A MAN who was wrongly jailed for 30 years in one of the worst miscarriages of justice in English legal history is building a new life in the North-East, The Northern Echo can reveal.
While the fallout continues over his wrongful conviction, Sean Hodgson has returned to his roots in County Durham.
Mr Hodgson walked free from the Court of Appeal in March after DNA tests, not available at the time of his 1982 trial, revealed he could not have killed Southampton barmaid Teresa de Simone in 1979.
Locked up for life, he thought he would die behind bars until new lawyers took up his case and found forensic evidence thought to have been lost.
The consequences of his acquittal could be far reaching – the Director of Public Prosecutions is already reviewing all murder convictions before 1986, before advances in science led to reliable DNA testing.
Mr Hodgson can now expect substantial compensation.
For now, he is happy to be getting back on his feet in the bungalow he has bought for himself and his dog, a Jack Russell called Archie.
Mr Hodgson described the difficulties he faced in the first few months after leaving prison. The pace of life had changed and it took him a long time to adjust.
With a history of mental illness, he was taking dozens of tablets a day at the time of his release and says his mind was a blur.
He tried living in London, but decided to move north to be close to where he grew up in Tow Law with his parents and large family.
Ten weeks ago, he was given his own house keys for the first time in his life and set up home.
He cooks for himself, has bought a car and a laptop, started computer classes and is a regular at the local butcher’s where he buys Archie the best fillet steak.
He is stronger and healthier than the day when, “doped up to the eyeballs”, he stood on the court steps to face the world’s press.
He said: “They had me on 32 tablets a day. When I went to court that day I had taken sedatives so it was all a blur.
“I was sedated in prison.
When they told me I was getting out, I didn’t believe them.
I thought they were winding me up – that they were telling lies. Now I’m off most of the medication and I’m doing alright.
“I’m taking computer classes at the local community centre and getting on fine.
“I can’t get away with mobile phones through – I’ve had five and lost them all. Yes, things have changed, but it is a far better world than the one I left behind.
“I have my house and it’s my home now.
“I have Archie and we are doing well. I am happy.”
Mr Hodgson’s solicitor, Julian Young, is pleased with his progress. He said: “He is doing really well.
“If there is any compassion left in a system that has effectively failed him, any compensation claim should be settled sooner rather than later so that he can get on with his life.”