Susan May: Memorial for woman who died fighting conviction

image captionSusan May's son told the memorial service he was proud of his mother's "immense determination"

A memorial service has taken place for a woman who died while fighting to overturn her 1993 murder conviction.

Susan May, 68, spent 12 years in prison after being convicted of murdering her aunt Hilda Marchbank at her home in Royton, Greater Manchester.

She died last month, weeks before a decision was due on whether to grant her leave to appeal against conviction.

Her MP Michael Meacher said she fought with "unfailing dignity to reverse a huge injustice".

A letter he wrote to Ms May's supporters was read out at the service at Bethesda Church Royton, attended by justice campaigners and friends.

'Believed in her innocence'

In it the Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton said: "I was so sorry she had not lived long enough finally to clear her name as I am absolutely sure it will happen.

"I have always believed in her innocence and have enormous regard for the way that she fought so hard and with such unfailing dignity to reverse a huge injustice in the criminal justice system."

Campaigners have said they will carry on the fight to clear her name.

The service was led by Ms May's son, Adam, and friends attending include Sandra Gregory, convicted of drug smuggling in Thailand, who met Ms May in prison.

Adam May said: "I was very proud of her, she had immense determination, courage and humility. She will get her name cleared - it's the ultimate tragedy that she is not here to see it."

Ms Gregory wrote in her book Forget You Had A Daughter: "It didn't take very long for me to realise she [Susan May] was serving a life sentence for a crime she hadn't committed and the more I listened, the more my faith in the British justice system shattered."

"She should be here," Ms Gregory said. "We're going to get her to the appeal court and for her to die now has just broken my heart."

Ms May, who was the first person in the UK to be released at her earliest parole date without admitting guilt, has had two failed appeals. The campaign to clear her name is backed by 100 MPs and peers.

In October, a report was published by fingerprint expert Arie Zeelenberg which stated "bloody handprints" said to link her to the crime were not in fact blood.

The former head of the Dutch national police fingerprint service examined previously unseen high resolution photographs of marks on the wall said by the prosecution to be "bloodstained handprints".

image captionThe photographs on the left show the wall before it was treated, those on the right are the marks after enhancement

His report concludes: "There is no evidence that the finger marks... attributed to Susan May were placed in blood.

"In fact there is overwhelming evidence that they were not comprised of blood but instead of sweat and a minor residue of another unknown substance."

Mr Zeelenberg's report is being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which could refer Ms May's case back to the Court of Appeal.

The former deputy head of Hampshire CID, Des Thomas, has also reviewed the original police investigation and concluded that "anomalies" may have led to Ms May being wrongly convicted.

Other evidence has also been discredited - the CCRC previously said it uncovered forged documents and "unreliable" recollections.

Evidence the jury never heard included the fact that a red car was seen outside Mrs Marchbank's house with its engine running at around the time of the murder and an anonymous call was made to police the following morning naming a well-known local burglar as the killer.

Greater Manchester Police has said it would not be appropriate to comment on the case while an appeal is in progress.

media captionSusan May said a new fingerprint report into her case is "the best thing that's happened in 21 years"

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