An armed robber cleared of murdering a heroin addict three years ago has sensationally confessed to the killing - after turning to God.

Ricky Miell, 21, of no fixed address, was found not guilty of murder by a jury following the fatal stabbing and beating of Steven Burton in a kitchen in Cowley Road, Oxford, in January 1996.

But at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, Miell was sentenced to three years in prison for perjury after he confessed to the murder while serving a sentence for robbery in a young offenders' institution. The court heard that Miell had decided to become a Jehovah's Witness and had confessed first to the prison psychologist and later to police that he had lied to the court and was responsible for Mr Burton's killing.

Judge Harold Wilson told the court that the case was unique in more than 40 years' experience serving as a judge.

Describing the night of the murder, Neil Moore, prosecuting, said that Miell had met heroin addicts Steven Burton and James Rollinson in Oxford city centre on January 7, 1996, before going to Rollinson's flat in Cowley Road. It was in the kitchen that he had stabbed Burton, 20, from Dunfermline, Scotland, with a knife stolen from his girlfriend's flat.

Mr Burton died in the city's John Radcliffe Hospital from a stab wound to his chest.

Mr Moore said the motive for the killing seemed to be that Mr Miell's girlfriend, Karen Smith, had accused Mr Burton of trying to rape her a few days before.

That night at the flat Miell had snapped and attacked him. He was arrested three days later.

John Cartwright, defending, said that Miell was a true religious convert. He compared his case to that of disgraced former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken, recently sentenced to 18 months in jail for perjury.

Mr Cartwright said: "This really is a case where Ricky Miell has seen the light.

"The exercise is to completely clear his conscience, as a prelude to trying to live his life as a conscientious Christian." Although Miell has confessed to the killing he will not face a second trial as, under English law, no-one can be tried for the same murder once they have been acquitted.

Judge Wilson said although he respected Miell's honesty in admitting the crime and his decision to follow a religious life, he had to pass a sentence that reflected the seriousness of lying to a jury.

Story date: Saturday 21 August

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