A MANSLAUGHTER trial collapsed after a juror decided to investigate the case himself.
Newcastle Crown Court had heard six days of evidence at an estimated cost to the public purse of more than £60,000 – not including additional legal fees for defence and prosecution lawyers.
But Judge David Hodson was forced to halt the trial yesterday after learning one of the jurors had been making his own inquiries into the case.
He and his 11 colleagues had been trying teenager Dale Patterson for the manslaughter of 72-year-old Raymond Quigley. The 18-year-old, of Manila Street, Sunderland, denies the charge. He also denies a further charge of making off without payment. Speaking after the jury was dismissed, Mr Quigley’s family spoke of their devastation after learning it was being halted.
Judge Hodson halted the trial after being handed a three-page list containing more than 30 questions about the case – and a map from Google Earth of the scene.
It then emerged one of the jurors had been carrying out his own investigations. The court heard the man had:
:: Been to the death scene and photographed it
:: Measured a fence which is at the centre of evidence
:: Carried out research into his own theories about what might have happened on the night.
Among the varied questions he passed to the judge included demands for more information on Patterson’s baggy skateboard-style clothing.
The middle-aged juror also wanted to know whether there were any clues from his mobile telephone and bank statements.
And he asked whether the jury could hear the audiotape of the police interview of a prosecution witness.
Judge Hodson discharged the jury from reaching a verdict after the man admitted he had told other members of the panel what he had been doing and they had been talking about it.
Mr Quigley, from Gateshead and a taxi driver for nearly 40 years, died from a heart attack in the early hours of September 2 last year.
Patterson had decided to take a cab when he missed his last train home after attending a skateboarding event in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park.
Patterson is accused of trying to flee Mr Quigley’s taxi without paying his fare from Newcastle to Sunderland.
He is then alleged to have been involved in a violent struggle with Mr Quigley, who collapsed and died from a heart attack. After the list of questions was handed to the judge, inquiries revealed the questions and map came from the juror in question.
He then admitted to the court he had visited the scene and photographed the fence where Patterson is alleged to have struggled violently with Mr Quigley in Ryhope, Sunderland.
The juror was brought back into court on his own to be quizzed by Judge Hodson.
He then summoned the other 11 jurors into court and dismissed them.
Speaking after the day’s events in court, Mr Quigley’s widow Dorothy said: "It’s was very upsetting when the jury got dismissed. It was dreadful. I’m feeling a bit devastated."