THE murder of Hampshire grandmother Georgina Edmonds may never be solved after the man police believed was responsible walked free from court.
Jurors found Matthew Hamlen not guilty of the brutal killing of the 77-year-old yesterday after more than 12 hours of discussions.
Detectives have vowed that the case would never be closed and urged people to come forward with fresh information.
It is now one of just three unsolved murders across Hampshire.
Mr Hamlen left Winchester Crown Court arm-in-arm with his mother Linda Manning looking relaxed and calm, having spent more than a year behind bars since he was charged with murder in January last year.
When asked by the Daily Echo how it felt to be free, he said nothing and his mum replied “no comment”.
He left by car with his family, with whom he will now start to rebuild his life as an innocent man.
Several of the jurors were visibly emotional as they returned to deliver their decision in a case which has taken two months.
As the words “not guilty” rang out, there was a gasp from the public gallery and then silence as the judge, Sir David Clarke, told the six women and five men on the jury they would now be exempt from serving again for ten years.
In the public gallery, Mrs Edmonds’ daughter Doddie was comforted by friends and police while Mr Hamlen’s family also shed tears.
It has been the biggest murder investigation in Hampshire in more than 30 years.
Not since the murder of Marion Crofts, a 14-year-old schoolgirl snatched and killed as she cycled to band practice in Aldershot in 1981, has a murder inquiry involved so many officers and generated so much paperwork.
More than 26,000 documents were generated, more than 10,000 people listed on the police database as featuring in the inquiry, 1,000 people called police to offer information, more than 350 people were also named as suspects and hundreds of local men had their DNA taken as police strove to find the killer.
Now, the murder of Georgina will join the small handful of unsolved homicide cases on Hampshire Constabulary’s files.
Just two other murders remain under investigation – the death of Ricky Haywood 23 years ago in Southampton, and the killing of two sisters in Aldershot in 1982.
Detectives are determined to keep the inquiry open in the hope new evidence will come to light.
On the grey, rainy afternoon of January 11, 2008, Georgina is thought to have had lunch and been taking an afternoon nap when she was disturbed by an intruder who had broken in to her house.
Frail and vulnerable, she was tortured with a knife before being battered to death with a marble rolling pin kept on her kitchen worktop.
The vicious attack left her face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Her glasses had been knocked into the dog bowl, spatters of her blood were along the wall and her body left for her son Harry to find when he returned home from work.
Mr Hamlen was the 13th person to be arrested on suspicion of the murder.
The complex trial, featuring world experts, has played out in court 3 at Winchester Crown Court since November.
The case is thought to have cost millions of pounds.