HE has spent five weeks in prison, genuinely believing he had murdered his lover.
Jamie Nicholson has been behind bars since telling detectives he had killed Belinda Dalby during a night of passion at his flat last month.
But today he is a free man after he was sensationally acquitted of murder when his case took a dramatic twist yesterday.
The 30-year-old was called up before Winchester Crown Court to be told that the detailed post mortem examination into the 26-year-old Miss Dalby’s death now proved that he was innocent of killing her.
The news came just hours after Hampshire’s Major Investigation Team received a report from a Home Office pathologist that ruled the death was not suspicious.
Nicholson, of Edelvale Road, was arrested the same evening Miss Dalby’s body was discovered in a Southampton hostel on June 13.
The discovery sparked a major police investigation as distraught friends and family laid floral tributes to the former Alderman Quilley pupil at Jordan House, the Society of St James hostel in Millbrook Road East, where she was found.
Miss Dalby had been staying there for a couple of months, having moved around a number of times in recent years, but had grown up in the Boyatt Wood area of Eastleigh.
The court heard how Nicholson walked into a police station and told officers “I have killed somebody, Belinda Dalby, in my flat last night”. He later told an officer when he was formally arrested: “I’m guilty, I did it.”
But yesterday afternoon Prosecutor Stuart Ellacott told the court: “We received the post-mortem report, which now means in effect the Crown is unable to put forward the case for murder.
“It would seem this was an unfortunate death caused by a self-inflicted overdose of drugs.
“The reason for the charge was there was a ligature around the neck.
The post-mortem report said that can be discounted as a cause of death.”
During the eight minute hearing, Mr Nicholson sat in the dock sipping water, twitching nervously and flanked by two security guards.
Mr Ellacott added: “The crown will be offering no evidence.”
When asked by the Recorder of Winchester, Judge Keith Cutler, if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had considered other charges, specifically relating to the ligature, Mr Ellacott said they had, but it was “not thought appropriate”.
Nick Tucker, defending Mr Nicholson, said his client believed he had contributed to the death.
He said: “There was the assumption when he found her dead he must have been responsible, but he has no recollection.”
He added there was some suggestion that Mr Nicholson and Miss Dalby may have been playing a sex game involving the ligature.
Mr Nicholson was formally arraigned with the murder allegedly committed between June 11 and June 14 and he pleaded not guilty.
Before formally discharging him, Judge Cutler told the court that Mr Nicholson “indicates he can’t remember because of the drugs that he had taken”.
A middle-aged couple, believed to be Mr Nicholson's parents, were in the public gallery but declined to speak to the Daily Echo as they left court.
Mr Nicolson left in a car from the courthouse car park.
A statement from Hampshire Police said that a report is being prepared for the coroner.