Man cleared of killing Wearside pensioner with a hammer

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A MAN on trial for a deadly hammer attack has been cleared of murder.

Andrew Johnson was accused of bludgeoning Fred Shipley to death during a savage assault at his home last July.

Mr Shipley suffered at least eight blows to his skull in the attack at his home at Paradise Crescent, Easington Colliery.

The 59-year-old may have survived for more than two hours with devastating injuries but could not have been saved even with quick medical intervention.

During a trial at Newcastle Crown Court Johnson, 40, of John Street, Easington Colliery, told jurors he was out on the night of Mr Shipley’s death and had nothing to do with the killing.

He said he had returned home “singing and dancing” from his night out, with no trouble on his mind, and was shocked when he later heard what had happened to Mr Shipley.

After just over three hours deliberation, jurors accepted Mr Johnson did not carry out the killing and found him not guilty of murder.

He was released from custody, where he had been held on remand, immediately.

After the verdict Det Supt Ken Donnelly, who led the investigation into Mr Shipley’s death, said: “The full and thorough investigation into Fred’s death was one of the most extensive homicide inquiries this force has ever carried out.

“The prosecution presented the case to the jury which has reached its verdict today and we respect that decision.

“Whilst we will be carrying out a review of this investigation following today’s verdict, at this stage we are not looking for anyone else in connection with Fred Shipley’s death.

“However, if any new information comes to light it will be considered.”