Judges reject baseball bat confession

A MAN jailed for murder lost his appeal against conviction yesterday despite claims by his best friend that he committed the crime himself.

Samuel Hill, aged 27, was sentenced in December 1988 after he was found guilty of using a baseball bat to kill Malcolm Barker during a brawl on a Hampshire housing estate the previous November. His friend, Dave Smith, was convicted of assaulting Mr Barker and sentenced to three years.

But after his release, he told the BBC TV programme, Rough Justice, it was he who wielded thebaseball bat that felled Mr Barker after he saw his friend beset by attackers.

The fresh evidence formed a central plank of Mr Hill’s High Court appeal. But in a 90-minute judgment, Lord Justice Watkins, sitting with Mr Justice Henry and Mr Justice Pill, said they did not believe Mr Smith’s confession. ‘Each of us found Mr Smith to be a most unconvincing and untruthful witness,’ said Lord Justice Watkins. ‘We do not believe he struck the fatal blow. We do not believe he struck Barker with the baseball bat at all.’

Lord Justice Watkins added: ‘The contradictory accounts given by Smith contribute to our conclusion that he is not to be believed.’

The court heard Mr Smith wanted to help his friend and give himself the option of using a self defence plea.

Lord Justice Watkins added the confession was more consistent with an attempt by Mr Hill, Mr Smith and their friends to pervert the course of justice with the suggestion that Mr Smith struck the fatal blow.

The court heard a fight broke out after Kenneth Maile and Peter Willis went to challenge Nigel Lenthall about a suspected affair with Mr Maile’s wife, Sara. Instead they encountered Mr Hill, Mr Smith and Stephen Blofeld. Mr Willis was knocked unconscious and Mr Maile was also injured.

To avenge the attack, a group of 15 men, including Malcolm Barker, gathered the following night armed with pool cues, bits of fencing, hammers and screwdrivers near Mr Lenthall’s home.

Mr Barker was struck in the ensuing fracas. A pathologist said he died from cerebral contusions and internal haemorrhaging.

After the judgment, Mr Hill struggled with prison officers and swore at the judges as he was led from the dock.

Outisde the court Mr Hill’s mother, Ann, said: ‘My son is innocent and we will go on. The family is right behind him.’

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