A breakthrough for Sam Hallam, whose conviction for murder is being re-investigated by a police inquiry, has been overshadowed by the news that his father was found hanged last Sunday.
Sam Hallam, 23, was jailed six years ago for the murder of Essayas Kassahun but has always maintained his innocence.
The news emerged that the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) have been re-investigating the case, giving hope to Mr Hallam’s family and supporters, who have been campaigning for the Hoxton man’s release since 2004.
However, the Hackney Gazette reported yesterday that Sam’s father, Terry, was found hanging from a balcony at a flat in Hoxton Street by police and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are investigating his death, which is being treated as unexplained.
The sad news follows the revelation that the CCRC has ordered Thames Valley Police to re-examine the case originally handled by Scotland Yard. The CCRC will decide whether to refer Sam Hallam’s conviction back to the Court of Appeal. If this happens he will either be retried or, as his supporters hope, acquitted.
It is seen as a significant move – since 1997 the CCRC has received 12,000 applications regarding alleged miscarriages of justice but only 44 of these have resulted in a new police investigation.
Although the inquiry began in February this year, it was kept secret in order to prevent witnesses who live nearby each other colluding before they were re-interviewed.
In a statement released last week, the CCRC said:
“Detective Chief Inspector Steve Tolmie of Thames Valley Police was appointed as the Investigating Officer (IO) and began work in spring 2010.”
“It is regular practice for the Commission to require the appointment of an IO from an outside force for reasons of impartiality and independence. The appointment of an IO from a force other than the Metropolitan Police should not be taken to imply that the Commission has concluded that there was anything wrong with the original investigation carried out by the Metropolitan Police.”
However, Paul May, who runs the Sam Hallam Campaign and who successfully campaigned to free the Birmingham Six and the Bridgewater Four, said:
“The original Metropolitan Police investigation into the 2004 murder of Essayas Kassahun was slipshod. Many potential lines of inquiry were not pursued. This caused the wrongful conviction of Sam Hallam who was just 17 years old when he was arrested. It also meant that most of Mr Kassahun’s killers escaped justice.”
The Sam Hallam Campaign argues that the evidence against Hallam was riddled with inconsistencies and anomalies. The focus is now on the outcome of the new inquiry:
“We hope that Thames Valley Police have conducted a more thorough investigation, which will lead to Sam Hallam’s case being referred back to the courts and his conviction quashed.”