TWO men who were jailed for life over a love triangle contract killing failed in appeals against their convictions yesterday.
Christopher Hartley, 45, was shot dead in a layby in Clayton West in September 2009 after getting in the way of his gay lover’s new relationship with a woman.
David Matthew Large, 37, who wished to get rid of Mr Hartley to enable him to continue the heterosexual relationship, paid 41-year-old Simon Keith Mullen thousands of pounds to kill him.
In May last year, Large, of Rona Croft, Rothwell, Leeds, and Mullen, of Farding Square, South Shields, were convicted of murder at Bradford Crown Court and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Mr Hartley, 45, lived in Tingley near Wakefield.
But both vowed to clear their names and yesterday took their cases to the Court of Appeal in London where three senior judges rejected their arguments and upheld the guilty verdicts.
Mrs Justice Rafferty, who heard the appeal with Lord Justice Richards and Judge David Paget QC, rejected the appeal in less than an hour-and-a-half.
The men’s trial heard that Large had been in a relationship with Mr Hartley for 15 years, but was beginning a new relationship with a woman he met online.
However, Mr Hartley was getting in the way and Large told the woman the only way they could be properly together was if Mr Hartley was killed.
The prosecution alleged that he then enlisted Mullen, who drove from South Shields to West Yorkshire and shot Mr Hartley, who had been lured to a rural location under the guise of a drug deal.
Both men denied any part in the killing, Large having made sure he was nowhere near the scene and Mullen claiming his planned meeting with Mr Hartley never went ahead.
Lawyers for the men argued that the trial judge had been wrong to tell the jury they could convict even if they were not sure that Mullen was the actual gunman.
That had not been the way the prosecution put its case and amounted to serious prejudice which rendered the trial unfair and the convictions ‘unsafe’.
Rejecting the arguments, Mrs Justice Rafferty said: “There was nothing wrong or unfair in what occurred.
“This is a simple and common direction given by a judge at the conclusion of a trial.
“He was perfectly positioned to assess the prejudice, potential or real.”
Both appeals were dismissed.