'Evil' triple killer jailed for minimum of 25 years

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A TRIPLE murderer, Nicholas Vernage, was beginning a minimum of 25 years in prison last night after a farewell shout of 'Happy Christmas, by the way' to the Old Bailey court where he had just been ordered to serve five life sentences.

After a four-week trial, Vernage, 27, was convicted by a jury of the murders of three people, including a policeman, the attempted murders of two more and three burglaries during six weeks in October and November last year.

Ordering that Vernage should serve at least 25 years, Judge Robert Lymbery said he was 'evil through and through, without any redeeming features'. Vernage had shown himself to be 'quite pitiless, without any vestige of remorse for your victims and their families'.

The judge added: 'I can find no motive for any of these murders other than to avoid arrest and recognition. You have demonstrated in court your arrogance and in the witness box that you are a consummate liar.'

As the judge passed sentence, Vernage stood grinning in the dock, hands in his pockets and chewing a match-stick. He went into the witness box to deny the murders, but was unable to give any alibi evidence.

The court heard that shortly after release from jail in October last year, Vernage stabbed to death a former girlfriend for not visiting him and, a few days later, killed a mini-cab driver who surprised him while he was burgling his home.

He was eventually confronted by Sergeant Alan King, in Walthamstow, north-east London, whom he stabbed eight times in the chest and back. When Vernage saw that the officer was still alive and crawling into a car he had flagged down, Vernage ran back and stabbed him again. He was arrested the next day after repeatedly stabbing two other patrolling police officers in south London, both of whom are still off work because of their wounds.

The widow and first wife of Sgt King watched from the public gallery as Vernage was sentenced.

Vernage, who came from east London, had a string of previous convictions for robbery and violence, including stabbings and attacking a fellow prisoner with a billiard cue. In addition to the life terms, he was ordered to serve six years for the burglaries.

Detective Superintendent Douglas Harvey, who led the police investigation, said Vernage was probably the most 'frightening and dangerous' man he had met. His accomplice on one raid, Peter Grenfell, also of east London, was cleared of attempted murder of the constables but convicted of wounding. He will be sentenced later.

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