I didn't kill Jodi

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A MAN named by Luke Mitchell's lawyers as an alternative suspect in the Jodi Jones murder today declared he was "100 per cent innocent".

James Falconer hit out after being identified as a possible suspect in papers lodged by Mitchell's defence team at the Court of Appeal.

He accused Donald Findlay QC, who is leading the appeal, of dragging his name into the mud and accused the lawyer of "sheer desperation".

Mr Falconer, who lives only a few minutes' walk from the secluded spot were 14-year-old Jodi was killed, has been questioned by police in connection with the brutal murder. But detectives are understood to have ruled him out of their investigations.

Mr Falconer, of Reed Drive, Dalkeith, was identified by Mitchell's legal team after being linked to a condom found near the woodland murder scene.

He said: "I was questioned by police and they cleared me. I think it's tragic my name has been dragged into this by Donald Findlay.

"I had nothing to do with the murder. I could never do something like that. I'm 100 per cent innocent."

The defence team alleges that a recently-used condom was found 50 metres from the spot where Jodi was killed, in June 2003. They added that DNA swabs matched a sample taken from Mr Falconer, who they claim also gave false statements to police.

The DNA link, however, has been disputed in court, with prosecutor John Beckett QC telling a recent hearing that DNA from Mr Falconer was "no match whatsoever" with samples collected.

The defence has yet to decide whether to pursue the "fresh evidence" as part of their bid to free Mitchell. Judges would also have to rule whether the evidence was admissible.

Mr Falconer – who is in his mid-20s and lives with his mother Ann and brothers Bryan and Mark – said he had been worried about being targeted as a hate figure. He said: "I didn't know what would happen when it came out. But I've had a great reaction from family, friends and neighbours, who have been very supportive.

"We all know that Luke did it. This case has been hanging over Dalkeith for years. It must be terrible for Jodi's family, so the sooner it goes away the better."

His mother Ann, a nurse, said: "I know my son has done nothing wrong. He didn't have anything to do with the murder."

Mitchell, now 19, was sentenced to serve at least 20 years for the murder of his girlfriend, but the courts started hearing his appeal against the conviction last week.

Court documents submitted by his lawyers said a DNA match between the used condom and Mr Falconer would have been "the cornerstone of the defence case" in the original trial.

The papers added: "This additional evidence is of such significance that the verdict returned in ignorance of it must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice.

"His explanation given to police for semen in a condom lacked credibility and aspects of his statement have proven to be false.

"This condom directly links James Falconer to the scene at or around the time of the murder."

A second "suspect" was also named by Mitchell's team as Mark Kane, an alleged drug user studying at Newbattle Abbey College in Dalkeith, who was "untraceable" during the murder hunt.

Mitchell tattoo evidence 'against the rules'

THE jury at the Jodi Jones murder trial should not have heard about Luke Mitchell's tattoo because it was a blatant attack on his character, appeal judges heard today.

Defence QC Donald Findlay claimed prosecutors during the trial, which ended in January 2005, had "flagrantly breached the rules".

They had led evidence which had nothing to do with the murder of Jodi, but alleged that Mitchell was involved in another crime – fraud.

Mr Findlay said: "What this had to do with Luke and a charge of murder, in my submission, defies any rational explanation, other than the fact that the Crown just used it to have another go at Luke."

The lawyer suggested that the description of the tattoo with flames coming out of a figure's eyes, was part of the attempts to suggest Mitchell was an oddball and interested in things satanic.

"Would the Crown have been so keen on leading evidence about the nature of the tattoo if it had been Little Bo Peep or 'Luke Mitchell is innocent' or something of that order?" he said.

Mr Findlay continued: "The Crown time and time again tried to get this young man convicted of murder by blackening his character."

The appeal judges heard that at the time of Mitchell's trial, rules were in the process of changing. The Crown Office, responsible for overseeing prosecutions in Scotland, issued guidelines in September 2004 ordering the handover of all witness statements to defence lawyers.

The guidelines took effect in January 2005 – just weeks before Mitchell's conviction.

Mr Findlay claimed that trial judge Lord Nimmo Smith should not have allowed the evidence from the tattoo parlour and that his decision to overrule defence objections was a miscarriage of justice.

Earlier today Mr Findlay told appeal judges that questions put to Mitchell's mother Mitchell with the aim of destroying her son's alibi were "a trap" and "an ambush".

He said prosecutor Allan Turnbull QC, who has since been made a judge, broke the rules by not warning Mitchell's defence team that he was going to ask about Mrs Mitchell helping her underage son to get the tattoo using false ID.

Mr Findlay, who has spent five days presenting his case, is expected to complete his speech to the appeal court tomorrow by asking them to consider possible evidence which might point to someone else as Jodi's killer.

The hearing continues.