Former soldier found guilty of killing and raping Flint schoolgirl Janet Commins 41 years ago

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Staff Reporter

A former soldier who violently raped and killed a schoolgirl has been found guilty of her manslaughter more than 40 years later.

Stephen Hough, 58, let another man, Noel Jones, go to jail after killing Janet Commins, 15, in Flint, North Wales, in 1976.

But last year a sample of Hough's DNA was taken by police and fed into their database - and it matched semen samples taken from the body of Janet and stored for four decades.

The jury at Mold Crown Court heard the odds of the DNA being from anyone other than Hough was a billion-to-one.

He denied even knowing Janet and any wrongdoing but was convicted by the jury of rape, buggery and the manslaughter of Janet following a three week trial at Mold Crown Court.

Hough, from Flint, was cleared of the alternative charge of murder.

North Wales Police is now under investigation over how it handled the 1976 investigation and dealt with Noel Jones at the time of Janet's death.

Hough made no reaction as the foreman of the jury read out the verdicts, while Janet's remaining family sat in the public gallery.

Janet was an only child and her mother Eileen, her only surviving parent, was too upset to come to court.

Mr Justice Clive Lewis told the court he has ordered Hough to appear again on Friday morning but he will not sentence him until next week when he has heard mitigation from his lawyers and considered the matter fully.

Remanding the defendant into custody, he said: "It is critical, after 40 years, that justice is done."

Outside court, some of Janet's relatives were in tears.

The jury heard Hough was 16 when he attacked Janet, who was choked as she was repeatedly and violently raped.

But within days police had arrested Mr Jones, who was 18 at the time and an illiterate scrap dealer from the gypsy community. He eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was jailed for 12 years.

Mr Jones told Hough's trial that he had been browbeaten and "coerced" into making a false confession by detectives conducting the investigation, which took place in the years before the landmark 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act when police interviews were not tape-recorded and access to solicitors for suspects was often denied.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an investigation into the conduct of North Wales Police over the matter.

See full story in the Leader

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