The Stephen Downing case involved the conviction and imprisonment in 1974 of a 17-year-old council worker, Stephen Downing, for the murder of a 32-year-old legal secretary, Wendy Sewell, in the town of Bakewell in the Peak District in Derbyshire, north midlands. Following a campaign by a local newspaper, his conviction was overturned in 2002, after Downing had served 27 years in prison; the case is thought to be the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, attracted worldwide media attention. Wendy Sewell was attacked, in Bakewell Cemetery, at lunchtime on 12 September 1973. A witness, Charles Carman, saw, she was beaten around the head with the handle of a pickaxe and sexually assaulted, with her trousers, pants and parts of her bra removed. She died from her injuries in Chesterfield Royal Hospital two days later; the 17-year-old cemetery groundskeeper, Stephen Downing, was the prime suspect. He told police that he had found Sewell lying on the ground, covered in blood, that her blood got on his clothes because she shook her head.
Despite having learning difficulties and a reading age of 11, he was arrested, questioned for nine hours without a solicitor present, signed a confession. Downing's trial took place between 13 and 15 February 1974 at the Crown Court at Nottingham before Mr Justice Nield and a jury where he pleaded not guilty. A forensic scientist Norman Lee, gave evidence that the blood found on the accused could only have been present if he had been responsible for the assault. Lee described this evidence as "a textbook example... which might be expected on the clothing of the assailant". No full transcript of the trial exists, but it is known that, in summing up, the judge drew attention to Downing’s admission during the trial of having indecently assaulted Sewell as she lay injured in the cemetery. By a unanimous verdict, the jury found Downing guilty of murder, he was sentenced to be indefinitely detained at Her Majesty's pleasure, with a stipulation that he should serve a minimum of ten years. Caught in an innocent prisoner's dilemma, Downing was unable to be paroled, as he did not admit to the crime.
He was classified as "In Denial of Murder" and therefore ineligible for parole under English law. A witness was found who said she saw Downing leaving the cemetery, at that time she saw Wendy Sewell alive and unharmed. Downing applied for leave to appeal on the grounds he had a new witness. On 25 October 1974, the Court of Appeal heard the grounds for appeal and reached the conclusion that the witness' evidence of seeing Wendy Sewell walking towards the back of the consecrated chapel was unreliable due to some grown trees obstructing her line of sight; the court felt that her evidence was not credible and secure enough to allow an appeal against the conviction. During the Derbyshire Police's re-investigation in 2002, this witness was re-interviewed and accompanied back to the cemetery location, she reaffirmed that the grown trees, which have since been felled, would have obstructed her line of sight. She revealed the knowledge that she is, was at the time, short sighted; the witness, 15 years old at the time of the murder, was unable to give an adequate reason for why she came forward with her original evidence.
Stephen Downing continued to deny committing the murder so his family attempted to get support for another retrial. In 1994, they wrote to the Matlock Mercury; the editor, Don Hale, along with Downing's family ran a campaign. As a result of this campaign along with Downing's continual protestations of innocence, the case was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 1997. Downing was released on appeal in 2001 after 27 years in prison; the following year, 2002, the Court of Appeal overturned Downing's conviction, finding it to be unsafe. The case is thought to be the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, attracted worldwide media attention. During the second appeal, held on 15 January 2002, the Court of Appeal accepted many of the reasons that were put forward by Hale and others for believing the conviction was unsafe. Julian Bevan, counsel for the Crown, accepted two arguments put forward by the defence; the first was. The confession was unsafe because Downing had been questioned for eight hours, during which the police shook him and pulled his hair to keep him awake.
The Crown agreed with the defence argument that more recent knowledge of blood-splattering patterns meant the prosecution's claim that the blood could only have been found on the clothes of the attacker was questionable. The Rt Hon. Lord Justice Pill said that the Court of Appeal did not have to consider whether Downing had proved that he was innocent, but whether the original conviction was fair – "The question for consideration is whether the conviction is safe and not whether the accused is guilty". What the defence had proved was that there was reasonable doubt about the "reliability of the confessions made in 1973", his Lordship said: "The court can not be sure. It follows; the conviction is quashed." Following the Court of Appeal overturning Stephen Downing's conviction, the Derbyshire Police reinvestigated the murder under the name Operation Noble. During 2002, they interviewed 1,600 witnesses, at an estimated cost of £500,000 – though Downing himself refused to be reinterviewed. A year after the conviction was overturned, in February 2003, Derbys
Sandeep Verma is an Indian bioorganic chemist and a professor of the department of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. At IITK, he holds the Shri Deva Raj Endowed Chair, he is known for his studies on ordered peptide assemblies and metal mediated systems and is an elected fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, India. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the apex agency of the Government of India for scientific research, awarded him the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, one of the highest Indian science awards, in 2010, for his contributions to chemical sciences. Born on 24 June 1966 in Kanpur in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Sandeep Verma did his early schooling in Varanasi and completed his master's degree at Banaras Hindu University in 1989. Subsequently, he secured a PhD from University of Illinois Medical Center, Chicago in 1994 and he did his post-doctoral work, first at Johns Hopkins Hospital and at Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine.
On his return to India in 1997, he joined the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur as a member of faculty where he heads his own research group, Sandeep Verma's Group, serves as the Shri Deva Raj Endowed Chair Professor of chemistry. Verma's researches may broadly be classified into three segments, Nucleobase Polymers, Metal-Nucleobase Interactions and Ordered Peptide Aggregates, he is credited with the synthesis of Enzyme mimics using metal mediated systems and his group is involved in developing bioinspired soft matter and protocols for using biological building blocks as diagnostic tools for diseases caused by protein aggregation. His researches have been documented by way of a number of peer-reviewed articles. At his group, he hosts many research scholars and assists them in their doctoral and post-doctoral studies, he is associated with three science journals, viz. Chemical Communications, Chemistry & Biology and Journal of Chemical Sciences, as a member of their editorial boards. Verma, who won Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund Award, P. N. Bhargava Medal and BHU Vice Chancellor's Gold Medal for academic excellence in master's degree examination in 1989 and the J. Watumull Endowed Award of the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, received the Travel Grant Award of the American Chemical Society in 1993.
He received the Career Award for Young Teachers of the All India Council for Technical Education in 1999 followed by the B. M. Birla Science Prize in 2004; the next year brought him the IUPAC Young Chemist Travel Grant Award as well as the Bronze Medal of the Chemical Research Society of India. He received two awards in 2009, Rajib Goyal Young Scientist Prize and the Award for Excellence in Drug Research of the Central Drug Research Institute and the Outstanding Investigator Award of the Department of Atomic Energy in 2012; the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research awarded him the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, one of the highest Indian science awards, in 2010. A member of the Rho Chi Society, Verma was elected as a fellow by the National Academy of Sciences, India in 2010 and by Indian Academy of Sciences in 2011. Besides the short-term faculty exchange fellowship and the DFG fellowship of the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine, Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, JWT Jones Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Swarnajayanthi fellowship of the Department of Science and Technology, he has received the research fellowship of the University of Illinois at Chicago and the post-doctoral fellowship of the National Institute of Health.