IT was the chance sighting that was to completely change his life.
Innocent Robert Hodgson had already served 26 years for a crime he didn’t commit, convicted of the horrifying rape and murder of Teresa De Simone, when he spotted an advert that would be the key to his freedom.
After initially confessing to a priest and then detectives that he had strangled 22-year-old Teresa De Simone in December 1979, he changed his story and insisted he wasn’t guilty.
Hodgson had also told police he was responsible for around 100 burglaries, but many had never happened.
Two further murders he confessed to – of a homosexual and a newspaper-seller – could not be traced.
He told Winchester Crown Court jurors he was a “pathological liar”, but they didn’t believe him and took just three-and-a-half hours to convict him.
Hodgson unsuccessfully attempted an appeal in 1983, and although he continued to protest his innocence while being held in Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, his case remained closed.
Then, last March, he spotted an advert for a London-based solicitors’ specialising in appeals against conviction nestled in the pages of Inside Time – a monthly newspaper for prisoners published in Hedge End.
Hodgson, who has spent much of his time behind bars in Albany’s hospital wing battling mental illness, decided to call Julian Young and Co.
The Ad that led to freedom
“I don’t know if he had made any other attempts to officially plead his innocence since his attempted appeal was turned down,” senior partner Julian Young told the Daily Echo. “I can’t say why his case wasn’t looked at before now, but he has been in a psychiatric ward for much of the time since then, and maybe it was just that nobody listened to him.
“He was aware DNA evidence existed but my colleague decided it was the ideal case to take forward, particularly when we’re looking at old samples because science has moved on fantastically in the last few years.
“Inside a year we have got to a situation whereby he is to walk free. We specialise in appeals, so we do get a certain number of requests, and we have a professional obligation to follow them up and give our advice. It comes down to instincts, and in this case they have obviously been proved right.
“Sometimes those instincts can be wrong, but between myself and my business partner, we’ve got 55 years’ qualified experience, which counts for a lot.”
Convinced of the case, Hodgson’s legal team set about trying to prove his innocence, requesting the police arrange for DNA testing to be carried out.
“All the agencies have got together to ensure that a miscarriage of justice is corrected, but the idea that the police suddenly decided of their own behest to get on with this is not right,” said Mr Young. “We pushed and pushed and pushed.”
The first results from those tests came back in December, showing Hodgson could not have been the killer. After the case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, he is now set to have his conviction quashed on Wednesday. Once freed by the Court of Appeal, Hodgson could be in line for compensation of up to £500,000 for his ordeal behind bars.