Murderer must stay locked up

A man jailed for murdering his pregnant ex-lover has had his bid for freedom rejected.

Waseem Mirza was convicted of strangling Christine Askey, 20, who was expecting twins, at her home in Nevett Street, on the Callon Estate, Preston.

Mirza, 34, of Brockholes View, Preston, denied the murder but was found guilty and given a life sentence in January 2001.

Describing the original case as "powerful," London's Court of Appeal yesterday refused to grant permission to challenge the Preston Crown Court jury's verdict.

But today lawyers defending Mirza vowed to take the case to The House of Lords.

Mirza's legal team say they will demand to see the evidence of a vital witness – Christine's three-year-old son Cameron who was left alone in the house with his mother's body for hours by the murderer.

And they are offering to pay for DNA testing they claim was previously not undertaken due to cost constraints.

Mirza's lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano said: "Of all the clients I have had to deal with, I believe that this man is innocent. I believe that this conviction is unsafe and unsatisfactory."

During yesterday's court hearing defence barrister David Martin-Sperry argued the preparation of Mirza's case by his then lawyers had been so "markedly" below the minimum standard required that it had affected the safety of the conviction.

But Lord Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Royce and Judge Christopher Moss QC, said that the former security guard could not explain the fact he had plainly lied to police when he said he had not seen the victim in the three months before her death.

Christine was six to seven weeks pregnant with twins when she died. Mirza, who met Christine for sex on several occasions, was said to have killed her because he was angry at her for insisting he was the father of Cameron and the twins. Tests later proved he was neither.

The prosecution said he strangled her with an item of clothing because he was "embarrassed and angry" at her claims.

Christine was found dead in her bath by her mother Pauline Coombes on Monday, November 29, 1999.

Lord Justice Kennedy said Mirza, as a former boyfriend, was questioned by police on December 1, 1999. He said they had only had a sexual relationship and he had not seen her in the three months before her death.

But he was arrested later that month after scientific analysis linked his saliva to cigarette stubs and his semen to clothing found at the flat.

Mr Martin-Sperry said that in January 2000, a good friend of Mirza's told Mirza's solicitors Mirza had been at Miss Askey's home on the Saturday night before she died.

In February 2000, Mirza told his solicitors he had been at her home on the Saturday night with Miss Askey. He said he had not wanted to reveal this as he didn't want his mother and girlfriend to know.

Lord Justice Kennedy said: "He was not particularly bright, his IQ was assessed in the area of 73 or 74."

He said the substance of the complaint now made was it had been "utterly wrong" for those acting on Mirza's behalf not to tell the Crown at the earliest possible time the change in Mirza's case, in that he was now saying he had been there on the Saturday night.

The Crown were told of the change, but not until August 2000, and it was not until the actual trial that they learnt of Mirza's friend – who testified to dropping Mirza off and picking him up on the Saturday night.

Lord Justice Kennedy accepted that, had the Crown had the information earlier and known about the witness, part of the cross-examination would have taken a different course.

But the judge said: "We ask what difference, in the end, would that have made."