North East Wales

Janet Commins: Schoolgirl murder accused 'not guilty'

Stephen Hough Image copyright Andrew Price
Image caption Stephen Hough (r) is on trial for killing Janet Commins, but another man has already served a sentence for her manslaughter

A man accused of murdering a 15-year-old schoolgirl in 1976 has told a court he had nothing to do with her death.

Stephen Hough, 58, is accused of Janet Commins' rape, sexual assault, murder and manslaughter but denies the charges.

Mr Hough said he could not explain why DNA matching his was found on her body.

Mold Crown Court heard he also denied once telling his ex-wife he had killed someone.

Giving evidence in his defence, Mr Hough was asked by his barrister, Patrick Harrington QC: "Did you have anything to do with her death?"

"No sir," he replied.

Image copyright North Wales Police
Image caption Janet Commins' body was found on a school field by children playing hide and seek

The court has previously heard another man, Noel Jones, admitted killing Janet at the time and served half of a 12-year sentence for her manslaughter.

He has never challenged his conviction, but he insists he did not kill her and has told the trial his signed confession statements were made up by police.

Eric Evans, the former detective who was in charge of the original investigation, told the court nobody thought to offer Jones a solicitor during the initial stages of his questioning.

Asked why, Mr Evans said it was because he wanted to investigate "properly and thoroughly". He said police could be "impeded" by solicitors representing clients.

"There was no requirement in those days for a person to be advised that he could have a solicitor," he said.

The court heard the Police and Criminal Evidence Act - designed to strike a balance between protecting individuals' rights and a fair investigation - was not brought into force until 1986.

Asking Mr Evans about an interview between him and Noel Jones, Mr Heywood said: "It was an interview between a senior police officer and a barely-literate 18-year-old. It's hardly a battle of equals Mr Evans, is it?"

"If you say so," he replied.

Siphoning petrol

Mr Hough was asked in court if he knew Mr Jones.

He replied "no", adding he also did not know Janet or another man, Michael Orford, who Mr Jones previously claimed was involved in her death.

No evidence was offered against Mr Orford at the first trial.

Asked about being questioned by police following Janet's death, Mr Hough said he admitted siphoning petrol on the night Janet died - an offence for which he was later prosecuted and fined.

He also told the jury he had been masturbating in his car that night because he had no privacy to do so at home.

Asked about evidence his former wife gave claiming he had once told her he had killed someone, he denied any such conversation had taken place.

During cross examination, Mark Heywood QC, for the prosecution, said: "In early January 1976, on ground you knew very well, you raped... and murdered that little girl, didn't you?"

"No sir, I did not."

Mr Haywood claimed Mr Hough gave "no comment" responses during police interviews because he did not think his answers "would stand up to scrutiny".

He added DNA samples matching Mr Hough's and found on Janet's body proved his guilt.

Mr Heywood said: "Face reality Mr Hough. It's the evidence that proves what you did to Janet, isn't it?"

Mr Hough replied: "I do not know where they came from sir."

The case continues.

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