Campaigners take up fight for innocence

Christine Askey with her son
Christine Askey with her son
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The case of a former security guard convicted of murdering a Preston mum-to-be 12 years ago is being reviewed by a human rights organisation.

The Innocent Project, based at University of Gloucester, is investigating the case of Waseem Mirza, 41, from Brockholes View, Preston.

Mirza was given a life sentence in January 2001 for strangling Christine Askey, 20, in her bath amid claims he was father to her unborn twins.

During the two week trial, Preston Crown Court heard how Christine’s mother Pauline Coombes called at her daughter’s house in Nevett Street and found her dead on November 29, 1999.

The prosecution claimed Mirza strangled the former Moor Park High School pupil, who was six weeks pregnant with twins, with clothing.

Mirza, who met Christine for sex on several occasions, was said to have killed her because he was “embarrassed and angry” at her for insisting he was the father of the unborn children and her three-year-old son Cameron.

Tests proved he was not the father to any of the children.

The judge, Mr Justice Sachs, branded Mirza “brutal and cowardly” during the trial.

Mirza was refused leave to appeal after his conviction in 2005 and vowed to take his case to the The House of Lords. Now, the case is one of 45 campaigners say contain plausible claims of innocence and needs investigation.

Details are drawn from evidence heard in open court, witness statements, forensic reports, and a questionnaire filled in by each applicant.

According to Innocence Network UK, the Criminal Cases Review Commission has rejected each case at least once. Michael Naughton, senior law lecturer at Bristol University and founder of the Innocence Network UK, is running the campaign. The campaign to reform the CCRC follows criticism from others outside of Innocence Network UK, such as Vera Baird QC, former solicitor general and John Cooper, QC.

Lorna Barron, a research assistant with Innocence Network UK, said the requirement to go to appeal were too restrictive and the organisations received letters from people in prison or their families seeking help. At the time of his bid for appeal London’s Court of Appeal described the original case as “powerful.”

After the ruling Mirza’s legal team will demand to see the evidence of Christine’s son Cameron, left alone in the house with his mother’s body for hours by the murderer.