Mitchell legal team drops interest in Jodi 'suspect'

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LAWYERS for Luke Mitchell have dropped their interest in one of two new "suspects" for the murder of Jodi Jones, it was announced yesterday.

Attention continues to be focused on the other man, but a court heard that the person who had put forward his name had been hoping to sell the story to the media.

Meanwhile, the prosecution began its reply to claims Mitchell's conviction for murdering Jodi should be quashed, and insisted that there had been no miscarriage of justice.

"There was no direct evidence against him and the case was entirely circumstantial in nature. But there was both sufficient evidence and a rational basis for the conviction," argued the advocate depute, John Beckett, QC.

Mitchell, 19, was found guilty of murdering Jodi in woods off a path near her home in Dalkeith, Midlothian, in June 2003, when they were aged 14, and he was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years under a life sentence. His appeal is based on several grounds, including that he had not received a fair trial and that there was insufficient evidence to justify the verdict.

His lawyers have also reported to the Court of Criminal Appeal that they are working on an additional ground, which would require the leave of the court to be presented because the time for lodging it has expired.

That ground related initially to two men, Mark Kane and James Falconer, against whom, it was suggested, there was evidence as compelling as the case made against Mitchell.

Donald Findlay, QC, told the appeal judges yesterday that inquiries were continuing in respect of Mr Kane, a student at Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith, at the time of the killing. He said Mr Kane "ticked all the boxes" as much as Mitchell was alleged to do.

"We have a man who managed to stay below the police radar, a man who lived in the vicinity and who knew the vicinity. He has said to a witness that he was passing the end of the path at or about the time of the murder. He is a man who, in the days after the murder, is behaving oddly, even bizarrely, and has scratch marks to his face which he is trying to hide. He gives an explanation that does not convince those who receive it," said Mr Findlay.

This week, in a newspaper interview, Mr Falconer said he was "100 per cent innocent".

Mr Findlay told the appeal court that "as a result of investigations" he was no longer pursuing an interest in Mr Falconer.

The Crown objects to the new ground being presented, and Mr Beckett told the court that investigations had been carried out after a witness, Scott Forbes, put forward Mr Kane's name.

"He indicated Kane had written an essay, Killing a girl in the woods. The Crown had police take a statement from a lecturer and the lecturer confirmed that Kane wrote no such essay. I have information that Scott Forbes told Mark Kane, 'Just admit it … we will get 50,000 from the newspapers'," Mr Beckett said.

The hearing continues.

TALKING WITH CONVICTION

ON THE sixth day of the appeal hearing, the prosecution opened its defence of the jury's guilty verdict against Luke Mitchell.

The advocate depute, John Beckett, QC, stated: "The Crown supports the conviction, and in my submission there has been no miscarriage of justice ."

He contended that there were 20 chapters of circumstantial evidence which, separately, need not be incriminating, but which, taken together, built a case against Mitchell.

He said Jodi had told her mother as she left her home at 4:50pm that she was meeting Luke and that they would be "mucking about" near her house.

He lived about 15 minutes' walk away at the other end of Roan's Dyke path, Dalkeith.

A witness identified Mitchell at Jodi's end of the path with a girl at about 4:55pm.

Mitchell had phoned Jodi's home saying he was looking for her. According to the Crown, he was putting his defence in place, because he knew where she was – he had killed her.