Appeal man bailed in dramatic twist

A young man who has always pleaded his innocence over a 2004 murder has enjoyed his first taste of freedom in more than seven years after a dramatic twist in his case at the Court of Appeal.

Sam Hallam, 24, from Hoxton, east London, whom lawyers described as the victim of a "serious miscarriage of justice", was released by leading judges after prosecutors announced they were not opposing his challenge against conviction.

Mr Hallam, who was 18 when found guilty and sentenced to life at the Old Bailey for the murder of a trainee chef, was released from the cells at the Royal Courts of Justice in London to be greeted by emotional family members and dozens of tearful and cheering supporters.

His mother Wendy Cohen, 53, who hugged her dazed-looking son, said the family was in a state of shock over the turn of events.

Surrounded by well-wishers, she said: "My family has been through hell. It has been torture for Sam and the whole family."

After leaving the building they were drenched in champagne by supporters waiting outside. Among those greeting Mr Hallam were his brothers Terry, 31, and Danny, 29, and sister Daisy, 16. His father, Terry, was found hanged in October 2010.

Mr Hallam, who had earlier listened to proceedings from the dock of a packed courtroom, was hurried into a waiting car which sped away up Fleet Street as car horns honked and supporters whooped.

He was convicted in October 2005 of the murder of Essayas Kassahun, 21, who died after being attacked by a group of youths on the St Luke's estate in Clerkenwell, London, in October 2004. Since his conviction, his family and friends have mounted a high-profile campaign insisting he is innocent.

His case came before the appeal judges after it was referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Spencer, will give their ruling in the case on Thursday, when they are expected to quash his conviction.