Three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled today that Sam Hallam’s conviction for murdering trainee chef, Essayas Kassahun, 21, in a beating on the St Luke’s estate in Clerkenwell, London, in October 2004, is unsafe. The community of Hoxton succeeds in its campaign to free and exonerate the young man in prison for 7 years for a crime he did not commit.
His QC Henry Blaxland declared in court yesterday that he was the victim of a “serious miscarriage of justice”.
A tireless and creative campaign has been fought by Hallam’s family and friends including the support of actor Ray Winstone. Paul May, the co-ordinator of the campaign read a statement on behalf of Sam outside the Royal Courts of Justice:
“I don’t want anyone else ever to suffer what I’ve been through since October 2004. The identification evidence against me was so unreliable it should have never been put to the jury. The Metropolitan Police should have followed up leads which would have proved my innocence of the terrible murder of Essayas Kassahun. They should have disclosed all the relevant evidence in their possession to my lawyers and they didn’t. I now need time to recover with my family and friends from the nightmare I’ve suffered for the last seven and a half years. Justice has long been denied to me but it has now finally prevailed.”
He thanked the Criminal Cases Review Commission and Thames Valley Police for the “thorough investigation” that led to the prosecution not resisting his latest appeal and the judges deciding that the murder conviction had to be quashed.
In an interview with the BBC Sam said he always knew he was innocent: “There was nothing I could do. The whole system was not fair. The original police investigation was not done properly. I’m still in shock from yesterday.”
In a one hour judgement, Lady Justice Hallett said Hallam’s “inability or unwillingness” to say where he was at the time of the murder had “not exactly helped his case”. He had exercised his right to silence during the interview on legal advice and the judge said that “with the benefit of hindsight, was perhaps not in his best interests.”
But Hallam said at his trial that he was playing soccer at the time the victim was beaten by a group of youths half a mile away and received injuries that would lead to his death 2 days later.
The police had mobile phone evidence that could have supported Hallam’s assertion that he was somewhere else at the time of the fatal assault even if his memory of playing football was mistaken. Lady Justice Hallett said: “Given the attachment of young people and the more mature to their mobile phones, we can’t understand why someone, either from the investigating team or the defence team, did not think to examine the phones attributable to the appellant.”
The appeal court judge completed the ruling by expressing sympathy to the family of the victim Essayas Kassahun.
Lady Justice Hallett said he “was by all accounts a charming young man with a great deal to offer” and that his family “had to cope with his death, the original investigation, the trial and now these proceedings. I hope they understand we all have to do our job according to law.”