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Killers of Yarmouth man lose appeal

PUBLISHED: 21:26 28 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:52 01 July 2010

Stephen Pullinger

A man and a woman who killed a 64-year-old Norfolk grandfather, one of them forcing the victim's own walking stick down his throat, yesterday both failed in appeals against their convictions.

A man and a woman who killed a 64-year-old Norfolk grandfather, one of them forcing the victim's own walking stick down his throat, yesterday both failed in appeals against their convictions.

Alan Bowles was found dead in his armchair after being brutally attacked by the pair in his flat in Yarmouth Way, Great Yarmouth, in May 2007.

The walking stick had been forced down his throat with such force that it had penetrated his chest area; his body had been left there for several days.

In August 2008, Paul Slack, 49, was convicted of murder and jailed for life, and Kathleen Ann Johnson, 59, of manslaughter and sentenced to three years, at Norwich Crown Court.

They launched their conviction challenges last month, and yesterday three top judges dismissed them at the Criminal Appeal Court, in London.

Their lawyers had argued that the trial judge should have stopped the case at the end of the prosecution evidence as there was not enough evidence to go before a jury.

In the case of Johnson, her lawyers also said that bad character evidence - which prosecutors said indicated a propensity to violence - should have been excluded from court.

But Lord Justice Maurice Kay, sitting with Mr Justice Royce and Mr Justice Nicol, ruled that both convictions were "safe", and that the case against Slack, in particular, was a "very strong one".

The judge pointed to evidence of conversations Slack had with others in which he had "effectively admitted the offence".

His trial had heard Slack, of no fixed abode, had become angry when Mr Bowles accused him of stealing £50 from him.

Johnson had admitted taking part in an assault on Mr Bowles, a member of their hard-drinking group, but not in the walking stick incident which killed him.

The judge said that bad character evidence in relation to Johnson was "properly admitted in the first place and remained properly before the jury thereafter".

He added that the Appeal Court did not accept that the case against Johnson was a "weak one which would be distorted by the jury hearing details of previous violence".

"By her own admission, she had given the deceased a 'good kicking' before Slack had used the walking stick on the deceased," he told the court.

He concluded that the trial judge carefully directed the jurors, whose verdicts should be upheld.

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