A HANDYMAN jailed for life over the brutal murder of two elderly Rotherham sisters was back in court again this week as his lawyers began a legal bid to overturn his convictions.
Michael Pluck (52), was caged for life with another man at Sheffield Crown Court in 1996 for his part in the murders of Rotherham pensioners Aileen Dudhill (79), and 72-year-old Elsie Gregory.
He has once before failed to overturn the convictions, but was at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday after a reference by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the body which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice.
Top lawyers representing Pluck, formerly of Sunfield Avenue, Kilton, Worksop, say fresh evidence which was not available at the time now renders the convictions “unsafe.”
Pluck and co-defendant, Lawrence Bierton, also of Worksop, were alleged to have killed the two ladies after being caught stealing from the house.
One of the two pensioners was bludgeoned to death with a hammer-like weapon, while her sister was stabbed, the trial jury was told.
Mr Tim Owen QC, told the Appeal Court how a single discarded cigarette butt—referred to as exhibit SB30—lay at the heart of Pluck’s appeal against the jury’s verdicts.
At the trial, the jury heard how the butt was found on carpet on an upper floor of the sisters’ house, in Herringthorpe Valley Road, a part of the house where Pluck claimed never to have been.
Expert evidence said that the fact that the cigarette had been smoked to the filter, or allowed to burn down, suggested it was more likely that it was Pluck who had smoked it.
Discarded butts found elsewhere showed it to be Pluck’s usual method of smoking, whereas Bierton usually stubbed his out, the jury had been told.
It was said that this suggested that Pluck had been part of the ransacking of the house after the sisters’ brutal murder and supported the case that he was also guilty of the killings.
But Mr Owen told Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Langstaff and Mr Justice Griffith Williams that more recent forensic tests on the cigarette butt confirmed the presence of only Bierton’s DNA.
“It is our submission that this fresh evidence is enough on its own to cause this court to conclude that the convictions are unsafe," he said.
The Crown is contesting the appeal, which is expected to continue until today.