AN ACCRINGTON man accused of murdering a teenager who walked into his house has had the charge against him dropped following an 11th-hour turnaround.
John Butterworth, 49, formerly of Water Street, was accused in July of killing 19-year-old Daniel James Freeston, who at the time was on bail charged with raping a 19-year-old girl at a house party.
Mr Freeston was discovered with a serious head injury in Water Street at around 4.50am. He was taken to Blackburn Royal Infirmary but died later the same day.
Mr Butterworth was arrested and charged with murder but was later released on conditional bail to an address outside the Hyndburn area amid fears for his safety. He was due to appear before crown court on Wednesday.
But last week his solicitor, Mr Phil Smithies, received a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service saying the case had been discontinued.
Mr Smithies, of Barlow Rowland, Accrington, said: "It was a standard letter and didn't go into great detail.
"However, all cases involving the deaths of intruders now have to go to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in London which has a look at them."
He said the case of Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer jailed in 2000 for killing a 16-year-old intruder at his farmhouse, had been a major influence on the policy.
He added: "I rang Mr Butterworth to tell him no further action would be taken and he was obviously relieved. But I think it's also fair to say he is aware that there are no winners in this case.
"The Freestons have lost a son and Mr Butterworth has had his life turned upside down."
Bob Marshall, chief crime prosecutor for Lancashire, said: "This was a tragic case and my heart goes out to Daniel Freeston's family.
"However, the job of the CPS is to look objectively at the evidence to decide whether a prosecution will succeed. A householder is not guilty of an offence if he is only doing what he honestly and instinctively thinks is necessary to defend himself against an intruder.
"There is no evidence that Mr Butterworth did any more than restrain Mr Freeston in a headlock, albeit with dire consequences. In those circumstances it would be wrong to prosecute."
Mr Butterworth is now said to be living at an undisclosed address outside Hyndburn.