A young woman fell to her knees sobbing as she was cleared by a jury of murdering her friend’s violent boyfriend after a retrial ordered by the Court of Appeal.
Stacey Hyde was originally convicted at Bristol Crown Court in 2010 of killing 34-year-old Vincent Francis when she was aged 17 at the flat he shared with her friend, Holly Banwell.
Miss Hyde, now 23, from Wells, Somerset, had denied murder saying she was in fear for her life but the original jury disagreed and she was sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison by Mr Justice Field.
However, in November last year, the court of appeal overturned her murder conviction and Lord Justice Laws ordered a retrial which has been held at Winchester Crown Court lasting four weeks.
Miss Hyde sobbed and wiped away tears as the judge, Mr Justice Teare, discharged her and told her she was free to leave the court.
The original trial heard that Miss Hyde, a waitress, armed herself with a 10-inch knife and stabbed Mr Francis up to 17 times.
The Bristol court was told that after stabbing Mr Francis, Miss Hyde told Ms Banwell: “I did it for you because I don’t like the way he treats you.”
Mr Justice Fields said that in sentencing Miss Hyde he had taken into consideration that the violence had been initiated by Mr Francis.
The trial heard that Miss Hyde, who had been drinking heavily that night, had gone back to Ms Banwell’s flat in Wells on September 4, 2009, after a night out.
Ms Banwell had called 999 after Mr Francis had attacked her and then Miss Hyde before the defendant then hit him back before she went and picked up a carving knife and stabbed him in the back and chest.
The jury was played the 999 call made by Ms Banwell in which she asks for help to stop Mr Francis from attacking Miss Hyde as the defendant then stabs him.
She says in the call: “My boyfriend is smashing, beating up my friend, she’s a girl and I need the police, I need the police ASAP.”
She continued: “There was a huge row and he hits me, and he started on, basically he hit me and he hit me so she hit him and now he has started on her and now they are hitting each other. I need the police.”
Ms Banwell then goes on to say: “Don’t f****** punch me, I’m on the phone to the police, don’t punch me, do you know what I mean, I’ve just got a smack in. No Stacey, put that down.”
With screaming heard in the background, she continues: “She has got a knife, she’s got a knife, she’s got a knife. She’s stabbed him. Oh my God she has stabbed him.”
The retrial has heard about Miss Hyde’s mental health with expert witnesses for the defence and prosecution disagreeing to the extent she may have suffered from a personality disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which can lead to a failure of impulse control.
The Winchester court was also told that the defendant had difficulty coping with stressful situations and in 2009 had been sent for urgent assessment for problematic use of alcohol, depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
In a statement released after the hearing, Miss Hyde said: “I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up.
“I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.”
Her mother, Diane Hyde, said: “It’s the happiest day of my life. We’re ecstatic, very happy, can’t believe this has happened.
“We are very sad that someone died but we are very grateful for this verdict. We are very proud of Stacey who has shown great courage and dignity throughout this nightmare.
“It’s been five years of knowing the verdict was wrong in the first place, my daughter wouldn’t knowingly hurt anyone and none of us know what we would do if we are in fear.”
A spokeswoman for Justice for Women criticised the prosecution as the “unnecessary and costly murder retrial of a damaged and vulnerable young woman”.
She said: “Justice for Women have supported Stacey since 2011 throughout a series of appeals.
“We are delighted that justice has finally been done and that Stacey will now be able to receive the support she needs instead of being unjustly punished for her own vulnerability and fear.”
The spokeswoman said that the retrial had been unnecessary because Miss Hyde had been willing to plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds that she was acting out of self-defence.
She added that even prosecution psychiatric witnesses had agreed that Miss Hyde had been suffering from a “number of mental disorders”.
The spokeswoman continued: “A 999 call made at the time of the killing revealed that Stacey was screaming in terror throughout the incident and that her former friend Holly Banwell, despite her evidence to the contrary, was under attack by Francis at the time of the stabbing.
“Evidence emerged of a history of violence towards women by Francis, including a former girlfriend who gave similar evidence.”