Date: 28 Apr 1988
Place: Bermondsey, London
John Lewis was kicked repeatedly after going to sleep on a bench on 7 August 1987. The assault put him into a coma from which he died nine-months later on 28 April 1988.
A 25-year-old labourer was tried for his murder on the basis of the type of boots he was wearing but the evidence fell apart in court and the judge instructed the jury to acquit him. He had maintained his innocence throughout.
John Lewis was known as John 'Scouse' Lewis and was described as a pint-sized pensioner, being only 5ft 4in tall.
It was heard that the person that had kicked John Lewis had left footprints in blood at the scene and then fled but returned to offer John Lewis help.
The police later tracked down the labourer and arrested him on the grounds that he was seen to have been wearing working boots with a chevron sole and steel toe caps. The police said that there was only one boot sold in England with a chevron sole and a steel toe cap which suggested to them that he was the man that had assaulted John Lewis.
However, it was heard that witnesses gave conflicting evidence regarding the type of boots that the labourer had been wearing.
John Lewis had been working as a cleaner at the time at a printing firm and had just finished work after which he went to The George public house where he met some friends and had between seven and eight pints.
It was said that after leaving the pub he went to sleep on a park bench near the pub. A family that were later walking down an alley near the pub at about midnight said that they saw a man holding onto a pillar in the alley and kicking at something violently.
It was said that the man then disappeared, probably because he had been seen, and that several other people then came over to assist John Lewis who was found lying injured. One of the people that had seen the man kicking at something said that shortly after he went over to help John Lewis the man that he had seen kicking something came back and offered to call an ambulance for John Lewis.
The witness said that the man had been wearing working boots with chevron soles and steel capped toes, noting that the leather was ripped over one of the toes. It was said that other witnesses also noticed the metal shining through his boots.
Another witness said that they also saw quite a bit of blood on his boots.
It was also heard at the trial that the person that had carried out the kicking had left a trail of bloody footprints along the path. The court heard that the footprints were in blood which revealed that the attacker had been wearing boots with a chevron patterned sole.
The labourer had lived in Evelyn Street in Deptford and he was arrested on 17 April 1988. However, when the police went to his home they found no trace of a pair of boots with a chevron sole there. He then told the police that on the night of the murder he had been wearing black working boots.
However, at the trial, a businessman that had seen the labourer on the night of the murder said that he recalled him as having been wearing high or long boots, whilst his son, who had been with him, said that the labourer had been wearing black working boots.
Another witness said that the labourer had been wearing cherry red boots that reached four to six inches above his ankle.
After the judge heard the evidence regarding the boots, the judge said, 'You have a flat contradiction in the prosecution case. The defence takes the view that it would be totally unsatisfactory for any jury to consider convicting this man of murder. On my direction I am going to ask the foreman of the jury to find this man not guilty of all three charges he faces'. The labourer had been charged with murder, attempted murder and causing him grievous bodily harm with intent.
The labourer had denied murdering John Lewis and said that he had been working on a building site during the day and that later in the evening he had visited two pubs and that after he left the second pub at 11pm he wandered around for a while before stumbling on John Lewis after he had been attacked along with the other people.