A burglar who murdered a disabled pensioner while on licence for a string of street robberies has been ordered to serve at least 22 years behind bars.
Worcester Crown Court heard that Cory Christopher Youlden had been released from prison just three months before he throttled 83-year-old Paul Cox at his home in Rednal, north Worcestershire.
Passing a mandatory life term on the 23-year-old, Judge Robert Juckes QC described the murder as a savage attack on an elderly victim.
Youlden, who has 24 previous convictions and was first given a custodial sentence aged just 14, pleaded guilty to murder earlier this month, having also admitted burglary and theft.
Opening the facts of the case against Youlden, prosecutor Alex Warren said Mr Cox died from pressure to the neck after being put in a headlock.
The victim, a retired engineer who had worked at Cadbury's plant in Bournville, Birmingham, was found dead at his house in Waseley Road, Rednal, on June 3 last year.
Mr Warren told the court that Youlden's fingerprints were then found on a door and broken glass at the semi-detached property, while marks matching his footwear were found upstairs.
After killing Mr Cox, who was in the habit of sleeping downstairs following two previous burglaries, Youlden took coins and car keys from the pensioner's pockets before driving off in his Ford Focus.
Youlden was arrested two days later, Mr Warren said, after travelling to Bristol by train.
It also emerged during today's hearing that Youlden had been freed on licence in late February last year, having served half of a 42-month sentence imposed in January 2010 for three separate street robberies.
The father-of-one, formerly of Hagley Road, Birmingham, was identified as a suspect after a member of his girlfriend's family contacted police.
Mr Warren told the court that the killer had argued with his girlfriend in the hours before smashing a front window pane to climb into Mr Cox's home in the early hours.
The lawyer said: "Mr Cox was in the back living room in the arm chair just behind the door.
"The defendant's fingerprints were found on glass on the in the front room and also on the door to that room.
"At some point while in the premises, the defendant entered the back sitting room, where Mr Cox slept at night and where Mr Cox was killed."
Mr Cox, who was killed four days short of his 84th birthday, undertook his National Service with the Royal Engineers and was posted to Palestine and Egypt.
He then worked for Cadbury for more than three decades and was said to be fiercely independent despite health problems which affected his mobility and sight.
During his sentencing remarks, Judge Juckes accepted that Youlden had not intended to kill Mr Cox, who had lived in Waseley Road for 55 years.
The victim, who lived alone, was particularly vulnerable, the judge said, telling Youlden: "Instead of leaving, what you did was to go and confront him and in the course of what followed - and it seems there was little by way of resistance from him - you then applied pressure to his neck.
"That probably lasted in the region of 15 to 20 seconds."
Attacking an elderly man during a burglary had required a "degree of savagery", the judge said, adding: "You not only killed him, but you left him on the ground and you took from his pockets money and keys which you then used to steal his car."
The court heard that the six-year-old Ford Focus was sold by Youlden for £400 and was later found burnt out in the Erdington area of Birmingham.
After strangling Mr Cox, Youlden, who was living at his girlfriend's home in nearby Frankley, Birmingham, is thought to have used bleach to clean evidence from a window ledge after cutting his arm.
The serial criminal initially denied committing the murder, claiming two other men were responsible, but eventually changed his plea to guilty at a hearing on February 6.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Williamson said: "Mr Cox was a frail old man who was defenceless and stood no chance against a man some 60 years younger."
Mr Williamson, of West Mercia Police, said of Youlden: "From the outset he was deceitful, callous and calculated.
"He desperately tried to cover his tracks by trying to clean up at the murder scene.
"His deceit carried on after his arrest when he implicated two other people who were arrested on suspicion of murder but later eliminated from the inquiry.
"Youlden has never shown any remorse and even lied to his partner at the time to conceal his involvement."
Mr Williamson added: "The tragic and brutal killing of a vulnerable man who was loved by his family and popular with his neighbours was all the more senseless because Youlden gained very little from his crime.
"It was a despicable offence and the seriousness of that is reflected by the sentence. He fully deserves to be behind bars for a very long time.
"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to Mr Cox's family, who have lost a father, grandfather and brother.
"They miss him and have been deeply affected by this. We hope that the fact that his killer has been brought to justice provides them with some small measure of comfort."
The family of Mr Cox described his murder as cowardly and senseless.
In a statement released by police, the 83-year-old's relatives said he was living independently before his death, and was still able to drive and do his own shopping.
Mr Cox, who had a son, a daughter and two grandchildren, was still able to enjoy life, often watching sport on television and spending time with his family.
The family's statement read: "There is no reason to think that he would not be with us now if it was not for the vile actions of another person.
"Paul was the victim of a brutal, cowardly and senseless crime carried out by an individual 60 years younger.
"The perpetrator gained nothing from taking a human life but his son and daughter lost a loving father, his granddaughter and grandson lost their devoted granddad, a brother lost his last surviving sibling, nieces and nephews lost their uncle, whilst others lost a loyal, true and caring friend.
"It's they who feel they have the life sentence."
Commenting on the life term handed down to Youlden, the pensioner's family added: "Cory Youlden was apprehended swiftly and has received all the consideration that the law has to offer after eventually pleading guilty to murder.
"It is hoped that the custodial sentence passed by the court today will ensure that he takes responsibility for what he has done and is unable to harm anyone else for a very long time."
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