A DAD cleared of murder today spoke of his “nightmare” five months after he was accused of killing a Wearside man.
A jury at Newcastle Crown Court cleared Paul Mallin of both the murder and manslaughter of Andrew Lucas in Washington.
The 35-year-old’s co-accused, Mark Spalding, is facing life in prison after he was found guilty of stabbing Mr Lucas to death.
Spalding, 45, had initially blamed Mr Mallin for murdering the 20-year-old.
Speaking exclusively to the Echo just hours after he was freed, Mr Mallin said: “What do I think of Mr Spalding?
“I think he’s an evil man who has finally got his just deserts.”
Mr Mallin now faces rebuilding his life, left in pieces after he was arrested and held on remand at Holme House prison in Teesside.
“When they arrested me, I was in shock, it all seemed surreal. I told them what had happened. I thought I was being fair,” he said.
“I could have done the usual protocol and denied even seeing it.”
Mr Mallin said he was not looking for trouble when Spalding carried out the killing. He had been out walking with his friend when they encountered Andrew last November.
Spalding then confronted Andrew over an earlier attack in which his mobile phone was stolen. Mallin said he then saw Spalding corner him.
He said: “He was lunging at him with a knife. He was lunging towards Andrew, thrusting the knife.”
Mr Mallin, who was born in Pennywell but grew up in Concord, was accused, along with Spalding, of stabbing Andrew to death.
He always denied the murder but today admits he was naive to get involved with a man like Spalding.
“I’d known him for about 15 years,” recalls Mr Mallin. “I wouldn’t say we were best friends, but I’m certainly not going to deny we were friends.”
“I regret that I allowed someone like that into my life in the first place, but, much more than that, I regret that someone has died.”
A pipe-fitter by trade, Mr Mallin knows the impact of being in custody, and a two-week trial is nothing compared to the heartache suffered by the family of Andrew.
He said: “I only hope they don’t hold a grudge against me. I genuinely believe I’ve done the right thing by telling the truth. I know the lives of Mr Lucas’ family are shattered forever and nothing I can say will make a difference to that.”
Dad to an 11-year-old boy, Mr Mallin says his own family have been hit hard.
“It’s been particularly difficult for my mam. There’s been a lot of gossip and no matter what happens, there’s always going to be that stigma.
“At the minute, I’m still trying to get my head around everything.
“What this has done to me psychologically, God only knows.
“All I can do now is take one step at a time. It’s been a nightmare.”
Mr Mallin says he has been offered no support since his release and now has nowhere to turn to, or home to live in.
“I managed to get off heroin in 2005 but now I don’t feel like I’ve anywhere to go,” he added. “You would think there might be support agencies who could help me. I’m trying not to be bitter about everything that’s gone on.
“In the end, I know the police were only doing their job.”