Convicted Stevenage murderer in bid to clear his name

A PAINTER and decorator who served 25 years in jail for murder is to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to clear his name.

Paul Cleeland, 67, was jailed in 1973 for shooting gangland leader Terry Clarke in Stevenage.

Cleeland, who lived at Four Acres in Stevenage, is said to have shot Mr Clarke twice as he got out of his Jaguar on Grace Way, close to his home, at about 2am on November 6, 1972.

Cleeland, a friend of Mr Clarke’s, has always protested his innocence.

He now claims forensic evidence used in his trial has been discredited, and that techniques used in testing shotgun residue could prove his innocence.

“I’ve always said I was innocent,” he said. “I served my minimum 20 years but still wasn’t released because I wouldn’t say I was guilty.”

At Cleeland’s first trial in April 1973, the jury could not reach a verdict.

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But a retrial later that year saw him convicted of murder and sentenced to life.

There was no eyewitness evidence against Cleeland, who now lives in Folkestone in Kent, and the only motive put forward by police was that he had an argument with Mr Clarke two years earlier.

Cleeland had his first appeal dismissed in 1976, and has since been to the High Court more than a dozen times trying to get his conviction quashed and a judicial review of his case. But Law Lords have refused to refer the matter back to the Appeal Court.

A series of anomalies in the evidence against Cleeland persuaded various MPs, including former Stevenage MPs Shirley Williams and Bowen Wells, to call for the case to be reopened.

They included the fact that the killing was witnessed by Mr Clarke’s wife, who would have recognised Cleeland, a friend; that the alleged weapon could not have caused the injuries; that Cleeland’s prison records were altered, possibly to destroy part of his defence case; that lead traces on his clothing could have come from paint – he was a decorator; and that the result of an inquiry into allegations of perjury by officers in the case has remained secret.