Appeal court tosses murder conviction of N.S. man who burned body of girlfriend

A Halifax-area man who admitted to burning his girlfriend's body but insisted he didn't kill her has had his murder conviction overturned.

Paul Trevor Calnen was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Reita Jordan in March 2013.

Calnen claimed his live-in girlfriend died after taking a swing at him in anger, missed, and accidentally fell down the stairs.

The Hammonds Plains, N.S., man pleaded guilty to burning her body several times and scattering her ashes in a lake, but maintained he did not cause her death.

Jordan's family said she was a victim of domestic violence. She had planned to leave Calnen the night she was killed.

In a ruling released Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has tossed out the murder conviction in a divided decision that found insufficient evidence to uphold the charge and inadequate final instructions to the jury.

The decision says the trial judge should have granted a motion for a directed verdict and, in the absence of any new evidence, any retrial should not include the charge of second degree murder.

Calnen had been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 15 years.

He was also sentenced to five years for indecently interfering with Jordan's remains.