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Murder conviction overturned after victim is seen alive

SYDNEY, Australia -- A woman jailed for murdering her husband had her conviction reversed when a witness testified she saw the man on television -- in a crowd at a cricket match -- three years after he allegedly was killed.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal Wednesday overturned the murder conviction of Margaret Burton, saying the case against her relied on a web of circumstantial evidence and that the new evidence provided reasonable doubt of her guilt.

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Burton, however, still must complete an 8-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.

She was sentenced to life in prison on Nov. 8, 1984, for the May 1983 murder of her husband. She and Ronald Burke, a close friend, also were sentenced to eight years in jail for conspiracy to murder her husband, Peter Burton.

Peter Burton's body never was found.

At the appeals court hearing, Judy Edmonds testified she is sure she saw Peter Burton in the crowd at a televised cricket match in January.

Edmonds was shown a videotape of part of the cricket match and identified a man in sunglasses as Peter Burton. She said she was a close friend of his.

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Another witness, Jan Dyson, told the court the man in the videotape bore a remarkable resemblance to Peter Burton.

Lawyers for Margaret Burton argued before the appeals court her conviction should be overturned because the prosecution failed to prove Peter Burton was dead.

Appeals Court Chief Justice Sir Laurence Street agreed, saying it is not for the court to decide whether or not the person on the videotape is Peter Burton, but it is the court's responsibility to determine how a reasonable jury would have regarded the new evidence.

The court was told Margaret Burton, who was separated from her husband before his disappearance, had an intimate relationship with Burke and that evidence at her murder trial showed they plotted Peter Burton's death.

In an interview with police, Margaret Burton said that on May 28, 1983, 'Ron (Burke) rang and said he knew someone who could fix Peter up.'

She allegedly said her husband left home the next day and that, when he had not returned two days later, she telephoned Burke.

Burke allegedly told her, 'Don't worry. It's all over. It's been fixed.'

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