faces a retrial after Appeal Court judges cast doubt on the reliability of fingerprint evidence used to convict him.

Modern forensics

Lord Justice Thomas said: "This is one of the very few cases where fingerprint evidence has been challenged at trial since 1999 and, as far as we are aware, the first since then to come before this court on appeal where this court has had to hear fresh evidence.

"The quality of the reports provided by the Nottinghamshire Fingerprint Bureau for the trial reflected standards that existed in other areas of forensic science some years ago, and not the vastly improved standards expected in contemporary forensic science.

"The presentation of the evidence to the jury made no attempt to use modern methods of presentation."

At the original trial the prosecution case was that the civil servant planned to inherit the pensioner's house and pay off his debts.

He was handed a life sentence and told he would serve at least 30 years in jail.

A date has yet to be set for the retrial.

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