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Investigative journalist 'vindicated' by huge payout for quashed conviction

The man who former editor Don Hale was instrumental in releasing from prison on the basis of an unsafe conviction is rumoured to be in line for a £1m payout.

Don conducted an intricate investigation into the circumstances of the murder of Wendy Sewell, (32), of Middleton-by-Youlgreave, at Bakewell cemetery in 1973.

Stephen Downing, then 17, was arrested for the murder and spent 27 years in prison for a crime he always claimed he did not commit.

His conviction was quashed on the back of evidence uncovered by the former Matlock Mercury editor, and Stephen Downing, now 50, has received his final compensation payout.

His father, Raymond, (70), of Bakewell, confirmed to reporters that his son had received a final payment.

He told the press: “A payment has been received but Stephen is not telling anyone what it is.”

Newspaper reports guess that the 2002 interim payment, and the final settlement, could together top £1m.

Don said: “The family are reluctant to release the official figure but it is likely to be well over half a million pounds.

“I feel it helps to vindicate my decision to fight for his case over many years.

“He has received a record payout, so I am told, which is in addition to the interim payout of £264,000 received nearly five years ago.

“This is still Britain’s worst and longest ever miscarriage of justice case – and is a still classed as an unsolved crime.”

ITV Granada is understood to have an updated documentary about the case ready to broadcast. It has already been shown in the North West, and last week in the Borders and Scotland.

Don is now in a senior editorial role with North Wales Newspapers.