WMN investigation prompts review of murder conviction

The CCRC said the investigation by Young, left, and Simpson was ‘well researched and compelling’








A murder conviction is to be reviewed after an investigation by two Western Morning News journalists into a case that led to a man being jailed for 15 years.

Neil Young and Aislinn Simpson reinvestigated the case of 84-year-old Ivy Batten, who was found murdered at a bungalow in Devon in 1987. Brian Parsons was convicted of her murder and served a 15-year sentence, but always protested his innocence.

Following their investigation and calls from two West Country MPs, the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) confirmed this week that “on the strength of various elements” highlighted by the WMN articles it would re-examine the case.

A CCRC spokesman told the WMN: “I do think it’s good that proper investigative journalism is alive and well in the regions. I’m quite refreshed to see that you as a newspaper have taken the time to write some well researched and compelling pieces about this case.”

There have been doubts about Parsons’ conviction for many years.

They were raised by investigative journalist John Kiddey and by David Jessel, who examined the case for Channel 4’s Trial and Error series.

Internal and external police inquiries were conducted and Parsons made two unsuccessful appeals.

WMN editor Barrie Williams put Young and Simpson on the story last March after the paper interviewed Parsons, who, despite being free, maintained his innocence and spoke of his desire to clear his name.

Williams said: “Neil is a senior and Aislinn is a youngster and they’ve made a really good team. I’ve been around this business for many years and I have never seen a better piece of work. It is incredibly thorough; it’s sensible and it’s restrained. Nobody can say it’s been done sensationally.”

The WMN investigation questioned the forensic evidence used to convict Parsons, timings and alibis, undisclosed evidence not presented to the defence, how police focused on the name “Parsons” early in the investigation, and whether two burglars from Bristol were the likely killers.

Williams stressed: “It is not our job to say whether Parsons committed this crime or not. It is our job to re-examine the case. It is up to the judicial system to decide whether he did it or not.”

By Jon Slattery

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