Law students help convicted killer’s new appeal

Shane Spence
Shane Spence

LEGAL students are helping killer Shane Spence prepare a fresh fight against his conviction.

Shane Spence was found guilty in 2008 of starting a blaze at his family home that led to the death of Tatum Leah, 14, and Demi Jade, 12.

But Spence, now 21, and his family have always maintained his innocence.

So far, two appeals have been rejected but now fresh hope has emerged as a group of law students from Northumbria University have taken on his case.

And after a meeting with Spence’s solicitor and going to visit him in prison, the group are also convinced of his innocence and are planning another appeal.

Prosecutors claimed Spence poured petrol over the sofa in the living room before setting it alight.

The flames trapped the girls in their bedroom on the top floor, while parents John and Anita, both 41, narrowly escaped the inferno.

His dad said of the new appeal: “There is now a glimmer of hope. The group are looking through the case files.

“We were put on to them by a group called The Innocence Project, who try to overturn wrongful convictions and they passed me on to the university.

“The students take so many cases on a year, as part of their course.

“They went to see Shane and agreed he was innocent and wanted to get involved.

“At the moment they are going through the files with a fine-tooth comb to find something to form a basis of appeal.”

Spence Jnr, father of five-year-old Leeanda, admitted returning to the family home in Lisle Road, South Shields, to pick up a CD, but insisted he left before the fire.

No forensic evidence linked Spence to the crime, and prosecutors relied heavily on witness testimonies describing his behaviour around the time of the fire.

Spence was cleared of murder and the attempted murder of his parents, but a jury found him guilty of arson and manslaughter after a three-week trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Mr Spence Snr said: “We’ve had appeals before and lost them so I can’t let myself get too excited, but it is a positive step.

“Shane’s solicitor has been fantastic, he took a lot of time out to go through the case with the students.”

Spence’s solicitor, David Forrester, said: “I believe Shane has been a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

“In my view he was wrongly convicted.”

Northumbria University did not wish to comment.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazCrime