A man jailed for life for the murder of an underworld rival six years ago has been condemned to serve out his sentence after top judges swiftly rejected his Appeal Court bid to clear his name.
Kevin Andrew Spires, 43, spent the evening playing pool in a pub with 44-year-old Neil Orton, but within minutes of arriving back at Mr Orton’s home had inflicted fatal knife wounds.
In April 2008, Spires, of Cuffley Court, Hemel Hempstead, was found guilty by a jury at St Albans Crown Court of Mr Orton’s murder in June 2007 and jailed for life.
Yesterday at London’s Court of Appeal his barrister Joel Bennathan QC argued that the jury’s guilty verdict was “unsafe”.
But Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice SIlber and Mr Justice Lewis rejected the appeal, prompting cries of “I love you” from Spires’ supporters at the back of court.
“We are not persuaded that the applicant has even arguable grounds to undermine the safety of his conviction,” said Lady Justice Hallett at the end of a one-day hearing.
“Not only was there a strong case against him, he was ably represented and he was convicted after a full and fair investigation into the facts, and a trial.”
The court heard Mr Orton turned up at Hemel Hempstead Hospital on the night of June 14, 2007, having been stabbed several times.
He did not name his attacker and, despite receiving prompt medical attention, died because he had lost so much blood.
The prosecution case against Spires was based not only on a long history of bad blood between him and the victim, but also “confession” evidence, the judge said.
Three witnesses at the trial said that Spires had admitted murdering Mr Orton, she continued.
Mr Bennathan argued that the failure of the prosecution to disclose the details of one prosecution witness’ previous convictions undermined the safety of the conviction.
Although the defence knew the witness was a thief, they did not know that the theft involved a serious attempt to deceive the police, he said.
“If the star witness implicating the applicant actually had a proven record of telling quite elaborate lies, then we do say that’s highly relevant and that should have been disclosed,” said the QC.
“That is sufficient by itself to cast doubt on the safety of the conviction.”
But Lady Justice Hallett said: “This trial was, on any view, awash with evidence of bad character.
“The jury can have been under no illusions as to the kind of witnesses before them.”
The appeal was dismissed.