Unsolved Murders

Sarah Jane Cannon

Age: 20

Sex: female

Date: 22 Apr 1995

Place: 33 Kelburn Terrace, Port Glasgow

Sarah Jane Cannon was shot in her flat. Her partner was convicted for her murder on 24 August 1995 but later aquitted after serving over six and a half years in prison.

They had shared a flat together although evidence showed that they had not been getting on very well for the previous few months with her partner admitting that they had had an argument three days before Sarah Cannon's death during which he had struck her. Following that, Sarah Cannon had told a friend that she was breaking off her relationship with the partner.

She was also known as Sally Cannon.

She had been shot once in the mouth and twice in the head.

She and her partner had lived in a ground floor flat. The police said that they found blood in the hall on the ground floor, including bits of Sarah Cannon's teeth just outside the front door and a trail of blood that led up to the landing and the door to another flat. They said that they thought that she had been shot in the mouth on the ground floor and had then managed to go up to the landing where she was shot twice in the head from behind the right ear.

It was noted that there was no evidence of powder burns surrounding any of the three gunshot entry wounds indicating that the gun had probably been fired from two feet or more away.

It was noted that there had been no forced entry into the flat. At the retrial, the parner claimed that the judge had misdirected the jury by stating that there had been no forced entry and inferring that that meant that the person that had shot her had been either let in by her or known to her or had let themselves in, and that in conjunction with the fact that someone had said that no one knew of anybody who was likely 'to have done this to her', that that pointed circumstanually to the partner having been the assailant.

The police said that there was heavy bloodstaining in the ground floor area and that there was a blood stained fingerprint, found to belong to Sarah Cannon, low down on the wall which was probably made by her as she was scrambling about on the floor after having been shot. The police said that from the ground floor the blood staining went all the way to the top floor of the flat and then went down to the landing where she was shot in the head twice.

The forensic scientist that examined the blood stains on Sarah Cannon's partner's clothes said that he accepted that many of the stains could have been produced when he had held Sarah Cannon in his arms, but said that in his opinion, several droplets that were found on his jeans and jacket had been produced when Sarah Cannon was shot. Sarah Cannon's partners jacket was found to have had, apart from the very heavy blood staining, 10 very small spots of blood likely to have come from Sarah Cannon which the expert said had obviously been dispersed at high speed from the blood source. The forensic scientist said, 'You require energy to break up blood', and 'the spots of blood were very small and there must have been a great deal of energy put into the system in order to get the small spots, so a gunshot wound would be an example of that: that could create the small spots of that nature', and said that the droplets would have been propelled onto his clothing when the force of the bullets had struck Sarah Cannon, noting that the gunshot would have broken up the blood and produced very small, fine spots. He also noted that a person would have had to have been pretty close to the person when the shot was fired as the small blood spots would have only travelled for a maximum of 2 or 3 feet. However, the forensic scientist said that he could not be certain that the droplets where caused when Sarah Cannon was shot, although it was likely that they were, and it was also suggested that they might have been caused as Sally Cannon made a last violent attempt to clear her airway.

The three bullets were found to be .38 calibre lead bullets and to have all been fired from the same gun which was thought to have been a Second World War Enfield type revolver. However, the gun was never found.

Sarah Cannon had kept a diary in which she had written about her relationship with the man stating that they had 'arguments all day' and writing, 'When will it all end? Soon please. He can’t seem to stand me lately. He wants me to leave' and 'Things are becoming unbearable. Life sucks at the moment. I am so sad'.

A person that lived nearby at 31 Kelburn Terrace said that on the night of the murder he heard a voice shout, 'You’re getting it you bitch' and then heard a pop followed by some sqealing and then two more pops before seeing Sarah Cannon's partner running from the tenement. He said that he had heard the sounds between 12.30am and 12.45am and that Sarah Cannon's flat was the only one with the lights on. However, it was later heard at the retrial that the man that had said he had heard the shots was considered by a psychiatrist who examined him to have been in the border line mentally handicapped range.

It was also heard that occupants of a flat on each of the first and second floors said that they had heard nothing of the incident until they saw Sarah Cannon's partner in the building with his brother, which was estimated to have been at around 1.20am.

Sarah Cannon's partner said that he had been at his brother's house watching the film Alien Nation which was noted as having finished at 1.03am.

A woman said that she had been going along Kelburn Terrace at about 12.50am and had seen Sarah Cannon's partner coming along the road and had seen him goin into 33 Kelburn Terrace. She said that as he did she looked in but saw no one. She said that soon after Sarah Cannon's partner came out and said, 'Did you see anyone?' or 'Did you see anything?'.

When the judge at the retrial summed up he said that there were so many discrepancies the man's evidence that if the jury did not accept his evidence then they would have to acquit the partner.

It was also heard that the trial hinged on the small blood spatters that were found on the partners clothing.

The partner said that he had been out at the time and that when he got back to the flat that he shared with Sarah Cannon that he found the front door open. He said that he saw blood in the hall and on the stairs and that he thought that there might have been someone in the house and so he got a machette from behind the fireplace in the livingroom and then went up the stairs where he found Sarah Cannon slumped on the landing.

The partner said that after he found Sarah Cannon on the landing he ran out of the flat and called 999 and then took a taxi to his brother's place and then returned with him to his flat where they found Sarah Cannon still on the landing and who he then cradled in his arms until the ambulance arrived.

When the police found Sarah Cannon's partner in a car park after following a trail of blood they found he had blood on his face, hands and jeans and said that when he was addressed he became emotional and asked, 'What kind of beast would do that?'.

The partners retrial was granted after it was heard that his defence had failed to present vital forensic evidence at his first trial that could have prooved that he was innocent. It was also claimed that the evidence that was used against him was mainly circumstantial that that no properly directed jury would have convicted him upon it, that the judge had misdirected the jury and that his defence had inadequatley prepared for the trial.

Amongst other things considered at the appeal court, it was noted that at the first trial that the evidence relating to the distance of the muzzle of the gun when fired and the absence of any residue at the site of any wound and the fact that only one of the three gunshot wounds was likely to have produced any spray of blood, allied to the evidence of Sarah Cannon's partner's that Sarah Cannon had coughed while he was present, would have provided material for cross-examination of the expert evidence offered by the Crown and the opportunity of a more specific alternative explanation than was in fact explored at the first trial. It was further noted that such an explanation excluded the likelihood that the bloodspotting of Sarah Cannon's partner's clothing was consistent with his having fired the first shot which struck Sarah Cannon's face because the distance that the muzzle must have been from Sarah Cannon's face was such that it was unlikely that any spray from that shot would have reached or fallen on Sarah Cannon's partner's clothing. It was further noted that that conclusion could have been further supported by reference to the finding of saliva on his clothing that was consistent with its having been mixed with blood expelled from Sarah Cannon's mouth while she was still alive and breathing.

The appeal court also heard that there had been a substantial failure on the part of those instructed for the defence of Sarah Cannon's partner, for not only was the forensic evidence of the finding of bloodspotting on his clothing an essential plank in that case but it was also significanct in pointing to him as the assailant, both points of which rested upon it being established beyond reasonable doubt that that bloodspotting was consistent with a spray of blood coming from a gunshot wound before Sarah Cannon died and could not otherwise be explained. It was also noted that the defence had not carried out their own post-mortem or sought a report from an independent pathologist meaning that the evidence of the prosecutions post-mortem was never investigated by the defence.

When the partner was retried he was acquitted on 5 December 2001 with a verdict of not proven.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.