A man convicted of murdering a woman pregnant with twins has won the first round of his legal battle to clear his name.
Waseem Mirza, 34, of Brockholes View, Fishwick, Preston, was jailed for life at Preston Crown Court in January 2001 after he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend.
He and his family – including brother Kamran and sister Huma – have always maintained his innocence and claim the evidence that led to the conviction was flawed.
Mother-of-one Christine Askey, 20, was found dead in her home on the Callon estate on November 29 1999.
She had been strangled and was discovered face down in the bath. Her three-year-old son, Cameron, was in the house at the time.
But Lord Justice May, sitting with Mr Justice McKinnon and Mr Justice Beatson at London's Appeal Court, yesterday ruled that Mirza had "arguable grounds" for saying his conviction was unsafe and gave him permission to take his case to a full appeal hearing.
The judge said Miss Askey, a former Moor Park High pupil, was found by her mother on the morning of November 29, 1999, and was killed at some point during the previous night.
Evidence of both Mirza and Miss Askey's DNA was found on a cigarette at the scene, which he claimed to have shared with her that evening.
He was arrested a month later and admitted to going round to her Nevett Street flat but claimed he left after just 20 minutes.
His story was supported by an alibi supplied before his arrest by a friend who said he had picked him up from the scene.
And the story was corroborated by Mirza's mother who said her son had arrived home at about 11pm.
Lawyers for Mirza yesterday argued his conviction was "unsafe", claiming the "preparation of the case fell short of the standard expected".
They argued that dark wool material and other evidence found at the scene, which could not be linked to Mirza, should have been more thoroughly tested.
And, agreeing to allow Mirza to take his case to a full appeal on an as yet unspecified date in the New Year, Lord Justice May said this ground of appeal was "arguable and can be properly carried forward".
Mirza was convicted of the killing by a jury at Preston Crown Court, marking the end of a 14-month investigation.
The original trial was halted in September 2000 and the jury discharged while legal arguments were resolved.
Mirza, who had an on-off relationship with Miss Askey for around three years, denied murder throughout his trial and at one stage claimed he had not seen her for six months prior to her death.
However, after forensic evidence proved he was lying, he admitted he had sex with her the night before she died.
The trial heard how Miss Askey's life had descended into a sad cycle of drug abuse and promiscuous sex with a number of different men – including Mirza himself.
Shortly after Mirza was jailed, the Evening Post was at the centre of a remarkable twist in the murder inquiry.
In a shock confession letter to the paper, a man claimed he was responsible for Christine's death and Mirza was innocent.
But detectives said the anonymous confession was a hoax and were convinced Mirza did kill her.
However, his family continued to campaign for his release, with his brother and sister, Kamran and Huma Mirza, circulating a petition.
Meanwhile, Christine's family, including her mother Pauline Coombes, said she would not be able to rest in peace until the case was settled.