THE sister of a murdered schoolboy who is still waiting for justice after 40 years has launched a petition to make further changes to the "double jeopardy" laws.

John Greenwood and Gary Miller, both 11, were found by a dog walker hidden under a mattress on the site of a disused colliery in Pottery Lane, Whiston, on August 16, 1980.

The school friends were taken from the area – now known as Stadt Moers Park – to Whiston Hospital, where John died the next day and Gary three days later. Both died as a result of head injuries.

Following the incident a man was arrested and charged with the murder of both boys but was acquitted after a trial.

Detectives reopened the investigation in 2017 but this was not enough to bring a fresh prosecution.

Under "double jeopardy" laws, a previously acquitted suspect cannot be interviewed again by police for the same crime unless there is "new and compelling" evidence.

In light of this, John's sister, Debbie Lewis, 41, has launched a petition calling for the law to be changed to allow police to reinterview a suspect, which could potentially lead to crucial new information being acquired.

Mum-of-two Debbie was only two when her brother and his friend Gary were killed, but their murder has affected her entire life.

St Helens Star:

Debbie Lewis

She said: "I was only a baby when John was killed but I know from what others have said that he adored me and always tried to protect me.

"I never got the chance to protect him, but I feel like now is my time to fight for justice for my brother and for Gary whose family have also gone through hell since that day.

"I'm fortunate that I was too young to remember that day, but I have grown up knowing what happened and seeing how much it hurt those I love.

"It is bad enough when a child dies, but to have that child deliberately taken from a family through an act of violence is just beyond comprehension.

"Nothing will ever bring John and Gary back, nothing will ever take the pain and heartbreak away we know that, but we want this law changed so justice can take place for my brother, his friend and anyone else out there affected by this, because we know it's not just us.

"The double jeopardy law is not fit for purpose anymore. It's 800 years old and I know it is in place to protect people from harassment, but certain limitations are preventing families from getting any justice.

"If the person is acquitted, the police are not allowed to ask them anything about the case.

"Right now all we can do is try to get the law altered so we can potentially go back to court with what we know now because the law restricts anything else.

"Please spare a moment to sign this petition, we never thought this would happen to our family, no one ever does, but you never know what is around the corner and everyone deserves justice."

St Helens Star:

Debbie, aged two, pictured with John before he was killed

Merseyside Police Assistant Chief Constable Ian Critchley added: "We undertook a review and reinvestigated in 2017 and carried that on over the past few years.

"Through that we got to the position where we would like to reinterview a suspect, however under double jeopardy we can't do that without authority from the director of public prosecutions and they will not issue that until we have new and compelling evidence.

"There is no restriction on re-investigating but under current legislation we are not able to interview or question suspects again.

"We believe that being able to re-question suspects could lead to the new and compelling evidence potentially needed to reopen particular cases.

"In this case the family are being supported by ourselves in respect to petitioning for a change in the legislation to allow this to happen."

Last May after "careful consideration" Max Hill, the DPP, had adjudged he was unable to authorise the next steps in the Merseyside Police investigation on the basis of a fresh file submitted to him.

Following that decision, Chief Constable Andy Cooke said in May 2019 that the force remained committed to investigating this case and "ensuring that we do everything we possibly can to bring the person(s) responsible to justice".

He said: “It is still possible that someone may have crucial evidence which could help us find the person(s) responsible.

"I would also like to appeal to the offender, or anyone who may be protecting the offender. Please think about how both of these families have suffered, since their tragic loss of Gary and John, and search your conscience.

"You have lived with the burden of this guilty secret for nearly 40 years and this can’t have been easy, find it within your heart to put the families of John and Gary at the forefront of your conscience and give them some peace of mind."

Mr Cooke also apologised to the families for the initial investigation in 1980.

He said: “Having carried out a number of cold case reviews and following the reinvestigation of the murder it is fair to say that the investigation was not as thorough as it could have been, or in line with the investigation standards expected of policing today.

“On behalf of Merseyside Police I want to offer our sincere apologies to the families of John and Gary, and I would like to reassure them that we remain committed to finding the person(s) responsible.”

In 2005, changes were made to the the 800-year-old "double jeopardy" law that prevented a defendant from being tried a second time for the same offence.

It meant the Court of Appeal was able to grant a retrial if "new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence" had emerged for the most serious crimes. This has been the case in a number of high profile crimes.

Critics of the changes argued that it could see prosecutions seeking a second bite of the cherry, if a case failed first time for good reason. Civil liberties groups also expressed fears the law could be used to persecute people.

Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators on 0151 777 3100, or the independent Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 555 111.

To sign the petition go to

For more follow the Facebook page Justice for John and Gary.