Mercury campaign helps free mum jailed in cot deaths case

Victory: the Mecury’s campaign

A mother jailed for killing her two babies has been released following a three-year campaign by the Sunday Mercury in Birmingham.

Julie Ferris, from Birmingham, was charged with the murder of her two children in December 1998. Ninemonthold daughter Hayley was thought to have been a victim of cotdeath in 1993, but when son Brandon died under similar circumstances in May 1998, aged eight months, Ferris was arrested.

Ferris, who has learning difficulties, was forbidden from entering a plea at her trial after prosecutors argued she had a mental age of six.

She was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act after Professor Roy Meadow testified that he believed the children had been smothered.

Meadow is currently facing a General Medical Council inquiry over discredited expert evidence he has given in a number of baby murder trials.

The Sunday Mercury launched its Justice for Julie campaign in March 2001 and subsequently reported that the babies could have been victims of a rare form of epilepsy which runs in the Ferris family. The paper traced new witnesses who had seen the children having fits, and questioned the unopposed trial evidence of Meadow.

The Mercury investigation contributed to new solicitors being appointed and earlier this month the Crown Prosecution Service contacted them to say it was dropping charges.

After the decision Ferris told the Mercury: “Professor Meadow is the one who should be sectioned. I was detained under the Mental Health Act and spent four years in bail hostels, secure units, hospitals and prison.

“At one stage the authorities even told me I would never be free unless I agreed to be sterilised to stop me having more children. I refused because I knew I was innocent.

“I’ve been to hell and back. I want to thank the Sunday Mercury and everyone who believed in my innocence.”

Mercury editor David Brookes said: “We were deeply moved by Julie’s plight and determined to seek the justice so cruelly denied her. It has taken three years but justice has at last been done.”

He added: “It is the duty of regional newspapers to expose injustices and campaign on behalf of those whose voices would not otherwise be heard.”

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