Convicted of murder: teenager obsessed by occult

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The Independent Online

A teenage boy obsessed by the occult and the music of the singer Marilyn Manson was convicted yesterday of the murder and mutilation of his 14-year-old girlfriend.

A teenage boy obsessed by the occult and the music of the singer Marilyn Manson was convicted yesterday of the murder and mutilation of his 14-year-old girlfriend.

Luke Mitchell, 16, faces life imprisonment for the "the most gruesome killing of recent years" after he was found guilty of murdering Jodi Jones in June 2003.

A jury of eight women and seven men took just five hours to convict Mitchell, who was 14 at the time of the crime, after a 42-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh - the longest single-accused murder trial in Scottish legal history.

The victim, who was described as a "caring" and "thoughtful" schoolgirl, was killed after going to meet her boyfriend, who lived less than a mile from her home in Dalkeith, Midlothian

Her naked and mutilated body was discovered by her family in circumstances which prosecutors said resembled the notorious "Black Dahlia" murder of a Hollywood starlet in the 1940s - celebrated in song by the musician Marilyn Manson. Just as the teenagers responsible for the Columbine High School massacre in the USA regularly listened to Manson's music, Mitchell - a self-proclaimed Goth with a fascination with horror films and Satanism - was also said to be under the spell of the pop star, and the wounds left on Jodi's naked body were similar to Manson's paintings of the 1947 murder.

Suspicion fell on Mitchell within days of the crime because of inconsistencies in his story, witness accounts of his suspicious behaviour and a sighting of somebody matching his description at the murder scene.

Despite there being no scientific evidence linking Mitchell to the murder or even a clear motive, the circumstantial case presented by the prosecution was enough for the jury to reject Mitchell's special defence of alibi - claiming that he was in or around his home at the time of the killing.

Judge Lord Nimmo Smith told the teenager he would face "detention without limit of time" for what he described as a "truly evil murder".

"What you did was to subject Jodi to a horrible death and one can only hope it was mercifully quick," said Lord Nimmo Smith. "There must, however, have been a time before she became unconscious when she knew that you, her boyfriend, whom she held in affection and trust and whom she left joyfully to meet, had turned into a fiend.

"She still had her life ahead of her and you snuffed it out. She was loved by her family and you have left them bereft.

"The horror of what you have done has changed many lives and will last far beyond any sentence I can pass on you."

Sentencing was deferred for background reports to help determine the minimum period Mitchell will have to serve before being considered for release.

Jodi's family welcomed the outcome. Her uncle Kevin Walker said the verdict brought justice. "The family has had to bare its soul to ensure that justice could prevail," he said. "Whatever sentence is passed will not be enough to reform the evil that spawned this case." Jodi's mother paid tribute to her "little mentor" but said her daughter would not have liked the "notoriety" death brought.

Mrs Jones said that Jodi had been happy in her relationship with Mitchell, her first boyfriend, after having to deal with the suicide of her father, Jimmy, in 1998. "She had come to a point in her life of getting through her low self-esteem ," Mrs Jones said.

Described as "strong minded" and "a bit of a rebel", "Toad" as she was affectionately known within the family, had been in an under-age sexual relationship with Mitchell for three months, had a history of self-harm and was a regular user of cannabis.

On the day she died, Jodi went to visit Mitchell, the product of a broken home who was obsessed with evil and once carved the number 666 on his arm for a bet.

His school books were daubed with Satanic symbols and slogans such as "Satan lives" and "Evil is the way". He once wrote in a school essay: "People like you need Satanic people like me to keep the balance" and "Once you shake hands with the Devil you then have truly experienced life".

The self-proclaimed Goth, who claimed to smoke up to 80 cannabis joints a day and once boasted to friends that he could imagine himself "getting stoned" and killing someone, was a keen collector of knives.

A search of Mitchell's bedroom by police uncovered a number of sinister items, including an empty knife sheath bearing the numbers 666 and Jodi's initials along with her dates of birth and death.

Detective Superintendent Craig Dobbie, who led the investigation, which was the largest Lothian and Borders Police case for 20 years and involved dozens of officers, said he was "delighted" at the verdict.

"I'm really delighted that the jury had the courage to make what was a very difficult decision for them, but one which was the correct decision," he said.