Northam Murder: Judge tells jury to put aside emotion

JH Taylor Drive in Northam

JH Taylor Drive in Northam - Credit: Google

A judge has told the jury in the Northam murder trial that they must put emotion to one side and judge the case objectively on the evidence.

Carer Michael Robinson is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of strangling and kicking 77-year-old Carol Hart to death in the early hours of Monday January 11.

He is alleged to have attacked her three days after she accused him of stealing thousands of pounds from her by using her bank card to make unauthorised withdrawals.

Robinson, aged 35, of Seaview Road, Northam, denies murder and the theft.

Judge Mr Justice Garnham told the jury they will retire to consider their verdicts tomorrow (Thursday, July 29) after hearing closing speeches and summing up.

He gave them a written document setting out his directions in law.

He told them they must assess the truthfulness and reliability of all the witnesses, including the defendant and that they were entitled to draw inferences and common-sense conclusions from circumstantial evidence.

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He said: “This is a case which will inevitably provoke strong emotions. It is agreed that on January 11 an elderly woman was murdered in her bed.

“It is alleged the defendant stole from her and murdered her when the theft was exposed. He denies both offences.

“It is likely that many of you will have strong feelings and may feel great sympathy for one party or another; but you must not judge the case on the basis of feelings or sympathy or an emotional reaction, however understandable that may be.

“This is a court of law and it is essential that you make decisions on the evidence and a careful assessment of it. Reason and common sense must be your guide, not emotion or sympathy.”

In the route to verdict, he said the jury must answer this question: “Are you sure it was the defendant who assaulted Mrs Hart. If the answer is no, then the verdict is not guilty.”

He said it is not in dispute that whoever attacked Mrs Hart intended to kill or cause very serious bodily harm and that she died as a result of the assault.

Miss Jo Martin, QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the case was like a jigsaw in which they could only see the full picture by linking together different strands of evidence.

He said forensic evidence of Robinson’s DNA on Mrs Hart’s finger, her DNA under his nails, and the finding of a boot which had her blood on the outside and his DNA on the inside made it clear he was the killer.  

She said the finding of his fingerprint in her blood on the frame of her bed was another vital piece of evidence.

She dismissed his explanations for the forensic evidence as lies concocted after the event which contradicted the version he told to the police when he was interviewed.

Mr Sean Brunton, QC, defending, said the fact that Robinson had told some lies to the police did not mean that he was not telling the truth about the important issues in the case.

He compared his case to the Aesop Fable about the boy who cried wolf, who was not believed when it mattered because he was thought to have lied in the past.

He said he had given reasonable explanations for the forensic case against him and that he had lied in police interviews because he was high on drugs and in a state of panic.

Mr Brunton said: “People do lie. Even the Royals lie. Sports stars do it. It is so prevalent among our politicians you might think they are actually paid to lie.

“You should not be surprised if a simple, poorly educated, rough and ready lad from Bideford did it while under the most intense pressure.”

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