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Man walks free after second murder trial

Daniel Fleming appeared at Maidstone Crown Court
Daniel Fleming appeared at Maidstone Crown Court

A man accused of killing his best friend by setting fire to him walked free from court today when a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Daniel Fleming, 28, smiled at relatives in the public gallery when he heard he would not have to face a third trial for the alleged murder of Frank Coulter in Dover in April 2006.

Mr Fleming had been on retrial at Maidstone Crown Court after the first jury also failed to reach a verdict in December last year.

The second trial ended on Monday after the jury of eight women and four men indicated that after four days deliberation they would not reach a verdict even if given more time.

Prosecutor Anthony Haycroft told the court that the Crown would, therefore, be offering no evidence and a formal not guilty verdict was entered by Judge Michael Lawson QC.

Explaining the prosecution's decision, Mr Haycroft told the court: "There is a convention that a man should only be tried twice on the same facts. That convention is generally followed unless there are exceptional reasons not to do so."

Mr Haycroft added that a third trial would be "a carbon copy" as there was no new evidence.

Discharging the jury Judge Lawson said he was sure they had given the case "conscientious thought".

It was alleged Mr Fleming had taken petrol to 49-year-old Mr Coulter's flat in Dalmatia Court, Marjan Close, poured it over him and then ignited it. Mr Coulter was taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford with 65 per cent burns but died a week later.

The court heard the two unemployed men were "drinking buddies" but had a stormy relationship. Mr Fleming, who admitted being in the flat when the fire started, told the jury Mr Coulter had previously made a sexual advance towards him.

The former drug addict said that on the day of the fire Mr Coulter said he loved him. Mr Fleming, who lived in Hyde Court, Clarendon Street, Dover, said Mr Coulter then set fire to himself after spilling lager on his clothes and lighting a cigarette.

The court heard Mr Fleming ran home without trying to put out the flames, pressing any alarms at the building or calling for help. But he denied during cross-examination that he fled because he had deliberately started the blaze and wanted to kill Mr Coulter.

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