A DAD-TO-BE today told the harrowing story of his wrongful conviction for killing a stranger in a Sheffield club car park saying: “It was the day my world fell apart.”
Speaking exclusively to The Star, Shaun Booker told how he was forced to mingle with murderers and share a prison cell with an armed robber while serving nearly two years for a crime he never committed. And he revealed how his shattered dad was left so distraught he plunged into depression and the stress caused his partner to have two miscarriages.
Today, the quiet, hard-working family man, whose manslaughter conviction was quashed by London’s Court of Appeal, said: “It was like being in another world. I was in bits. My world fell to pieces and my family was slowly being ripped apart. I hope no-one ever has to go through what happened to me.”
Shaun, a BT engineer from Parson’s Cross, Sheffield, was jailed for 21 months in August 2002 after a jury at Sheffield Crown Court took one hour to convict him of punching family man Michael Marples to death in the car park of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Club, near Parkhill flats.
Shaun, now aged 36, always maintained he saw Mr Marples, 57, lying on the ground and tried to help revive him. But jurors were persuaded that blood spatter found on Mr Booker’s clothes was caused by him punching the dad-of-one to the ground.
He said: “I was just trying to help the man. Then the police started to question me and six months later I was charged with murder. I don’t think anyone can understand how that feels – I could have been facing 18 years in prison. At first I was remanded in prison and I was sharing a cell with an armed robber. Another lad tried to kill himself in front of me by slashing his wrists.
“I came across murderers every day. No-one actually came out and said they had killed someone – it was just word of mouth. As time went on I learned to cope – you just keep yourself to yourself and if there is trouble you get back into your cell.
“It was the worst time of my life. I was always looking over my shoulder.” Shaun, whose partner is due to give birth to their first baby within days, said he never thought the case would end up in court.
No-one ever witnessed Mr Marples being assaulted and the only evidence against Shaun was the blood spatter on his clothes, which the prosecution claimed came from the assault. Shaun always claimed the blood came from when he tried to revive Mr Marples.
After a three-week trial jurors cleared Mr Booker of murder, but convicted him of manslaughter. He spent three weeks in Doncaster Prison before being sent to a prison in Nottinghamshire.
“I couldn’t believe it when the foreman said I was guilty. During the trial I was offered the chance to plead guilty to single-punch manslaughter to get a lesser sentence but I just couldn’t do it because I knew I had done nothing wrong.
During the 10 months he served in prison, Shaun joined the Samaritans and helped counsel depressed prisoners.
Shaun, who was released in spring 2003, had his conviction quashed on Monday after Appeal Court judges accepted “new evidence” about the case.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “Shaun Booker’s conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal after new information was provided to South Yorkshire Police in 2005. No allegations of wrongdoing have been made against any officer who worked on the case.”
Shaun added: “This week has been the happiest of my life. I have been saying ‘I’m innocent’ all along and now I have finally cleared my name.”
(From the Sheffield Star website: http://www.thestar.co.uk/what-s-on/out-and-about/the-day-my-life-stopped-1-269497)
Quashed conviction remains secret
Shaun Booker, 36, of Dryden Road, Sheffield, was jailed in 2002 over the death of 57-year-old Michael Marples. But new information meant the conviction could not stand, London’s Criminal Appeal Court heard on Monday. However, the reason could not be given without causing “serious damage to the public interest”, judges said. “We acknowledge this must be less than satisfactory for Mr Booker, but it is a course we are bound to take in the public interest…”