Patricia Bass, who was twice sentenced to life imprisonment for bludgeoning her 80-year-old mother to death with a hammer, was set free yesterday by the Court of Appeal.
As she walked from the cells at the High Court in London to be embraced by her husband, Patricia Bass said: “It was an absolute nightmare to be behind bars for a crime I did not commit. I loved my mother and it was terrible to be accused of murdering her.
“It was awful that people would think I was capable of doing such a terrible thing. But I was never frightened because I knew that one day the truth would come out.”
The three judges quashed her conviction after ruling that the Crown’s case at her second trial rested on circumstantial evidence.
Mrs Bass, 49, of Ripley, Derbyshire, was charged with murder in November 1993, 20 months after the battered body of her widowed mother, Beatrice Greig, had been found in the house in Nottingham where she lived alone. She had been beaten with a hammer, receiving between 30 and 40 blows to her head, fracturing her skull.
Mrs Bass was found guilty of the killing at her first trial at Nottingham Crown Court, but in 1996, after serving 21 months in prison, the Court of Appeal quashed her conviction and ordered a retrial. They ruled that the trial judge had misdirected the jury on crucial scientific evidence.
The appeal judges said that the case was circumstantial and the prosecution had suggested that Mrs Bass had been motivated by greed, as she stood to benefit by more than £20,000 from her mother’s will.
The second trial took place in June 1997 at Birmingham Crown Court, where again a jury decided that she had murdered her mother. At her second appeal last month, Edward Rees, appearing for Mrs Bass, argued that the trial judge was wrong to allow evidence about £16,000 in Mrs Bass’s account, which she said was a gift from her father shortly before he died.
The point, he said, created a “dangerous and prejudicial situation” for Mrs Bass because it left the jury with a false route to the murderer’s identity. The judges agreed that the evidence was irrelevant, but disagreed that the conviction was compromised by the trial judge’s refusal to let Mr Rees cross-examine an alcoholic called Graham Burgess. He had confessed to Mrs Greig’s murder, but later retracted. He had been a suspect in the murder of another woman, but had never been charged or tried.
Yesterday, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Smedley and Mr Justice Thomas, questioned whether the evidence against Mrs Bass, a woman of good character who had devoted the best years of her life to caring for an elderly uncle, was sufficient to establish her guilt.
At best, he said, the Crown’s case against Mrs Bass was marginal. He added that the jury might have been unfairly prejudiced against her by evidence on the £16,000. Receipt of the money had established the suggestion of greed, which was the only motive advanced by the Crown.
Mrs Bass left the court with her husband, Richard, 43, who married her 48 days after they met in 1993 and after she had been charged with murder. Mr Bass, an unemployed computer analyst, said: “I never doubted her innocence. It was a long and hard struggle fighting against this injustice.”
(Written by Tim Jones; retrieved from The Times, 8th April 1998)
Woman jailed for killing her mother is set free
A WOMAN who was twice jailed for life after being convicted of bludgeoning her 80-year-old mother to death with a hammer was freed yesterday by the Court of Appeal. Patricia Bass, 49, showed no emotion as Lord Bingham, the Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Brian Smedley and Mr Justice Thomas, announced that her conviction was quashed. He ordered her to be discharged from custody after the Crown said it would not be seeking another retrial.