Billy the Kid fails to win pardon from Bill Richardson

Billy the Kid (undated photograph) Billy the Kid eluded law enforcement officials for years

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Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid will not receive a posthumous pardon for killing a county sheriff in 1878, the governor of the US state of New Mexico has said.

Bill Richardson had been asked to pardon the infamous 19th Century bandit in order to fulfil a promise supposedly made in exchange for court testimony.

But Mr Richardson told US TV that Billy the Kid's name - linked to as many as 27 murders - would not be cleared.

Billy the Kid was shot dead after escaping from jail in 1881, aged 21.

Albuquerque lawyer Randi McGinn recently began a campaign for his pardon, alleging that New Mexico's territorial governor, Lew Wallace, had promised the outlaw a chance at freedom if he testified in a murder case against three men.

Bill Richardson, New Mexico's current governor, leaves office at the end of 2010 and was asked to consider a pardon before he exits the governor's mansion.

However, Mr Richardson said he decided against a pardon "because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Gov Wallace reneged on his promise".

Ambushed

Known as one of the most notorious gunfighters of the American West, Billy the Kid was reputedly born in New York but moved to Colorado with his mother and brothers when his father died.

He fell into a career of thievery and lawlessness and was hunted across the southern US states and northern Mexico.

He is widely thought to have killed 21 people, although some sources put the figure as high as 27. New Mexico's tourism officials put the number as low as nine.

Eventually captured by Sheriff Patrick Floyd Garrett, Billy the Kid stood trial for the 1878 murder and was eventually sentenced to hang.

But he escaped jail on 30 April 1881, killing two deputies and going on the run.

He was eventually tracked down, ambushed and killed by Garrett on 14 July 1881.

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