In the Courts: Judge says sex killer Farrant should stay behind bars for life

Victor Farrant, a convicted rapist who murdered one woman and attempted to murder another after he was released from prison, received a life sentence yesterday, with a recommendation that he should never be released. Steve Boggan and Kathy Marks examine the background to the trial of a violent and dangerous man.

The murder of Glenda Hoskins, 45, a mother of three, was "a ruthless, callous and evil act", Mr Justice Butterfield told Victor Farrant at Winchester Crown Court yesterday. His attack on Ann Fidler, 45, a prostitute, was "one of unparalleled ferocity".

Families of the two victims applauded in the public gallery after the jury returned guilty verdicts. Members of the jury were then told that Farrant, 48, committed the offences within weeks of being released from jail after serving seven years of a 12-year sentence for rape.

Sentencing Farrant to life for the murder and to 18 years for the attempted murder, the judge told him: "This murder was so terrible and you are so dangerous that in your case, the sentence of life should mean just that - you should never be released.

"You have devastated the lives of many people. The opportunity to do so again should not be allowed to you."

Mrs Fidler was attacked so savagely that she has no memory of the incident. At her home in Eastleigh, Hants, in December 1995, Farrant smashed her around the head with three wine bottles and an iron, "reducing her to a bloodied unrecognisable heap", according to the judge. She nearly died from her injuries.

In February 1996, Farrant murdered his former girlfriend, Mrs Hoskins, an accountant, at her home in Portsmouth. She died of asphyxiation, and the prosecution suggested that he held her under water in the bath after demanding sex.

He then hid her body in the attic, took her car and fled to the Continent, where he was arrested in the south of France in the following July and extradited to Britain a year ago.

Mrs Hoskins, who was separated from her husband, had a sexual relationship with Farrant, but relations soured between them and she began seeing another man. He claimed that her death was an accident, caused when she fell in the bath after sex.

Her husband, Tony Hoskins, said of Farrant: "If ever there was a case for locking someone up and throwing away the key, then he's it. He's a total psychopath, but what makes him particularly dangerous is that he is so apparently normal - he's so plausible and seems to be able to take people in so easily. He has to be locked up and never let out."

After the trial ended, Farrant's family issued a statement expressing sympathy with relatives of his victims. "Under the British justice system, we trust that Victor will never again be free to inflict his evil, savage deeds on anyone," it said.

Detective Superintendent David Hanna, who led the police investigation, said it was a matter of "grave concern" that while in prison for rape, Farrant refused to attend a sex offender rehabilitation programme. Had he done so, he would have been strictly monitored by the probation service on his release.

One of the most chilling features to emerge from the trial was the revelation that Mrs Hoskins' daughter, Katie, then 15, had found her mother's corpse wrapped in carpet in the loft of her home.

At the time, Mr Hoskins and a police officer were searching her marina- side home, eight hours after she had failed to meet Katie from school.

"I'll never forget that scream," said Mr Hoskins, 49, a businessman from Stubbington, Hants. "Both the policeman and myself had searched the loft and found nothing, so when Katie asked if she could do something, I told her to look there, thinking that would be perfectly safe.

"We heard Katie scream and I just ran up the ladder and got her out of there," said Mr Hoskins.

Mr Hoskins, who was divorced from Mrs Hoskins in 1991 but remained close friends, was desperate to protect his children, Katie, David, then 13, and Ian, then 23, from the outside world in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

"At first, I kept them away from newspapers and television but, after a while, they said, Dad, we want to know what's going on," he said.

Within months of the murder, Katie sat her GCSE exams, passing 10, including five Grade-As. David is preparing to take his GCSEs later this year, and Ian is in the final year of a media and cultural studies course at Liverpool University.

"Glenda always stressed the importance of education," said Mr Hoskins. "So, they've done it for her. And I think they would have made her proud."

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