IT was a gruesome and savage killing which sent shockwaves through a Hampshire community.

The bloody and battered body of Eddie Maddick was found dumped under a hedge in a darkened cut through.

He had been left for dead, his skull, jaw, cheekbone and ribs fractured and injuries that were consistent with being repeatedly kicked and possibly stamped on. His murderer has never been found.

Now, nearly a decade after the tragedy at Tebourba Way in Millbrook, the mystery over the death of the disabled 45-yearold father-of-two has taken an extraordinary twist.

Police originally charged northern Irishman, Barry Whittle with Mr Maddick's murder.

But Mr Whittle, from Londonderry, was acquitted by a Winchester Crown Court jury in May 2002.

However yesterday, in an extremely rare court bid, top lawyers failed in a dramatic attempt to re-prosecute the 29- year-old, formerly of Hill Lane in Southampton.

At London's Court of Appeal, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers urged the nation's most senior judge – the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge – to open the way for a fresh murder charge to be brought against Mr Whittle.

The judge heard Mr Whittle had walked into Londonderry's Strand Road police station in July 2008 and gave information to two officers that prompted further investigations by Hampshire Police.

Barrister Alison Levitt QC told the court he had confessed to a murder, telling police he had been acquitted and “couldn't live with it”.

She added: “He was saying he still could not believe he had killed the person.”

However, Lord Judge dismissed the move, ruling that what Mr Whittle had said provided no basis for him to be reprosecuted and did not amount to compelling evidence of his guilt. After 2002’s not guilty verdict, Det Sgt Jim Park, who led the murder inquiry, said the investigation was closed.

Last night, Hampshire Constabulary effectively issued that same response.

Detective Chief Inspector Ben Snuggs said: “Following the judgement at the High Court all the investigative lines of inquiry in this case are now at an end.

“My feelings are very much with the family of the victim Eddie Maddick, as the result of this judgement will obviously have an impact on them.”

Mr Maddick, who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy, had taken a short cut home on the night of his murder, believing it would be safer than the main road.

The former builder had spent the evening of July 28, 2001, with friends at Tramways pub in Shirley High Street.

He knew his path home was well lit, well used and had a convenient place to sit if he needed a rest.

But instead he ended up suffering appalling injuries, which cost him his life. A dog walker found his body eight hours later.

Police believed that Mr Maddick, fearing he was about to be mugged, had offered his attacker some money as his wallet and some loose change was found near his body.

At the time, his devastated widow Caroline Maddick said she was struggling to come to come to terms with the seemingly motiveless tragedy.

The special needs assistant described her husband as being a “very good man” who was hard working and clever.

Shortly after being acquitted of the murder, Mr Whittle was handed a two-year jail term after admitting kicking a man in the head during a dispute between two strangers outside a convenience store at Ocean Village, Southampton.

The attack, which happened the night before Mr Maddick was battered to death, left victim Peter Wallace with what were initially feared to be lifethreatening head injuries.

Due to time served on remand, Mr Whittle – the son of an assistant prison guard – walked free from jail the week after being sentenced.

He also stood trial at Bournemouth Crown Court in August 2002, charged with attacking a Southampton woman and threatening to set fire to her home. Prosecutors alleged he had held a knife to the throat of mum-of-two Charlotte Yeoman and struck her across the legs with a metal tube on April 28, 2001.

He denied making a threat to kill, threatening to destroy or damage property and common assault, and was cleared of all matters by jurors at the end of a three-day trial.

Mr Whittle was charged with carrying out an armed robbery at a Londonderry insurance company in May 2003 but the matter was dropped after a co-defendant pleaded guilty.

In 2005, Mr Whittle was back in jail, this time in his native Northern Ireland after deliberately driving a car at two brothers.

He was sentenced at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast to three years’ imprisonment for the vicious attack, which happened on a garage forecourt.

Two days into his trial over two counts of attempted murder, which he denied, he announced that he would plead guilty to lesser charges of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury. One of the victims had suffered a broken leg and bruising, while the second sustained a head injury and bodily bruising in the attack on September 14, 2003.