Reilly, R v, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, September 07, 2017, [2017] EWCA Crim 1333

Resolution Date:September 07, 2017
Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:Reilly, R v


Neutral Citation Number: [2017] EWCA Crim 1333



Royal Courts of Justice

The Strand



Thursday 7th September 2017

B e f o r e:





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Mr S Denison QC appeared on behalf of the Applicant Crown

Miss S Bennett-Jenkins QC and Miss J Mole appeared on behalf of the Respondent

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J U D G M E N TThursday 7th September 2017



  1. By an application issued on 26th June 2017, with the prior consent given by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the prosecutor seeks to quash an acquittal of the respondent, Patrick Reilly, in respect of a count of murder. The acquittal was the result of a jury verdict following a trial which culminated as long ago as 10th March 1986. This application, and the way in which it has progressed, occurs in very unusual circumstances.

    The Background Facts

  2. The facts relating to the original murder trial are shocking and distressing. They are these. A young girl, Leonie Darnley, was born on 5th April 1977. She lived with her mother (Denise) and her younger brother (Desmond) at an address in Atkinson House, a large block of flats in Battersea in London.

  3. On Tuesday 24th July 1984 she was wearing a red-and-white checked dress, a white vest, white knickers and red plastic sandals. She had two plaits in her hair at the front and one at the back. In the early afternoon, her mother, Leonie and Desmond joined a friend who was having a picnic on the grass outside the flats in question. Leonie played with a number of friends. At around 4pm her mother left her with her friends and with other nearby parents in order to go home with Desmond. She was away for around 15 minutes. Shortly after that, Leonie was seen to walk off alone in the direction her mother had gone. That was the last sighting of her before it was realised that she was missing.

  4. As time passed by, without any sign of Leonie, her mother contacted Leonie's father who went to the flats. He also called the police. He searched for her in the basement of Atkinson House. He found a pair of red sandals. They were Leonie's shoes. Friends and neighbours continued to search for her. At around 10.15pm her body was found in a storeroom in the basement of Atkinson House. She was unclothed. She was lying face down on top of what appeared to be a pile of rubbish. There were obvious long cuts to her body. There was also a piece of cloth around her neck that covered her chin and mouth. She was formally pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

  5. A post-mortem examination was undertaken the following day by Dr Shepherd. He found that Leonie's throat had been cut, and that there were numerous other cuts to the body. She had also been sexually assaulted. The cause of death was at least two deep cuts to the front of her neck, which had severed her carotid artery and had led to severe blood loss and, mercifully at least in this respect, a relatively rapid death. There were numerous other incisions to the body. We need not give those details.

  6. In addition, amongst the items recovered from the scene of the murder were a brown blanket that was found alongside the right side of Leonie's body. In addition, her red-and-white checked dress was around her legs. Both items were heavily stained with blood. Both items were stained with semen. A number of light-brown coloured hairs were found on the blanket. The knickers and vest were never recovered.

  7. At the post-mortem examination a small light-brown hair was found within Leonie's own hair on the back of her head. That was removed, along with one of her own hairs for examination. Further, amongst the samples taken from the body in the course of the examination were an external vaginal swab and right-hand fingernail clippings. Semen was found on the vaginal swab.

  8. In due course, three of the light-brown hairs found on the blanket were compared with head and body hairs taken from the respondent, Patrick Reilly. His head hair was described as being a light-brown/golden-brown colour. His body hair was likewise similarly described. It was said that hairs of his particular colour were relatively uncommon amongst the Caucasian population. A microscopic examination indicated that the three hairs from the blanket were indistinguishable from body hairs taken from Reilly. Two were described as being a "very good match". The light-brown hair found on Leonie's hair was microscopically indistinguishable from Reilly's chest and arm hairs. The conclusion of the forensic scientist at the time was that the hairs on the blanket and on Leonie's head "could well have come from Reilly". Further, three blue acrylic fibres were found on her dress. They were found to be microscopically indistinguishable from fibres in the cuffs, collar and waistband of Reilly's jacket subsequently retrieved. The conclusion of the forensic scientist was that these fibres "could well have come from the jacket". Taking the evidence of the hairs and the fibres together, the conclusion was this: "The results of the hairs and fibres' examination together indicate that it is highly likely that Reilly has been in contact with Leonie Darnley".

  9. In the result, Patrick Reilley was arrested in Barnet on 17th October 1984. He was not arrested in connection with the death of Leonie at this time; rather, he was arrested in respect of a rape earlier that day of a 15 year old girl. At that time he was found to be in possession of what was described as a "rape kit" comprising: a hammer, knives, binding, a torch, maps and a disguise in the form of a woollen hat with false hair attached to it. The blue jacket was recovered from his flat at an address in North London.

  10. In due course, Reilly was interviewed as a suspect for the murder of Leonie. He was to admit in interview that he had been into the basement of Atkinson House, and even that he may have been in the area of Atkinson House earlier on the day of the murder. He was to say in interview that he had been to Battersea on a number of occasions looking for work and scavenging. He would take with him his bag containing, amongst other things, a knife and gloves. He denied any involvement in the murder of Leonie.

  11. In due course he pleaded guilty to the rape committed on 17th October 1984, as well as to a number of other serious sexual offences which we will come on to enumerate.

    The Original Trials

  12. At his first trial at the Central Criminal Court the jury could not agree on the count of murder of Leonie. There was a retrial before Peter Pain J in 1986. Because of the lapse of time it seems that the records available with regard to that retrial, which resulted in Reilly's acquittal, are not now available. It was not even clearly established before us whether or not he gave evidence. The indications are that he probably did not.

  13. At that trial, an application to admit the evidence of the other sexual offences in respect of which he had previously pleaded guilty was made to the trial judge. But, under the law then applicable, the trial judge in his discretion declined to allow such evidence to be adduced. It seems, therefore, that the evidence at trial was primarily directed at the hairs and fibres and Reilly's admission of having been to Atkinson House, an area which he had no obvious reason to visit. The defence suggestion would appear to have been that, to the extent that these hairs and fibres were linked to him, that may have been as a result of indirect contact and did not evidence direct contact with, or killing of, Leonie.

  14. So far as the other sexual offences are concerned, they were six in number. In respect of all of them...

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