A prisoner jailed 15 years ago for one of the city’s most notorious crimes has had his case sent to the Court of Appeal.
On Valentines Day 1997, Preston man John Dookie, of Princes Reach, Riversway, was stabbed in the street in a suspected ambush. He fought desperately for his life, but died two days later at the Royal Preston Hospital.
His friend James Handyside, formerly of Deepdale Road, Deepdale, came within an inch of losing his life when he was also stabbed during the incident in St Peter’s Street, Preston.
Reportedly the result of a bitter war between drug dealers, it was one of the largest murder inquiries in Preston for years and it sent shockwaves through the community.
Police and judiciary alike condemned the nature of the attack.
A Crown Court judge condemned the murder as a “vicious attack”, while a senior detective at the time said the offence showed “elements of brutality not often seen.”
In March the following year, despite always maintaining his innocence, Kevin Samuel Cole was jailed for the incident.
But ever since he was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on March 21, 1998, a huge campaign has been in place to prove his innocence.
The Merseyside Against Injustice Group has always maintained Cole is innocent and his imprisonment is a gross miscarriage of justice.
Now, 15 years on, it is understood Wigan-based solicitors Stephensons LLP, acting for Cole, have highlighted new evidence concerning issues of identification and the original evidence relating to ID presented at the 1998 trial.
And that has led the Criminal Cases Review Commission to take the extremely rare step of referring the murder conviction back to the Court of Appeal.
A date for the hearing is yet to be set.
The CCRC says it takes the rare step of referring cases to the Court of Appeal after it “considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made.”
Correna Platt, an appeals partner at Stephensons, is representing Cole, who lived at Deeley Close, Wavertree. She said: “We can confirm that Kevin Cole’s case has been referred back to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC following submissions made by us on his behalf.”
A Preston Crown Court trial in 1998 heard that the incident was as a result of a bitter war between drug dealers.
Cole pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Dookie and a charge of wounding with intent to do grevious bodily harm with regard to James Handyside. But he was convicted and jailed for life.
He was refused leave to appeal in 1999. Mr Cole’s current application to the Criminal Cases review Commission was made in February 2008.
In a press release announcing the referral, the Commission said it has decided to refer the conviction to the Court of Appeal because it considers that new evidence capable of undermining identification evidence heard at the trial raises the real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction.
Of the 1,000 applications for reviews considered by the CCRC each year only approximately four per cent are ever referred to the Court of Appeal.
Since the Criminal Cases Review Commission - made up of nine commissioners - was set up in 1997, 15,332 requests for reviews have been considered and just 505 have been referred to the Court of Appeal.
Of those, 325 resulted in convictions being quashed.