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The Jury Room: Case 3 - Susan May
By CBS Reality, Friday 26th May 2017

On March 12th 1992, in a quiet residential road in Greater Manchester, 89 year-old widow Hilda Marchbank was found dead. Lying in her own bed she had been beaten and suffocated with her pillow during the night. The murder of this vulnerable elderly woman shocked and horrified the small town of Royton in which she lived.

It initially appeared that she had fallen victim to a bungled robbery but crucially there were no signs of forced entry and nothing appeared to have been taken, leading detectives to question whether the robbery might have been staged.

Eighteen days after the brutal attack, the woman’s niece was arrested when incriminating forensic evidence was found. Her name was Susan May and she had been Hilda’s primary carer, the person Hilda relied upon the most. Susan May vehemently denied having any involvement with her beloved aunt’s death.

It was Susan who found Hilda’s body, during one of her regular visits to her home on the morning after the murder. Although Susan was not initially a suspect, there were three bloody marks on a wall at the crime scene and it was discovered the left hand mark on the wall had been made by May’s hand.

During the trial, the prosecution’s case was that the marks on the wall were made by May in her aunt’s blood as she felt her way along the wall after committing the murder.

In 1993, Susan May was convicted of the murder of Hilda Marchbank and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following her conviction she made two appeals, both which failed, due to a weak case from her defence.

She continued to protest her innocence whilst in jail and appealed twice. Both appeals were rejected. She was released in 2005 on parole. After her release Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer, and, whilst fighting the disease, she determinedly fought to clear her name. In 2013, just weeks before a decision was due on whether to grant her leave for a third appeal, she died a convicted woman.

Susan May’s supporters claim new evidence proves the marks, which formed the main crux of the prosecutions case, were made from sweat, not blood and made before the murder occurred. They feel this new forensic report, combined with evidence of botched tests and police inadequacies, could finally clear her name and prove that Susan May was the victim of a cruel miscarriage of justice.

Before Susan May died she said: "All this new evidence points to the fact that my conviction is unsafe. If the jury heard the case as it is now, with some witnesses discredited and without the main plank of their case - the so-called blood marks - they couldn't come to the same conclusion."

Click here for more information about The Jury Room on CBS Reality, including the podcast, gallery and cast video biographies.


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