Date: 1 May 1992
Florence Jackson was found dead in the River Brede near Rye.
Her niece was tried twice for her murder but acquitted. She was convicted at Hove Crown Court in 1993 and jailed for life but appeal in 1997 and was acquitted and a retrial was ordered for 1998 at which she was again acquitted.
her appeal was based on new medical evidence that had emerged.
It was said that the niece had collected Florence Jackson, her aunt, from Greyfriars, her residential home in Winchelsea, at 8pm on 13 May 1992 to drive her to her own home, and that on the way she had stopped off by the River Brede near Rye and dragged Florence Jackson out of the car and pushed her into the river, killing her. The prosecution said that the niece drove to a pumping station on Station Road and pushed Florence Jackson into the river there and then drove off to the main road where she had then deflated her car tyre and then gone off for help.
Florence Jackson was found dead the following day.
However, the niece said that she had got a flat tyre on the way and had left Florence Jackson sitting in the car as she walked off to get help and that when she returned Florence Jackson had vanished. The niece said that after leaving Greyfriars Residential Home in Winchelsea she had been driving down a hill and felt the steering fail and pulled over and then noticed that she had a partially flat tyre. She said that she didn't have a spare and so decided to walk off to a nearby house to make a phone call for assistance and that when she returned 30 minutes later that Florence Jackson was gone.
The niece said that her first thought was that Florence Jackson could not have got far.
At the time it was dark or near dark.
When Florence Jackson was later found she was about 650 yards away from the car in the river.
At the trial the prosecution said that it was not likely that Florence Jackson, who ordinarily needed help in walking, could have made her own way from the car to the river.
However, the defence said that there was not one shred of direct evidence to connect the niece with whatever happened. The defence further noted that no one saw the niece’s car or the niece near the pumping station or in Station Road on the night, from where Florence Jackson might have been pushed in. The defence further added that there was no scientific evidence either that the niece had ever been in the area. They also said that there were no tyre marks or footprints found near the pumping station to link the niece to the location and that there was no blood or mud found on the nieces clothing.
At the trial evidence was given by an expert in geriatric behaviour stating that it was quite possible for people of Florence Jackson's age and condition to walk the supposed distance of a quarter of a mile from the car to the river themselves.
The prosecution said that the niece had wanted Florence Jackson to die so that she could inherit her flat. It was further noted that Florence Jackson was in a residential nursing home, Greyfriars in Winchelsea, and that she owed more than £3,000 in arrears and every month that Florence Jackson continued to live that the inheritance diminished, noting that Florence Jackson's residential home fees were costing £252 a week which would eventually have been balanced against her flat as her only asset and which the niece was due to inherit as her husband, Florence Jackson's only son, was dead.
However, the niece said that she already had enough money, saying that she received £17,500 a year from teaching at a private school and a pension, noting that her mortgage was already paid off and that she had savings of about £15,000.
It was later noted that at the trial Florence Jackson's flat was described as being worth £30,000 but that in reality it was dark and dingy and that it later sold around 1997 for only £18,000. The nieces own wealth was then contrasted, with her own mortgage free house being worth about £150,000, having been paid off 12 years earlier.
The prosecution further noted that the niece had no bed made up for her aunt, who she was supposed to be taking to her home for the weekend indicating that the niece had not expected to have Florence Jackson staying with her as she would be dead. However, the niece said that she had not made up the bed as she had not known whether Florence Jackson would be abe to make it up the stairs to the bedroom or whether she would have to make a bed up for her downstairs.
The police also carried out experiments with slippers very similar to the ones that Florence Jackson had been wearing at the time, having a person walk off along the road to the river wearing them and then compared the wear and damage received to them to the pair that Florence Jackson had been wearing, but nothing conclusive was found.
It was further heard at the trial that the niece had said that a walking stick and torch were also missing from her car when she got back to the car, but the prosecution questioned whether that was because Florence Jackson had taken them with her and they had been washed away and not found or whether it was because they had never existed.
At the first trial in 1993 it was noted that the defence did not seek to prove that Florence Jackson had died accidentally, but instead sought to destroy the prosecution case by arguing each of the prosecution’s arguments and concluding that there was no case to answer. It was heard that the judge agreed, halfway through the trial, that every plank of evidence against the niece had collapsed but said that the jury was still entitled to ask 'If not the defendant, then who?'. As such, it was said that it was agreed generally that Florence Jackson could not have made the journey on her own and that there was no one else about, and so concluded that the aunt was guilty.
After her conviction the niece made several attempts to appeal, stating that it was not conceivable that she would have killed Florence Jackson as at the time she had been overseeing her daughters musical career which she was passionate about and would never have jeopardised that with a murder, however, her appeal on those grounds were refused with it being stated that fresh evidence was required.
Further evidence from experts in geriatric mobility was also gathered and it was further stated that Florence Jackson was quite mobile but was diuretic and was terrified of being left alone so much so that it would have driven her to struggle out of the car and walk off down the road alone.
The niece spent about four years in prison before succeeding in appealing her case.
At the second trial, the defence said that the circumstances in which Florence Jackson died 'were likely to remain a mystery to which none of us will ever know the answer'.
see a Staff Reporter. "Teacher drowned her elderly aunt to gain inheritance." Times [London, England] 10 July 1993: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 July 2014.
see Joanna Bale and Frances Gibb. "Freedom for widow, 68, jailed for murder she did not commit." Times [London, England] 6 Feb. 1998: ^. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 10 July 2014.
see Holloway Life