Is this a record? At five different sittings of assizes William Leighton stepped into the dock to be tried for the rape and murder of four-year-old Jill Irwin, whose body was found on MAY 7th, 1952, in a wood near her home in Coleraine, County Derry.
A labourer, Leighton was 31 at the time of the crime and his first trial at Derry Assizes in July 1952 ended with the jury unable to agree a verdict. A second trial, four months later at Armagh Assizes, was abandoned after his mother – a key witness as to his mental condition – was injured in a car crash. Then at Derry Assizes in March 1952 Leighton was found unfit to plead and was sent to a mental institution.
He was back at Derry Assizes two years later and was again found unfit to plead, and he made his last appearance at Derry Assizes in July 1955 when he admitted murder and was sentenced to death.
A reprieve followed, and his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. After spending nearly 25 years behind bars, he committed suicide in 1980 by slashing his wrists with a knife from the prison kitchen.