UK's longest-serving female prisoner, who stabbed ex-husband's girlfriend to death in jealous attack, could finally be freed

15 February 2023, 06:08 | Updated: 15 February 2023, 12:44

Maria Pearson has served 35 years in prison
Maria Pearson has served 35 years in prison. Picture: Handout

By Kit Heren

The UK's longest-serving female prisoner, who murdered the girlfriend of her ex-husband in a fit of jealous rage, could soon be freed after 35 years behind bars.

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Maria Pearson, 66, who stabbed Janet Newton 17 times on the street in 1986, will be told within weeks if she is to be set free.

Pearson, a mother of three then aged 31, was sent to prison a year after she killed Ms Newton, 23, in Hartlepool, in north-east England.

Dubbed "the prison system's forgotten inmate", Pearson had bigamously married Malcolm Pearson in 1986, just days after the birth of their child.

But the intense relationship soon broke down, and their child was taken into care after an incident at home.

Maria Pearson
Maria Pearson. Picture: Handout

Mr Pearson took up with Ms Newton, sparking an angry campaign from his ex-wife, who abused the younger woman in the street and sent hate-filled letters to her mother.

After being found guilty of Ms Newton's murder at Teesside Crown Court, Pearson was told she had to serve life with a minimum of 12 years by a court - but now has been in prison almost three times that.

Pearson's Parole Board recommendation to be moved to an open prison in preparation for release was rejected in 2006, after bullying and intimidation allegations two years earlier at an open prison.

She accused John Reid, Home Secretary, of making a "politically motivated" rejection, but she was in turn criticised for her "unresponsiveness to treatment and unwillingness to conform".

Maria Pearson
Maria Pearson. Picture: Handout

Pearson's previous parole board review in July 2020 was rejected, in part because she had behaved badly in prison.

The most recent hearing was scheduled for January 17 this year, but was adjourned as officials called for more information. The review is scheduled for the next few weeks.

Read more: 'You have nothing to fear from me', Kenneth Noye tells girlfriend of man he killed in road rage frenzy

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A source told the Mail Online: "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."

A parole board spokesperson said: "Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care.

"Protecting the public is our number one priority."

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