Criminologist withdraws from fight to free Luke Mitchell

Sandra Lean, left, with Corinne Mitchell. Picture: Hemedia
Sandra Lean, left, with Corinne Mitchell. Picture: Hemedia
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A CRIMINOLOGIST who spearheaded efforts to overturn Luke Mitchell’s conviction for the murder of his girlfriend Jodi Jones has withdrawn from the campaign to free him.

Dr Sandra Lean, who highlighted his case in her book No Smoke! The Shocking Truth About British Justice, led the battle against Mitchell’s life sentence alongside his mother, Corinne.

Her withdrawal follows a ruling by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which found there were no grounds to challenge the guilty verdict.

Following the report’s publication, Dr Lean admitted it was a “shattering blow” to the long-running campaign to clear 25-year-old Mitchell’s name, but said he would “not give up his fight”.

Sources said Mrs Mitchell had become unhappy with Dr Lean’s involvement in the wake of the SCCRC ruling, which followed two years of investigation by Scotland’s official justice watchdog.

Dr Lean would not comment on any factors behind her departure, adding the “reasons would remain private as a matter of respect”.

Mrs Mitchell confirmed Dr Lean had left, but did not want to comment further.

Dr Lean said: “I really have nothing to say about this. I believe Luke is 100 per cent completely innocent. The reason for my withdrawal will remain private as a matter of respect.”

Dr Lean added she would not be involved with the website and forum set up to promote Mitchell’s cause as “I no longer have power of attorney”.

But a source said: “Mrs Mitchell blames Dr Lean for the SCCRC appeal failing, which is completely wrong. Dr Lean has dedicated ten years of her life to the cause and has done a really good job.

“It’s appalling for her to be treated this way and it’s left the campaign in disarray.”

Mitchell was 15 when he stabbed his 14-year-old girlfriend to death in Easthouses, Midlothian.

Dr Lean, a psychology and sociology graduate, lived a five-minute drive from the wooded lane where Jodi was killed in June 2003.

Concluding the case against Mitchell was circumstantial and the police investigation botched, she carried out her own inquiry – interviewing key people, tracing and timing the route Mitchell was alleged to have taken and scanning hundreds of pages of evidence, statements and transcripts.

The SCCRC recently ruled that although Mitchell’s rights were infringed when he was questioned by police, he was not the victim of a miscarriage of justice as the evidence from the interrogations was not needed to prove the case against him.