`SAS' fantasy killers jailed

Two A-level students who murdered a stranger in a fantasy SAS initiation test were jailed for life at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Jamie Petrolini, a former Gordonstoun pupil, who had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, was found guilty by a majority of 10-2 of murdering Mohammed el-Sayed, 44. The verdict was unanimous against Richard Elsey, who held the Egyptian father-of-two while Petrolini slashed his neck and stabbed him in the chest 14 times.

Afterwards, Detective Inspector Jeremy Alford, who took part in the investigation, said police might never have found Mr el-Sayed's killers had Peterolini not confessed. ``We probably would not have got to them if Petrolini had not talked about it to others.''

The killers, both 19, who selected their victim at random, remained expressionless as the jury returned its verdict after five hours. The men's parents broke down in the public gallery while Mr el-Sayed's widow, Susan, shouted ``yes'' and wept as the three-week trial ended.

Elsey, from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, and Petrolini, from Grantown-on-Spey, who shared an obsession with the Parachute Regiment and the SAS, murdered Mr el-Sayed on 14 January this year. The murder, which coincided with Petrolini's 19th birthday, was part of an elaborate fantasy developed by the teenagers who met last October while resitting A-levels at an Oxford crammer. Elsey had told Petrolini he was a second lieutenant in the Parachute Regiment and a member of the SAS. The murder was supposed to mark Petrolini's initiation into the elite force.

In court, Petrolini said he and Elsey leaned against a Give Way sign in Bayswater, west London, waiting for a single, male motorist when their original plan to find and murder a pimp or drug pusher at King's Cross failed.

Petrolini said Mr el-Sayed, returning home after visiting a nearby casino, was the 10th motorist to arrive at the junction on Bishop's Bridge Road. As his car slowed, Petrolini jumped into the front seat, brandishing a commando knife and opened the rear door for his accomplice.

Petrolini ordered Mr el-Sayed to drive a little way down the road. When the car stopped, he attacked Mr el-Sayed. The two then searched the body before returning by bus to Oxford. On the way home Petrolini opened his birthday cards and Elsey fell asleep.

Yesterday, Judge Neil Denison told them: ``You created a world in which you were both playing out your fantasies. It started with relatively harmless pranks and progressed to criminal offences and it developed into an obsession with killing and death. That led to the brutal and senseless slaughter of a complete stranger.''

Petrolini was arrested a month after the murder when he confessed to his college principal. When he saw his parents, he said: ``I did it for King and Country''. Elsey denied being in the car when the stabbing took place.

Mrs el-Sayed, 39, said she would have liked to have seen the two men hanged, but she was ``thrilled'' with the result: ``I'll never forgive them. I think they are evil. They should never be freed.''

Insp Alford said: ``It's a bizarre case. I've never come across anything like it before and nor have my colleagues. I feel very angry for the victims in this case.''

Bizarre pact, page 3

(Photograph omitted)