A HUDDERSFIELD judge has turned detective in a new book which reopens the debate on the innocence of a hanged man.
Bert Hall, a 48-year-old church caretaker, was sentenced to death on March 12, 1954, after being convicted at Leeds Assize Court of murdering a six-year-old Halifax girl.
But Crown Court judge Patrick Robertshaw, who lives in Scissett, claims in new book The Inglorious Twelfth that vital evidence which could have saved Hall's life was held back from his lawyers.
Hall, and ex-butler and former RAF serviceman, always protested his innocence in relation to Mary Hackett's death.
The little girl had gone missing from her Lister Lane home at lunchtime on August 12, 1953.
Six weeks after she went missing her body was discovered in a shallow grave in the foundations of Park Lane Congregational Church, where Hall worked.
She had been savagely attacked to the back of her head, but there had been no sexual interference.
Former mental patient Hall was later taken in for questioning and said he had heard a child's screams from the foundations, but thought it had been children playing.
He was charged with Mary Hackett's murder.
Judge Robertshaw, 60, who works as a circuit judge in Doncaster and Sheffield, interviewed barristers, a former policeman and friends of Hall about the case.
He also gained access to papers and transcripts of the case, made public for the first time.
They show a suspicious stranger, who had been hanging around near Mary's house for weeks, who was spotted again by various witnesses on the day of her murder. The same unkempt man was seen several times that day with a little girl matching Mary's description.
Judge Robertshaw said: "What happened was a calamity for justice.
"It must not happen again. And had the full extent of Hall's `mental problems' been known, might there not have been at least disquiet at exacting the ultimate penalty.
"Whether Bert was guilty of the murder of Mary Hackett must now be a matter for the good judgement of the reader.
"I claim only this - it will be a judgement informed by the whole truth not the partial version fed both to the jury and those who followed the drama in the Press."
The Inglorious Twelfth is published by Alastair Lofthouse.