Murder charge dropped

A MURDER suspect who was accused of stabbing a man in the face has been set free after prosecutors decided he had acted in self defence.

The grieving dad of Norman Hay says he will now always be left with unanswered questions over his 38-year-old son's death.

Norman, who lived with his dad, died after suffering wounds to his head and eye on Tuesday, November 9, in St Bee's Walk, in the Burbank area of Hartlepool.

David Howard, 39, was charged with his murder and appeared at both Hartlepool Magistrates' Court and Teesside Crown Court during his two months behind bars on remand.

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped the charge and issued a notice of discontinuance to Hartlepool Police on Thursday, saying Mr Howard had acted in self defence and there was "no realistic prospect of conviction".

Norman's distraught dad, Alan, of Baptist Street, Hartlepool, told the Mail: "I'm not saying Norman was an angel, but he didn't deserve to die, no-one does.

"How can someone be stabbed in the brain and nothing happen? There'll be no court case, no more questions, nothing, but we need the answers.

"I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't stop thinking about what happened. I can't let this lie."

Alan admits that his son was "rough around the edges" and had been in trouble with the police on several occasions.

He featured in the Mail two years ago when he was given a 30-month prison sentence for a stabbing on January 22, 2008, that led Judge Peter Bowers to call him a "dangerous offender".

But Alan, 67, has stuggled to accept the decision to drop the murder charge.

Cleveland's chief crown prosecutor, Gerry Wareham, said: "After a very careful review of the case, including studying detailed forensic analysis, witness statements and Mr Howard's account of what happened, we took the view that the defendant acted in self defence.

"We realise this is a distressing time for Mr Hay's family and we will be offering to meet with them to explain the reasons for our decision.

"We are duty bound to keep all our cases under review as they proceed through the legal system and determined that in this case there is no realistic prospect of conviction."

Norman's family were hit by further tragedy on January 5 when his half-brother, Les Willis, died suddenly aged just 42.

Police are still investigating his death that is described as "unexplained".

Alan, who is a dad-of-six and step-dad of four, had just come out of hospital after heart surgery when he heard the news of Les's death.

The retired pipe fitter, who is married to Muriel, 64, said: "The whole family is a mess. We just don't understand what is going on. It's left us all in a bad way and everyone is very angry."

Norman's family received more than 120 condolence cards and said they were even sent flowers from staff at HM Prison Acklington, where Norman had served time.

Norman's brother, Alan, 45, who runs the Ship Inn, in Middlegate on Hartlepool's Headland, added: "The funeral was in St Hilda's, it was packed out. He was well known and well liked by a lot of people."

Mr Howard had initially been charged with wounding after Norman suffered stab wounds to his head and eye back in November.

In dramatic scenes at around 11.15am, police officers closed off the street and the Great North Air Ambulance landed in the nearby field of St Joseph's RC Primary School.

Norman was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where he died shortly before midnight on the Wednesday.

Mr Howard, of St Bees Walk, had his charge changed to murder during a hearing at Hartlepool Magistrates' Court the following day after also being treated for stab wounds.

He appeared in Teesside Crown Court on November 15, but did not enter any pleas. He was expected to appear again on Friday, January 21.