FORMER Bury Messenger editor Don Hale, who successfully campaigned to have a murder conviction quashed, is backing calls for a re-investigation amid claims that the case could be linked to the Yorkshire Ripper.

Thanks to Mr Hale’s painstaking inquiries, Stephen Downing was freed after spending 28 years in jail for the murder of Wendy Sewell in Bakewell in 1973.

As then editor of the Matlock Mercury in Derbyshire, the 61-year-old led the campaign to have Downing’s conviction overturned and his efforts were recognised when he received the OBE in 2002.

Mr Hale, who used to live in Prestwich, is now backing a call by former Norfolk Police intelligence officer Chris Clarke for a full independent inquiry into the conduct of Derbyshire Police during the period of the Sewell murder.

He believes her death could be linked to the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, as it bore the hallmarks of “a classic Ripper attack.”

The former detective told Mr Hale that a copy of the dead woman’s pathology report clearly confirms that she was kicked and choked with a ligature before being brutally struck several times with a pickaxe handle.

Mr Clarke claimed the details were kept away from the original trial, along with other fresh evidence which would have destroyed the prosecution case.

Mr Hale said: “Both Chris and I believe this murder has always been a deliberate cover-up.

“There is a clear pattern that vital evidence was ‘buried’ at the time and since.

“Chris believes the police had an ulterior motive and may be potentially guilty of ‘unlawful detention’ and ‘malicious prosecution’.

“The further revelations and inquiries from an ex-detective enhance that argument and I feel the Sewell case and all the other potential Ripper links warrant a specialist team to study and investigate all the claims.”