Glasgow & West Scotland

Colin Norris: Juror's doubt over serial killer verdict

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Media captionThe foreman of a jury which convicted a serial killer tells the BBC he now believes Colin Norris is innocent

The foreman of a jury which convicted a serial killer has told the BBC he now believes the man is innocent.

Colin Norris, 38, was jailed for life in 2008 for murdering four patients and attempting to kill a fifth at hospitals in Leeds, where he worked as a nurse.

Juror Paul Moffitt spoke out after a Panorama investigation suggested the women may have died of natural causes.

He told the BBC that if the case was presented today with the new evidence, he doubted if it would get to court.

Norris, from Glasgow, was convicted at Newcastle Crown Court in 2008 following a five month-long trial.

He was convicted of murdering Doris Ludlam, 80, Bridget Bourke, 88, Irene Crookes, 79, and 86-year-old Ethel Hall.

He was alleged to have injected them with lethal doses of insulin at Leeds General Infirmary and the city's St James's Hospital in 2002.

He was also found guilty of attempting to murder 90-year-old Vera Wilby.

Expert challenges

A blood test from Ethel Hall had suggested a high level of insulin in her system.

There was no evidence of insulin present in the blood of the other patients but they were diagnosed with hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar levels. None was diabetic.

In December's BBC Panorama programme, Prof Terry Wilkin, an endocrinologist from the University of Exeter, Dr Adel Ismail, a retired clinical biochemist, and insulin poisoning expert Prof Vincent Mark all challenged the prosecution case with a series of claims.

These were:

  • an "unrealistic" amount of injected insulin (just over one litre) would have been needed to produce the blood-test result in Ethel Hall's case;
  • a rare condition called insulin auto-immune syndrome, rather than foul play, could have explained the blood-test;
  • hypoglycaemia occurs naturally in up to 10% of sick, elderly people so a cluster of cases would not necessarily suggest murder, as the prosecution had claimed.

The programme also reported that a sixth case, of a patient who died after a similar hypoglycaemic episode, was not put to the jury after detectives discounted it when they realised that Colin Norris had not been on shift at the time.

Paul Moffitt is the second juror to tell the BBC that Norris's conviction should be quashed.

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Image caption Clockwise, from top left: Bridget Bourke, Irene Crookes, Ethel Hall and Doris Ludlam

The new evidence, he said, showed that the nurse was not a killer.

"If this case was presented with this new evidence today, I don't even know how it could possibly get to court in the first place," he said.

Mr Moffitt, 36, said he realised the prosecution might have evidence to the contrary, but he believed "the evidence shows that a murder wasn't committed at all, never mind four or one attempted murder, that's what it shows to me".

He said if the convictions were overturned the case would probably be remembered as one of the "biggest ever" miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

"I don't think there's ever been a case where there's been a serial killer who's had his conviction quashed," he said.

Why we can report juror's views

It's a common belief that jurors are forbidden from speaking to the media.

In fact, that's not the case.

It is just very unusual, discouraged by the legal profession and tightly controlled.

A juror can give an interview but the Contempt of Court Act 1981 is prescriptive about the conditions.

It is contempt of court to "obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury".

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is considering whether the case merits an appeal, but some relatives of the women who died say they are still convinced of Norris's guilt.

A spokesman for the commission said it was reviewing the new evidence but could not say how long that investigation would take.

"The commission is actively reviewing the case," he said.

"It is not possible to give an estimate as to how long our investigation will take, not least because we are still receiving submissions from Mr Norris' representatives.

"We are aware of the Panorama programme and the issues raised in it and we will be giving careful consideration to those issues."

Mr Moffitt said he thought about the case every single day and was clear about what should happen to the nurse, now in his seventh year of a life sentence with a minimum term of 30 years.

"I'd like to see Colin Norris freed," he said, adding: "That's why I came forward, put my name forward, I just felt it would be my duty to do that."

He said his message for Norris, who is serving his sentence at the high security HMP Frankland, was simple: "Justice will come your way."

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