Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Britain’s longest-serving female prisoner could soon be freed after 35 years

Britain’s longest-serving female prisoner may be freed after serving 35 years in jail for stabbing a love rival.

Maria Pearson, 66, will be told within weeks whether she can be released after stalking Janet Newton then knifing her 17 times in Hartlepool in 1986, MailOnline reports.

The mum-of-three was ordered to serve a minimum of 12 years before she could be considered for parole – meaning she has served an extra 23 years.

A parole board hearing was held on January 17, but extra checks were ordered such as psychiatric reports and community management, and it was adjourned.

A source said: ‘Maria is the prison system’s forgotten inmate. When jailed, Three Men and a Baby was the biggest movie of the year and Rick Astley was number one.’

‘Maria vows she is reformed, but nobody on the parole board wants to make a mistake.

‘They are being extra cautious.’

Pearson left Janet, 23, to die in the middle of Grange Road after she stabbed her in the heart in a fit of jealous rage.

The attack occurred two days after the engagement of Janet and Pearson’s ex-husband, Malcolm Pearson.

Pearson and Malcolm were said to have been in an ‘intense and stormy’ relationship, and married bigamously a few days after their daughter, Rachel, was born.

However their baby was taken into care after a serious incident at their home, and the pair split just a few days before Malcolm got together with Janet.

Maria stalked and abused Janet after being consumed by jealousy – even sending hate letters to her mum just three days before the attack.

Pearson was jailed under a controversial sentence known as an IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection), which was scrapped in 2011 as it only gave a minimum prison term and no maximum sentence.

But the change was not retrospective and Pearson was given no new legal rights.

A parole board recommendation in 2006 for Pearson to be moved to an open prison and prepared for release was rejected by then home secretary John Reid.

A judge agreed, saying Pearson was still ‘in denial’ and showed limited sympathy for her victim.

Pearson spent a short stint in an open prison in 2004, where she was accused of intimidation and bullying.

There were concerns Pearson was even ‘manipulating’ prison staff to achieve her own ends.

Pearson’s last review in July 2020 was rejected, partly because of her bad behaviour in prison. But the latest hearing is expected in a few weeks, according to the source.

A parole board spokesperson said: ‘The oral hearing in the case of Maria Pearson has been adjourned.

‘Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’

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