Gary Allen loses Court of Appeal challenge against two murder convictions

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Double murderer Gary Allen has lost an appeal against his convictions after being found guilty of killing two women 21 years apart.

Following a trial last year, Allen, 48, was jailed for life for murdering mother-of-three Samantha Class in Hull in 1997, and mother-of-four Alena Grlakova in Rotherham in 2018.

The murders were branded “wicked” acts by a judge, Mr Justice Goose, as he ordered Allen to serve a minimum of 37 years in prison at his sentencing in June 2021.

Allen was cleared of the murder of Ms Class in 2000, but this acquittal was overturned in 2019 after “compelling” new evidence was personally presented to Appeal Court judges by Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC.

Allen denied killing either of the women but was found guilty of two counts of murder by a jury that heard eight weeks of evidence.

On Thursday, he brought a fresh appeal against both his murder convictions and sentence at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mrs Justice McGowan and Mr Justice Choudhury, dismissed his appeal after an hour-long hearing.

Katherine Goddard QC, representing Allen, focused her arguments on the trial judge’s summing up of the evidence relating to Ms Grlakova before the jury considered its verdict.

She claimed the judge “misdirected” jurors in such a way that it had the effect of encouraging them to dismiss the evidence of three defence witnesses as “unreliable and not credible”.

Ms Goddard said the three witnesses, who did not know Allen, claimed to have seen Ms Grlakova after Boxing Day 2018, which could “fundamentally undermine a key plank of the prosecution case” that she was killed late that day or early the next.

“If any of those sightings were or could be right then we submit they cast doubt on the whole premise of the crown’s case,” she said.

General view of Wakefield prison (Gareth Copley/PA)

(PA Archive)

The court was later told that jurors had been allowed to take into account evidence in relation to the killing of Ms Class, with Ms Goddard arguing that alleged errors by the judge could also render the conviction over her death unsafe.

Challenging Allen’s sentence, she also argued that there was no evidence that either killing had been planned or pre-meditated.

Alistair MacDonald QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, said Allen’s argument against his conviction was “misconceived” and pointed to a “wealth” of “compelling evidence” that was supportive of Allen “being the killer of Ms Grlakova”.

This included Allen being one of the last people to see her alive, mobile phone evidence that he visited the site where she was found, and evidence he bought a trowel and gloves at a supermarket allegedly used in the disposal of her body, the court heard.

Mr MacDonald added on the witnesses: “The judge fairly advised the jury as to how to treat this evidence.”

He said Ms Grlakova had “effectively disappeared off the face of the earth” on Boxing Day 2018, despite the police later trawling through 6,000 hours of CCTV.

Allen, wearing a blue shirt and sitting at a table, followed the hearing via video link from HMP Wakefield in West Yorkshire.

Ms Grlakova’s widower, who had been estranged from his wife, was also listening to the proceedings remotely, the court was told.

Rejecting the appeal, Lord Justice Holroyde said of the trial judge: “All he did, and in our view rightly did, was to give a faithful summary of the evidence of the witnesses and mention briefly the need to be cautious about identification evidence.

“The observation was neither inappropriate nor unfair,” he added.

He also concluded that the sentence handed to Allen was not “manifestly excessive in length”, noting the judge had taken into account aggravating factors in the case.

At Allen’s trial, jurors heard harrowing details of how the body of 29-year-old Ms Class, who was working in the sex industry, was found by children on the banks of the Humber in October 1997.

She had 33 different injuries.

Ms Class left three children, Sophia, Aiden and Lewis.

Ms Grlakova’s body was found naked in a stream in Rotherham in April 2019, four months after she was last seen on Boxing Day 2018.

The 38-year-old had been strangled.

She was from Slovakia and moved to the UK in 2008 but, after becoming estranged from her husband and children, she started work in the sex industry.

Sheffield Crown Court heard how Allen attacked two sex workers in 2000 in Plymouth, just weeks after he was acquitted of Ms Class’s murder.

After he was jailed for those attacks, he told a probation officer about his dislike of sex workers and women in general, saying: “I like to frighten them. I like to cause pain.

“I like to make them cry. I like blood. I like to hurt them. I enjoy it. It makes me feel good.”

In 2010, Humberside Police launched an elaborate undercover operation to assess the danger posed by Allen.

He told one of the undercover officers how a sex worker had got angry with him “so I strangled her and dumped her in the Humber”.

The jury was told this was the “clearest possible admission” to his killing of Ms Class.

Following Allen’s convictions, police forces around the UK were asked to check unsolved cases to make sure Allen had not committed any further offences.

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