Jack Hewitt was a brave soldier who played his full part in the Second World War.

He served as a sergeant and crew member in the Royal Tank Regiment and fought many hostile battles with his comrades against the enemy in Italy.

What few if any of his colleagues knew was that he was a convicted killer, guilty of the murder of Oxfordshire pub landlady Sarah Blake.

Now, nearly a century after he was found guilty, his family who have long campaigned against the verdict, have received welcome news.

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After assessing the evidence, a crown court judge on the BBC programme, Murder, Mystery and My Family, has declared his conviction unsafe.

His family have laid a plaque declaring ‘Justice at Last’ in the cemetery where his ashes were scattered after his death in 1972.

Jack was just 15 when he was caught up in the murder investigation in the village of Gallowstree Common, near Henley.

Mrs Blake, 55, was found dead in the Crown and Anchor pub, which she ran with her husband Henry, on March 4, 1922.

She had suffered more than 60 wounds to her head, neck and hands and her throat was cut.

Oxford Mail:

Jack Hewitt

Jack, born in Henley in 1907, the eldest of five sons, had been in the pub for four minutes at 6pm and was said to have been the last person to see Mrs Blake alive.

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Police questioned him for more than six hours in a locked shed at a farm where he worked and he finally confessed to the murder.

But in court, he denied making any confession, saying he was forced to sign a statement without reading it.

The jury found him guilty and, given his age, he was sentenced to be detained at His Majesty’s Pleasure. He served 10 years before being released for good behaviour.

Another man, Robert Albert Shepherd, known as ‘Silky Bob’, also confessed to killing Mrs Blake, but police did not pursue the case against him.

A year later, ‘Silky Bob’ was sentenced to a life term of penal servitude for killing his girlfriend, Florence Jones.

While serving his sentence at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, he broke away from a working party, walked to a prison officer’s home and murdered the officer’s daughter and badly injured his wife.

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After analysing the evidence on the TV programme, leading counsel Sasha Wass, for the prosecution, and Jeremy Dein, for the defence, both argued that Jack’s conviction was unsafe. Retired crown court judge David Radford agreed with them, describing the confession as highly suspect and inconsistent with his previous and subsequent unblemished conduct. Jack’s family, who said no-one ever spoke about the conviction, were delighted with the verdict and went to Aldershot Military Museum to find out about his military career. Military historian Mark Smith told them that Jack had served in a five-man tank crew in North Africa and Italy and was a “real combat soldier”.

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He added: “Italy was a particularly nasty war because of the weather, terrain and a very stubborn enemy. There were enormous battles – it was horrendous and very dangerous. These were chaps with a bit of backbone. You can be very proud of him.”

The family gathered in the cemetery where Jack’s ashes were scattered to remember him and dedicate the ‘Justice at Last’ plaque in his memory.