Published: 11:00, 19 January 2018
A man accused of murdering a vulnerable grandfather in his Medway home has walked free after a judge rejected a bid by the prosecution to hold a second retrial.
Two juries failed to reach a verdict on Paul Campbell, whose palm and fingerprints were found at Steve Berry’s flat after he was brutally attacked.
Mr Campbell, 30, maintained he had never been to the flat in Kinross Close, Prince’s Park, Chatham, and did not know the 59-year-old victim.
But Judge Philip Statman ruled: “I am satisfied so I am sure it is not in the interests of justice for there to be a third trial in this particular case.
“I am satisfied it would be unjust and oppressive for this defendant to stand trial for a third time. Thus, I regret to say, I am not prepared to accede to the Crown’s position.”
The judge had given the prosecution 24 hours to decide whether to challenge his decision in the Court of Appeal in London.
But prosecutor Martin Yale declared: “The Crown does not intend to take this matter any further. I, therefore, offer no evidence against Mr Campbell.”
A formal not guilty verdict was then recorded.
Mr Campbell, of Farley Close, Chatham, was due to be released from the cells after spending almost 18 months in custody.
Known as Noodles, he was arrested after his palm and fingerprints were found low down on the oven in the kitchen close to where Mr Berry’s battered body was discovered.
He died from a combination of haemorrhage and head injury from “multiple blunt impacts” and penetrating knife injuries to his head and face.
He had severe head injuries including a fractured skull and brain damage. There were stab wounds to the upper chest and defensive injuries to both hands.
A pathologist concluded that food tins, a Stanley knife or the broken handle of a milk pan could have been used as weapons.
Mr Campbell did not give evidence at either of the two trials.
The prosecution alleged the forensic evidence pointed overwhelmingly to his involvement in the killing.
The juries at Maidstone Crown Court heard that despite Mr Berry’s unkempt appearance and untidy flat he was “reasonably wealthy”,having received an inheritance from a relative.
Neighbour Graham Fitzgerald alerted the emergency services on Sunday July 12, 2016 after finding the body.
Mr Berry, an alcoholic who was in poor health, had not been seen for two days and Mr Fitzgerald had become concerned about the unpleasant smell coming from the flat.
Suspicion initially fell on him and he was arrested and held in custody.
Prosecutor Richard Jory QC said by Campbell’s own admission he lied in police interviews about where he was between July 10 and 12.
“Distinct and clear palm prints were found low down on the door of the oven just under 2ft from the floor and next to where the body was discovered,” he said.
When compared with Campbell’s they were “a perfect match”.
Campbell, who worked at Auto Renovations in Hoo, was arrested on July 26, 2016.
When interviewed, he denied knowing Mr Berry or ever being in the flat. His account changed when new evidence was put to him.
“He could think of no explanation as to how his fingerprints could be on the door of the oven,” said Mr Jory.
“The Crown say the only explanation is the obvious one - that he was there and involved in the murder of Mr Berry.
The court was told how various people preyed on the victim for his money. One, a prostitute, was said to have fleeced him out of as much as £30,000.
A woman who lived in Penfold Close, near to Mr Berry’s flat, said Campbell would deliver “weed” to her and her boyfriend.
The first jury was out for over 27 hours before declaring they were deadlocked. The second jury deliberated for 18 hours and were discharged on December 8.
The judge said in his ruling that “extreme violence” was used and it was a brutal murder. No murder weapon or bloodstained clothing, other than the victim’s, was found. No motive was advanced.
The case was based on “wholly circumstantial evidence”.
Mr Campbell’s stance from start to finish was that he had never been to Kinross Close.
The prosecution had asserted that the case against Mr Campbell remained very powerful.
“It goes without saying that the guilty should be convicted,” said Judge Statman. “There is a need for violent crime to be deterred. This was as serious case of murder.
“It seems to me the real difficulty in this case rests with the nature of the evidence that has been presented by the Crown before the jury on two separate occasions.
“It is said there will be no fresh evidence. The Crown’s case has always been that the prints were left there at the time of the murder, and that they belonged to the defendant, and that he possessed the murderous intent at the time he went into that flat.
“The evidence has been considered by two juries over very many hours indeed.
"It is right to say the Crown has asserted this defendant has not given an explanation as to how his prints came to be on that particular oven.
“That was clear to the first jury and the second jury.”
More by this authorKeith Hunt