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Freed Stacey hits at justice system

Published 11/06/2015

Stacey Hyde was cleared at Winchester Crown Court last month of the murder of Vincent Francis when she was just 17
Stacey Hyde was cleared at Winchester Crown Court last month of the murder of Vincent Francis when she was just 17

A young woman who was cleared by jury at a retrial of murdering her friend's violent boyfriend has said that others have been let down by the justice system.

Stacey Hyde, now aged 23, from Wells in Somerset, was cleared at Winchester Crown Court last month of the murder of Vincent Francis when she was just 17.

She was originally convicted at Bristol Crown Court in 2010 of killing the 34-year-old by stabbing him 17 times at the flat he shared with her friend, Holly Banwell.

But last November the Court of Appeal overturned her murder conviction and ordered a retrial.

The trial heard that Miss Hyde, who had been drinking heavily, went back to Ms Banwell's flat in Wells on September 4 2009 after a night out.

Miss Hyde has said she feared for her life and stabbed Mr Francis in self-defence after he repeatedly attacked her and her friend.

Speaking to BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, she said: "I remember waking up in their bed, everything seemed slow motion and I ran out to the hallway to Holly screaming for help and then he was attacking her.

"The next thing I know, I remember jumping on his back and trying to get him off her and then the next thing I know he was on top of me and he's strangling me and then he was coming at me with something in the hallway and I'm just screaming, screaming, screaming for help, thinking 'This is it, I'm going to die and no one is coming to help me'.

"Now we believe the thing he had in his hand was a knife."

She added: "A not nice person tried to kill me and my friend that night and I defended myself so it's either you die or you save your life and another person's and go to jail - it's not fair, it's not...

"It's self-defence. That night he strangled me, beat me, came at me with a knife, I tried to escape on several occasions, he threw me against walls, he pulled out my hair.

"I imagine that's all I could have done. It was a struggle, it wasn't 17 times of a brutal stabbing, it was from a struggle."

Miss Hyde said she was suffering from depression at the time and had been self-harming following a troubled childhood.

She said the original trial was "brutal and humiliating" and she "lost faith" in the justice system.

She criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions "for not doing her job properly" for ordering the retrial instead of accepting her offer of a guilty plea for manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility.

She added: "I think the DPP should reconsider her position."

She said she now intended to help campaign group Justice for Women, which supported her, to assist other women fight miscarriages of justice.

Miss Hyde said: "I made a promise to God, to my friends in jail that if I ever got out, I would do whatever it took to help them because girls get released from jail and make false promises and then they just leave jail behind them and I can't do that to my friends who are innocent, fighting to get out in a system that is so difficult to be free from.

"So I am going to do my best to help Justice for Women for anybody in any way I can."

Describing the moment she was freed by the jury, she said: "It was like magic, being reunited with my loved ones... you think it will never happen but it did, I am so happy, it's amazing."

Miss Hyde said she prayed for Mr Francis and his family. Describing the knowledge that she had killed someone, she added: "It's the worst feeling in the world, it's horrible, I hate it. If you knew me, you would know I couldn't have hurt anybody."

The Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement: "Following a successful appeal by the defence against Stacey Hyde's original conviction for murder, the Court of Appeal were invited, by the defence, to substitute the conviction for one of manslaughter.

"They declined to do so, stating that a life had been taken, and ordered a re-trial for murder.

"The evidence was reconsidered by the CPS and a decision was made that under the code for Crown prosecutors a prosecution for murder was still appropriate.

"The matter was once more tried before a jury, who has acquitted Ms Hyde of the offence. We respect the jury's decision in this case."

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