A man accused of killing a Flint schoolgirl over forty years ago has gone on trial.
Stephen Hough denies the murder, manslaughter and rape of Janet Commins, whose body was found in a school playing field in January 1976. She had been missing from her home for four days.
Another man, Noel Jones, served half of a twelve year jail sentence after admitting manslaughter, but proseuctors told Mold Crown Court that while he had never appealed his conviction, he had confessed while under pressure and always knew he was innocent.
Mark Heywood QC told the jury that Ms Commins had planned to go swimming on 7th January at a local sports centre, but her mother did not allow her because she did not look well. She left her house without telling her parents but left a note to say she would be back by 8.30pm.
After leaving the pool at around 7.30pm, she told a friend she was going straight home, but she was seen with two boys – one a thin, fair-haired boy and the other older-looking – at around 8.10pm. They had been laughing and joking with Janet, who was reported missing at 11pm that night by her father, Edward Commins.
Janet’s body was discovered four days later by three girls as they played hide and seek – she had died after her neck and external airway became compressed and blocked while she was sexually assaulted. There had been signs her body had been left lying face down for a time before it was moved to a playing field near Ysgol Gwynedd.
Hough was questioned by police at the time of the murder because his grandparents’ home overlooked the area where the body was found. Aged 17 at the time, he told officers he was in a car at the time before he admitted stealing petrol from a vehicle on the night she disappeared. He was later fined.
Noel Jones was questioned after telling his girlfriend that he had ”killed a young girl” – in written statements, he admitted raping Ms Commins and said she died during the struggle. In a later statement, Mr Jones said he was with a friend – Michael Orford – who also raped Janet. No evidence was offered against Mr Orford.
A review of the scientific evidence in 2006 discovered DNA from a man in samples taken from Janet’s trousers. Ten years later, Hough’s DNA was taken during an unrelated case and was found to be a match, leading to his arrest.
Mr Heywood QC told the court they were dealing with the trial of Hough and not the retrial of Noel Jones or any appeal against his conviction: ”The prosecution say that when you have considered all the evidence in this case, there is support for Jones’s claim that he was not Janet’s killer and, in all the circumstances, you can be sure that Stephen Hough was.”
The trial is expected to continue for up to three weeks.
Source: BBC Cymru Wales