Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Georgina Edmonds murder: DNA led to Matthew Hamlen conviction

Georgina Edmonds Image copyright Family Handout
Image caption A two-year manhunt began in 2008 after Georgina Edmonds was found stabbed and battered to death

A man who broke into a pensioner's home, tortured her for her PIN number and battered her to death with a rolling pin has been convicted of her murder.

Matthew Hamlen had initially been cleared of the crime in 2012 but was found guilty after fresh DNA evidence came to light.

Georgina Edmonds' son found her battered body in her cottage by the banks of the River Itchen, in Hampshire, in 2008.

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Media captionDoddie Edmonds described the family's eight year wait for justice.

The 77-year-old widow, who lived alone, had been stabbed several times with a knife and tortured for her bank card Pin code before being battered with a marble rolling pin.

Following a two-year manhunt, during which almost 2,000 people were DNA tested, Hamlen was eventually charged with murder. The DNA profile was incomplete, however, and he was acquitted at Winchester Crown Court in 2012.

With no other suspects, the case was about to be effectively shelved in 2013 when Det Insp Martin Chudley, of Hampshire Constabulary, led a final review of the evidence.

"I always felt it was impossible that he left nothing behind," he said.

Image caption Matthew Hamlen was found not guilty of Mrs Edmonds' murder in 2012

"It was a long, prolonged attack, he was there for quite some considerable time - I just couldn't conceive there wasn't a part of him there somewhere."

Forensic samples taken from Mrs Edmonds' trousers and the rolling pin had been thought to be the most likely to yield the killer's DNA as those were items which had clearly been touched.

Hamlen's DNA had been found on the rolling pin but had been mixed with that of Mrs Edmonds. This meant a full profile may have been there but was masked by their shared characteristics.

After the acquittal, Det Insp Chudley asked scientists to re-examine samples taken from the original murder scene.

He was told it was "unlikely to work", but the team decided to examine some of the fibres from the back left sleeve of Ms Edmond's blouse. It proved crucial and in February 2014, a full profile of Hamlen's DNA was identified.

The Court of Appeal subsequently quashed the original not guilty verdict, paving the way for Hamlen, 36, to be put on trial for murder for a second time.

What is Double Jeopardy?

  • For 800 years in English law, a defendant could not be tried a second time on the same (or similar) charges after they had been acquitted
  • The principal was changed in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act to allow the Court of Appeal to quash an acquittal and order a retrial when "new and compelling" evidence is produced
  • Such evidence could include DNA material, new witnesses or a confession which has come to light
  • The legislation applies to up to 30 offences which attract a life sentence, including manslaughter, kidnap, rape, armed robbery and a number of serious drugs crimes
  • High profile cases since the law was changed include the convictions of Gary Dobson and David Norris who were found guilty in 2012 for the 1993 murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence and Wendell Baker, who was jailed for life in 2013 for the rape of pensioner Hazel Backwell in Stratford, east London, in 1997

This time the DNA evidence was strong enough, along with mobile phone evidence, for the prosecution to place him at the murder scene.

His mobile phone had been used nearby, close to the time of the murder, and again near to where Mrs Edmonds' mobile had been switched on and then discarded.

Forensic scientist Geraldine Davidson told jurors the material found on the blouse was 26 million times more likely to have come from Hamlen than someone else.

The prosecution alleged he had targeted her for her money. Hamlen had a history of domestic violence and cocaine use, was suspected of dealing drugs and was thought to be considerably in debt.

However, he flatly denied any involvement in the killing.

Image copyright BBC/Family handout
Image caption Mrs Edmonds lived alone at Fig Tree Cottage with her cat and two dogs

"I know I didn't do this, I could not do something like this," he told the court. "As far as the DNA goes, I'm not an expert. All I can tell you is, it didn't get there at the time, if it is mine."

For Mrs Edmonds' family, who were left without the closure of a conviction in 2012, the guilty verdict marks the end of what her daughter Doddie described as a "long road".

"I try not to dwell on the details of the actual murder - she was hurt so badly and how terrified she must have been. I always thought of her as safe in her little cottage by the river.

"She was the heart of the family - she brought us all together, she was the warmth of the family.

"I think it will bring some kind of closure, some kind of justice which she deserves. But it will never bring my mother back."

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