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Accused walks free in manhunt mix-up
A WOMAN accused of harbouring a man wanted for attempted murder has walked free from court after the Crown Prosecution Service said they could not prove that there had been a major manhunt for him.
But North Yorkshire Police have said they did provide the evidence the CPS wanted from them.
Police launched a public appeal for Michael Bennison shortly after lunchtime on December 14 last year, appealing for information on his whereabouts and urging him to give himself up both in York and surrounding counties.
They warned the public not to approach him and reports appeared in The Press and in other news outlets.
He was arrested in the early evening of December 16 at Tanya Ellerby’s house, in North Moor Estate, off Huntington Road, and charged with the attempted murder of his girlfriend, Amy Evans.
Miss Ellerby, 30, was charged in March with assisting Bennison.
The prosecution alleged that she had harboured him throughout the manhunt. She denied the charge.
Last month, the prosecution abandoned the attempted murder charge against Bennison after the police lost vital DNA swabs and accepted his plea to a lesser charge of wounding his girlfriend.
Now the CPS has completely dropped the case against Miss Ellerby.
Nick Adlington, for the CPS, told York Crown Court about her case: “The Crown does not have evidence on the extent of the publicity. I can say there was publicity, but I don’t have the evidence to prove it.”
He said the lack of evidence about the publicity had been highlighted at the Plea and Case Management Hearing (PCMH) in May.
Without it, the case against Miss Ellerby was based on evidence that she had initially refused to allow police into her house when they knocked on her door on December 16, but then let them in. As a result, the case against her was being dropped.
A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS has a duty to keep all our cases under constant review. A decision was taken jointly with North Yorkshire Police that, due to the absence of key evidence, there was insufficient evidence to proceed.”
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “The statement issued by the CPS today in respect of this case could be interpreted as meaning the police have failed to meet the request for further evidence in this case.
“North Yorkshire Police are completely satisfied that they have supplied the CPS with evidence requested at the PCMH on May 8 to complement the initial crown court case papers submitted in April, 2013. The decision not to pursue this case on the grounds of insufficient evidence is therefore a surprise to North Yorkshire Police who agreed with CPS that the broader public interest would not be served by pursuing the matter.”