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Murder conviction for meat cleaver attacker could be downgraded to manslaughter after Court of Appeal challenge

Nicola Edgington was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years
Nicola Edgington was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years

The murder conviction of a woman who killed a stranger in the street with a meat cleaver could be downgraded to manslaughter following a new challenge in the Court of Appeal.

Nicola Edgington was jailed for life with a minimum term of 37 years in 2013 for the murder of law firm accounts clerk Sally Hodkin, 58, and the attempted murder of 22-year-old Kerry Clark.

At the time of her sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Brian Barker, the Recorder of London, called her “manipulative and extremely dangerous” and said: “These were terrible acts and you must take responsibility for what you did.”

However the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) now says it is challenging the murder conviction after fresh analysis of Edgington’s mental health at the time of the attacks.

The body says the jury in Edgington’s trial may have been misled about the state of her mental health before convicting her of murder.

Sally Hodkin was killed by Edgington
Sally Hodkin was killed by Edgington

Edgington had previously spent more than three years in a secure psychiatric hospital after killing her own mother. She was convicted of manslaughter in 2006 and was released from hospital in 2009.Two years later, in 2011, Edgington, who has schizophrenia, called police to say: “I’m dangerous. I need to go to a mental hospital. The last time I felt like this I killed my mum.”

She made a series of desperate calls to police and attempted – unsuccessfully - to have herself sectioned, before going out to attack Ms Hodkin and Ms Clark in Bexleyheath.There is a “real possibility”, said the CCRC, that the murder conviction against Edgington – now known as Nicola Thomas – could be quashed and replaced with a conviction for manslaughter by way of diminished responsibility.

CCRC chair Helen Pitcher OBE said: “At the time of Nicole Thomas’s trial, prosecution evidence around the full extent of her mental health issues was not fully explained.

“Important information was overlooked or not conveyed correctly, and this may have misled the jury.

“Had this evidence been explained sufficiently it might have changed the outcome at her trial.”

Ms Hodkin’s son Len has criticised the decision to mount an appeal, telling the Daily Mail he fears a manslaughter conviction could ultimately lead to Edgington being released again.

“She killed her own mum, she killed my mum and she attempted to murder Kerry Clark”, he said. “Do we want to live in a society where we just keep giving these people chances to go and kill someone else’s mum?”

Edgington, who is now 43 and lived in Greenwich, made five calls to police before the stabbings, pleading to be locked up and branding herself as “dangerous”.

Police were criticised in the aftermath for a series of blunders that meant Edgington was left roaming the streets rather than being taken into hospital for treatment.

She first tried to attack Ms Clark, who escaped with minor injuries after fend Edgington off and taking away the knife she was brandishing.

Edgington took a meat cleaver from a nearby butcher and used it to attack Ms Hodkin, who was on her way to work.

The CCRC said it has been looking into Edgington’s murder conviction since 2016, and asked a psychiatrist to assess the mental health evidence used in the Old Bailey trial.

“After conducting a series of complex and lengthy investigations, the CCRC has called into question key aspects of the medical and psychiatric evidence in the prosecution case against Ms Thomas”, said the body.

“Its fresh psychiatric report identified that the jury had not been made aware of important aspects of the earlier evidence, which gave the jury a misleading impression of Ms Thomas’s mental health.”

The Court of Appeal will now be asked to decide on the CCRC application.