Joan Albert murder: Simon Hall supporters respond to confession

Simon Hall and the murder scene in Ipswich
Image caption Thousands of hours in legal research went into Simon Hall's bid to clear his name of Joan Albert's murder

In maintaining his innocence during his time in prison, Simon Hall was no different to many convicted killers.

For 12 years he vigorously denied he was guilty of the murder of 79-year-old Joan Albert at her home in Capel St Mary in Suffolk.

What made Simon Hall different was that he was believed.

Not just by his family and friends but by the wider public, legal experts, parts of the media and the ex-Ipswich MP Chris Mole.

The fact of his confession - made formally to the prison authorities - only emerged on Thursday.

Neither Hall's wife Stephanie nor his parents were available for comment about the confession.

Image caption Campaigner Ray Hollingsworth said in his heart he still supports Hall

'Complete shock'

But the admission has left some of Hall's most ardent supporters stunned.

One of them is Ray Hollingsworth, who has invested two years of his life on the case as a layman researcher.

"It is one of the biggest shocks I've had in my life, if not the biggest," he said.

"In my heart I still support Simon no matter what because my belief has always been in his innocence."

He told how on learning of Hall's confession, he wondered whether he had "cracked".

"He's been in hospital and I wondered whether it was linked to that, whether he had lost confidence in everyone.

"I'm in complete shock. I don't know what his motivation would be. I'm not sure how to accept this news. Has he had a nervous breakdown?"

Although the exact wording of Hall's confession has yet to be made public, it appears sincere.

It is understood it was first made to a third party and then confirmed with the prison authorities.

Hall then agreed to drop his application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to consider his case.

It is also doubtful that the confession was made for personal gain - because it will have "no impact" on the minimum tariff he will serve, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Hollingsworth, who believes he had gathered evidence which showed two other people were responsible for Mrs Albert's murder, said: "If I'm wrong about this, I'm wrong.

"I will hold my hands up. I'm not going to hide from anyone.

"I believed in his innocence."

'Needles in haystacks'

And then there are the countless hours of unpaid work by students at the University of Bristol on the Hall case.

The university's Innocence Project became involved after an approach by documentary makers for the BBC Rough Justice programme.

Image caption Joan Albert was found dead in the hallway of her home

Dr Michael Naughton told how he received a letter last week from Hall's wife Stephanie telling him her husband had admitted the murder and asking him to close the case down.

"We are not shocked - we are alive to the possibility that a lot of people who say they are innocent are not.

"We are looking for needles in haystacks in our project.

"It is quite sad in terms of the waste of resources and the distress to (Mrs Albert's) family members when it turns out like this."

And the "thousands of hours" Bristol law students have spent on the Hall case, said Dr Naughton, could easily have been spent on "somebody else's case".

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