POLICE were forced to reopen the case of Sarah Melia over a decade ago after a third trial found her brother not guilty of murder, leaving more questions than answers.

It followed a series of extraordinary events which saw two previous trials collapse as a result of separate legal issues spanning the course of 12 months.

Mark Kitchen was first arrested when it was alleged he was the man shown on CCTV footage which the police said was linked with the incident.

The prosecution in the case claimed Mr Kitchen had visited his sister at her home in Catherine Street West, Horwich, on January 14, 2008, and carried out a frenzied attack.

However, Mr Kitchen, and then living in Richard Gwyn Close, Westhoughton, always denied murder.

READ MORE: Sarah Melia: Mother says 'pain hasn't gone away' 12 years after brutal murder

He initially went on trial in December 2008 but proceedings were halted after five days when the prosecution called a witness whose evidence conflicted with their case and issues were raised with CCTV footage offered as evidence.

Mr Kitchen,now 45, appeared in the dock on trial for a second time in March 2008.

This hearing collapsed when, in a shocking twist, it was revealed that a juror — a serving police officer — knew the leading detective in the case, Det Supt Ian Foster, on first name terms and had been involved in shared correspondence about the defendant 13 months earlier.

Problems with the second trial started after the jury had been sent out to deliberate.

They were called back and asked if they had any knowledge of those involved in the case or its background.

The juror said that as a police officer he knew of Det Supt Foster, but did not know him personally but this later turned out to be false when Judge Andrew Gilbart was shown a series of emails between the two concerning Mr Kitchen.

The cost of the two collapsed trials to the taxpayer was £95,000.

What followed was a third and final trial in which a new jury had to be sworn in.

Ultimately, the jurors found Mr Kitchen not guilty.

The verdict, which was reached after two-and-a-half hours, ended 12 months of uncertainty for the defendant.

There were gasps from the public gallery as the foreman read his verdict, but Mr Kitchen showed no emotion.

Judge Gilbart thanked the Kitchen family for the dignified way in which they had handled the long and difficult case.

Despite the passing of 12 years, this series of trials was the last and only time a defendant has been brought before a court for Sarah’s murder.