A robber who killed twice while on the run was jailed for at least 37 years today after he was convicted of two counts of murder.
James Allen, 36, savagely attacked 81-year-old Colin Dunford in his Middlesbrough terrace home, then three days later stabbed Julie Davison, 50, to death at her flat in Whitby, North Yorkshire.
The double killing sparked a huge manhunt which ended in Leeds when an off-duty police officer spotted him.
Allen, who has a history of violent crime, was convicted of murdering his vulnerable victims following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
Mr Justice Openshaw jailed him for life for the two murders, which he said were of "quite exceptional brutality", and told him he would not be eligible for parole until he had served at least 37 years.
Allen attacked Mr Dunford while lying low at a friend's house after being accused of a serious crime in April. He died from serious head injuries.
He ransacked the pensioner's home, eventually trying but failing to use Mr Dunford's bank card at a local cash machine.
The next night friends from the club over the road grew worried after Mr Dunford failed to turn up for his usual two pints, and they found him dead in his home in Leven Street.
By then, Allen had disposed of his bloody clothes and cycled 30 miles to Whitby and then on to Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where he sold a stolen gold ring.
A day later he was back in Whitby and was seen hanging around the communal hallway of the Edwardian terrace home, which was divided into flats, where Ms Davison lived.
Police believe he talked his way into her home, then launched a merciless attack on her before wrecking her home while looking for things to steal.
Ms Davison, the mother of a 28-year-old son in Preston, had epilepsy and when her body was found by her brother-in-law, she had suffered from serious head and neck injuries.
Investigators linked the two killings and a major manhunt was launched.
Allen had walked out of Ms Davison's flat wearing some of her clothes, then bought a new outfit at a sports shop and caught a bus to Leeds.
It was there that he is thought to have sold her laptop to a market trader, lying low by talking his way into staying with other people on the margins of society.
The manhunt drew national publicity and ended on April 29, when Blackpool-born Allen was spotted by an off-duty officer and was arrested.
The court heard that Allen had numerous previous convictions, including an eight-year sentence for grievous bodily harm with intent and five years concurrent for burglary.
He had also been sentenced to 11 months in a young offenders institution for affray, 12 months for two offences of assault, and 18 months for possession of an offensive weapon.
Mr Openshaw said: "He has shown not the slightest bit of remorse or regret.
"These were murders of quite exceptional brutality and savagery.
"Both victims were innocent and murdered in their own homes during the course of a robbery."
After regular outbursts during the trial, Allen left the court without saying a word after the sentence was given.
"I have read the moving statements of Julie Davison's sister and her son, they all loved her dearly," said Mr Openshaw.
"They will feel her loss for the rest of their lives."
After the verdict a statement from Dawn and George Kibble, Julie Davison's sister and brother-in-law, was read on behalf of the family.
They said: "Julie meant the world to us and we are still struggling to come to terms with what happened to her on that awful day.
"On hearing the evidence of how Julie died we consider this was an act carried out in a way that was cruel, wicked and so totally unnecessary.
"It causes the family great pain and anguish thinking of what Julie went through in the moment leading to her death."
They thanked police for their time and commitment in bringing Allen to justice.
They finished by saying: "The only frustrating thing to arise from today's verdict is the future cost to the public purse in keeping Allen for the duration of his sentence."
Temporary Superintendent Steve Smith, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "We are satisfied with today's verdict which is a result of an intense and painstaking investigation by North Yorkshire Police and Cleveland Police working together with the CPS.
"The evidence gathered during the course of the investigation left us in no doubt of Allen's guilt.
"Myself and the investigation team are satisfied that a very dangerous man has been taken off the streets where he cannot cause any more harm to the public, albeit in the most dreadful circumstances."
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