THE Torrington car park murder trial unexpectedly called off yesterday leading the Judge presiding over the case to voice his ‘regret’ at being forced to discharge the jury.
Giles Metcalf died on March 7 of asphyxiation from fumes and burns after his sleeping bag was set alight using lighter fluid whilst he slept in the stairwell of the Tunbridge Wells car park.
It the 43-year-old’s first night sleeping rough and his badly burned body was discovered at 3am the same day.
Dean Lewis, 34, of no fixed address, and James Marshall-Gunn, 30, of Hadlow Road, Tonbridge, were both arrested on suspicion of murder, a charge they both denied.
“I regret to have to tell you I must discharge you as a jury”
However, almost exactly a week after their trail had begun on September 18, Judge Philip Statman felt compelled to bring the proceedings to an unexpected halt by discharging the jury of eight men and four women for legal reasons.
He told jurors: “You will see the defendants are not here today. The situation is this: I regret to have to tell you I must discharge you as a jury from any further consideration of this case
“I make it absolutely clear that is nobody’s fault. Certainly, none of your fault. It is one of those things which I am unable to give you any further information about at this time.”
The judge warned jurors at Maidstone Crown Court they should not speak about the evidence they have heard.
John Roberts, Partner at Kent law firm Gullands Solicitors, said juries can be discharged for ‘a number of reasons’ and therefore the trial will have to start again with a fresh jury.
He explained: “The most likely explanation for the jury having been discharged in this case, given the comments of the Judge, is that prejudicial material has inadvertently been disclosed to the Jury and the nature of it is such that the Judge has decided that a conviction could be deemed unsafe if they continued to try the case.
“Sometimes the jury could be simply directed to ignore certain things but, in this case, the Judge has clearly decided that the only safe option is to start again.”