A suspect has been arrested on suspicion of rape – a crime for which another man claims he spent 17 years wrongfully imprisoned.
Andrew Malkinson, aged 57, could be allowed to appeal against his 2004 conviction for the first time after his legal team brought new DNA evidence to light.
In a further development, Greater Manchester Police revealed on Tuesday that a 48-year-old man from Essex had been arrested last month on suspicion of the rape. That suspect has since been released under investigation, police said.
Malkinson was handed a life sentence in 2004 and had twice been refused an appeal after applying for his case to be reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) – the body responsible for investigating alleged miscarriages of justice.
But since his release on licence from HMP North Sea Camp in 2020, advancements in scientific techniques have allowed his legal team at the charity Appeal to provide the commission with evidence which has cast doubt on his conviction.
This new evidence revealed the presence of unknown male DNA in samples taken from the victim and her clothing, and the CCRC was then able to identify an alternative suspect via a search on the National DNA Database.
The commission has now permitted the case to be referred to the Court of Appeal, where judges will decide whether to allow an appeal against the conviction.
“I am innocent,” said Malkinson, in a statement issued via his lawyers. “Finally, I have the chance to prove it thanks to the perseverance of my legal team at Appeal.
“I only have one life and so far 20 years of it has been stolen from me. Yesterday I turned 57 years old. How much longer will it take?”
Malkinson was convicted of strangling and raping a 33-year-old woman in Salford in July 2003, by a jury verdict of 10-2. His legal team claim that this was despite the absence of any forensic evidence linking him to the attack and discrepancies with the descriptions provided by eyewitnesses.
He has maintained that his is a case of mistaken identity and has spent a decade longer in prison than he might have done had he admitted guilt, according to his lawyers.
The new DNA evidence presented to the review commission includes samples taken from underneath the victim’s fingernails, which she said she had used to cause a deep scratch on her attacker’s face. She was left with a broken neck and fractured cheekbone after the attack.
But the legal charity alleged that, “concerningly”, the breakthrough was only possible because samples had been retained in a forensic archive – with crucial exhibits either lost or destroyed by Greater Manchester Police despite a strict legal duty for the force to retain them.
The charity also claimed to have discovered that key evidence was not disclosed to Malkinson’s defence team during his trial, and that the CCRC has decided this bolsters his case for an appeal. The Independent has approached Greater Manchester Police for comment.
Helen Pitcher, chair of the CCRC, said its referral of Malkinson’s case to the Court of Appeal highlights “the importance of the CCRC to our criminal justice system”, adding: “New evidence can come to light years after a conviction, and in this case years after our first review of Mr Malkinson’s application.
“In the ever-changing world of forensic science, it is crucial that there is an independent body who can undertake these enquiries and send cases of concern back to court.
“Following Mr Malkinson’s application, we used our special powers and expertise to re-examine this case, instructing experts to undertake state of the art DNA testing. The new results raise concerns about the safety of these serious convictions.”
Malkinson’s lawyer Emily Bolton said: “The battle for justice is not yet over. The Court of Appeal will now form its own view of the fresh evidence and we hope they will agree that Andy’s conviction cannot now be regarded as safe.
“We hope that the police and prosecution will not spend resources opposing this appeal and instead bring the real perpetrator of this crime to justice.
“The DNA breakthrough in this case was very nearly rendered impossible by the police’s unlawful failure to retain key exhibits – and we will continue to push for accountability,” added Ms Bolton, director of Appeal.