Appeal Court frees Glasgow man after six years in jail for murder

A MAN walked free with a not proven verdict yesterday after being retried for the murder of his girlfriend.

John Hemphill, of Highholm Street, Port Glasgow, spent six and a half years in jail after being found guilty in August 1995 of shooting 20-year-old Sally Cannon dead at the flat they shared in the town.

Amid extraordinary scenes in the High Court in Glasgow, Mr Hemphill shook hands with his brother, Pat, 38, who last year walked free with a not proven verdict from the same court, where he had been accused of murdering a Greenock drug dealer, Paul Peralta, 27.

As the jury announced their verdict, Ms Cannon’s furious relatives shouted: "It’s a joke."

Mr Hemphill then jumped to his feet in the dock, punched the air and shouted: "I’ve done my seven years." Another brother, Christopher, repeatedly shouted: "Justice has been done," before being ejected from the court.

Afterwards, Mr Hemphill walked from court with his brothers and his mother, May, saying: "There are no winners. Sally’s dead and the person who did it is still free."

Mr Hemphill was granted a retrial by the Appeal Court after claiming his defence failed to present vital forensic evidence during the first trial which could have proved his innocence.

Ms Cannons brutal slaying happened in April 1995 at the flat she shared with Mr Hemphill at Kelburn Terrace, Port Glasgow.

During the trial, which ended yesterday after 13 days of evidence, the jury heard extracts from Sally’s secret diary, in which she wrote about "arguments all day" with her lover, asking: "When will it all end? Soon please. John can’t seem to stand me lately. He wants me to leave."

She added: "Things are becoming unbearable. Life sucks at the moment. I am so sad."

The jury was told how, on the night of the incident, Alexander McCulloch, 35, heard a voice shout: "You’re getting it you bitch."

Mr McCulloch claimed he then heard a pop followed by a squealing sound then two more pops before he saw Mr Hemphill run from the tenement.

Mr McCulloch, it emerged, had been examined by a psychiatrist, who considered him to be in the border line mentally handicapped range.

There were so many discrepancies in his evidence that the trial judge, Lord Abernethy, in his summing up told the jury that if they did not accept his evidence they would have to acquit Mr Hemphill.

The trial hinged around small blood spatters on Mr Hemphill’s clothing.

Mr Hemphill, as in the last trial, didn’t give evidence, but the jury heard a tape recorded interview with police in which he described how he arrived back at the flat he shared with Ms Cannon to find the front door open.

There was blood in the hall and on the stairs and, fearing there could be someone in the house, he got a machete from behind the living room fireplace. Then he saw a trail of blood and followed it upstairs to where he found Sally slumped on a landing.

Mr Hemphill said he ran out of the flat, dialled 999 at a phone box and then went by taxi to his brother’s, returning with him to find Sally still lying there.

He then cradled her in his arms as they waited for an ambulance.