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A MAN convicted of murdering his parents and then setting them on fire could be given a retrial or even acquitted after key evidence presented by the prosecution about the timing of the victims’ deaths was found to be wrong.

Jeffrey Gilham, 41, is appealing against his conviction for the stabbing murder of his parents, Steven and Helen, in 1993.

The father of three was sentenced to life in prison over the frenzied attack, in which his father was stabbed 28 times and his mother 17 times. Their bodies were then set on fire.

Gilham’s older brother, Christopher, was also killed in the attack and in 1995, Jeffrey pleaded guilty to his manslaughter.

But Gilham has maintained his brother was responsible for murdering their parents and lighting the fire, and that he killed him after walking into the house and discovering what had happened.

In 2009, a Supreme Court jury rejected this claim, accepting the prosecution’s case that Christopher was already dead when the fire was lit and so could not be responsible. This was based on the evidence of the forensic pathologist Christopher Lawrence, who said because the level of carbon monoxide from the fire in Christopher Gilham’s blood was only 6 per cent, he must have died before the fire started.

But in the Criminal Court of Appeal yesterday, the prosecution was forced to concede that Dr Lawrence’s evidence was incorrect and to accept starkly contrasting evidence from the toxicologist Professor David Penney.

In an affidavit read in court, Professor Penney said that Christopher Gilham and his parents had all absorbed ”significant exogenous COHb [carbon monoxide]” meaning that all three were alive when the fire started.

”It is preposterous to assert that … the person died before the fire started,” he said.

Jeffrey Gilham’s barrister, Clive Steirn, SC, pounced on the admission, saying it ”fundamentally undermined a key plank in the Crown case” and called for his client to be acquitted.

The head of the three-judge appeal panel, Justice Peter McClellan, described the evidence as ”stings in the tail” for the Crown case and raised the possibility that Gilham could be entitled to a retrial.

The appeal hearing continues.


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