Awaking in the early hours of DECEMBER 2nd, 1968, the partially deaf daughter of Mrs. Jean Penfold, 25, found her mother lying nearly naked in a pool of blood at their council flat in Woolwich, south-east London. Mrs. Penfold, who lived together with her daughter, had been beaten to death.

A 26-year-old builder’s labourer who was known to the family and was questioned by the police, he admitted that he had been drinking that night, and that between closing-time on December 1st and midnight he had driven around Woolwich “looking for a woman.” He also admitted going to Mrs. Penfold’s flat just after midnight. He said he had left when he received no reply to his knocks on the door.

Minute spots of blood were found on his shoes and on his blue suit. They were of the same blood group as Mrs. Penfold’s, and he was charged with her murder.

At his trial at the Old Bailey in June 1969, although there was no evidence of sexual assault, the prosecution suggested that this was the motive for Mrs. Penfold’s murder.

The man was convicted, but in March 1970 the Appeal Court ordered a retrial after hearing that the defence had significant new forensic evidence. At the second trial Dr. Alan Grant, senior lecturer in forensic science at Guy’s Hospital, said that the spots of blood found on the suspect’s suit would have been much larger and clearly visible if he were the killer. Moreover, Mrs. Penfold’s blood group was a common one, and it was suggested that the blood on the man’s shoes had come from a fatal accident at a building site.

On May 6th, 1970, he was acquitted. He was believed to be the first man in English legal history to face two juries on the same murder charge and be found guilty by one and innocent by the other, the power to grant a retrial having been introduced six years earlier.