A KILLER serving life for the savage murder of two elderly Rotherham sisters has had claims that he was the victim of a miscarriage of justice thrown out by top judges.
Michael Pluck (52), was put behind bars for life in 1996 for the killings of pensioners Aileen Dudill (79), and 72-year-old Elsie Gregory, but still insists he was innocent.
His case was referred to London’s Appeal Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission—the independent body that investigates suspected miscarriages of justice—after fresh DNA evidence emerged.
Pluck also claimed he was convicted on the basis of unreliable “cell confession” evidence, but three top judges were unconvinced this week and said that “no reasonable jury” could have reached any other conclusion than that Pluck was present and took part in the murders.
Pluck, formerly of Sunfield Avenue, Kilton, Worksop, and his accomplice, Lawrence Bierton, also of Worksop, killed the two pensioners after being caught stealing from their home.
One of the two pensioners was bludgeoned to death with a hammer-like weapon, while her sister was stabbed at the house in Herringthorpe Valley Road.
Pluck’s defence was one of alibi, but prosecutors pointed to an envelope found in the house bearing Pluck’s fingerprint and said that he and Bierton had told a pack of lies in a bid to cover up their crime.
Central to the prosecution case was the testimony of child sex offender, Jamie McCann, who said that, while with Pluck in prison, he had confessed to his presence at the time of the murders.
He said that Pluck had also talked about paying others to give false accounts to back up his alibi.
At the Appeal Court, Pluck’s legal team—headed by top QC Mr Tim Owen— put forward fresh psychiatric evidence which they said revealed that McCann as so “manipulative, dishonest and self-interested” that his evidence could not be relied upon in court.
However, dismissing Pluck’s appeal, Lord Justice Toulson said that the jury had clearly rejected his alibi as false and, although his legal team at trial had not accused McCann of being a mentally disturbed “fantasist,” they had tried to paint him as “evil and manipulative.”
Although fresh analysis of discarded cigarette butts found in the house revealed no trace of Pluck’s DNA, the judge said that there were two more cigarette ends in a wheelie bin outside which did.
The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Langstaff and Mr Justice Griffith Williams on Wednesday, said: “No reasonable jury could have failed to conclude that Pluck was present at the time of the murders.
“Leaving aside the evidence about the cigarette ends, in our judgment the jury could not reasonably have been left in doubt that Pluck and Brierton went to the property in order to commit a burglary (and) that the two sisters were murdered in the course of the burglary.”
Pluck and Brierton had left together after loading property stolen from the sisters into Pluck’s van and had then “conspired to cover up what had happened.”
Lord Justice Toulson concluded: “In such circumstances, the natural conclusion for any jury to draw would be that both were guilty of the murders.”