Killer who raped while on the run jailed for life

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The Independent Online

A killer who escaped from custody after strangling his girlfriend 16 years ago and raped two women while on the run in Spain was jailed for life today.

Miguel da Silva, who was caught after a cold case review, will serve at least 16 years behind bars for murdering mother-of-two Susan Martin in west London.

The asylum seeker, described as "possessive and controlling", throttled his 44-year-old lover the day before she planned to leave him to go back to Manchester.

Judge Richard Hone told him: "It must have been a terrifying ordeal. You took her life because you were determined that only you should possess her.

"You are a serious and continuing danger to women in general."

Ms Martin's body was discovered face down with a beige cloth tied tightly around her neck in her bedroom in Notting Hill, west London, in September 1994.

Da Silva, an Angolan who was 24 at the time, handed himself in to police and was remanded to secure accommodation in Ealing Hospital while an assessment of his mental health was being carried out.

But during a fire drill in 1995 he escaped and fled to Spain.

In January 1999 he was jailed for seven years for raping a woman he had befriended in Torremolinos and in May 2008 he was given a nine-year sentence for a similar attack in Salamanca.

But the crimes did not at first lead to his capture by British police as he was using false identities.

It was only after detectives launched a cold case review last year and spoke to associates that they decided to circulate his fingerprints to Spain and Portugal and discovered that he was already in custody.

He will now be returned to Spain to complete his jail term there before being brought back to Britain to face the sentence for murder, the Old Bailey was told.

Da Silva had denied murder although on the day his trial was due to start he admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

But jurors found him guilty of the more serious charge after deliberating for less than three hours.

The court heard that Da Silva strangled his girlfriend for at least a minute in a "deliberate and sustained" attack using a piece of T-shirt material.

Ms Martin, who had moved to London from Manchester after separating from her husband, had told friends she feared Da Silva would "do his nut" when he found out she was to leave him.

Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was extremely possessive and controlling of Ms Martin.

"He became extremely angry at any suggestion that she wanted to end their relationship. In the course of that violence, on a previous occasion, he had tried to strangle her.

"At the very time she died, Susan Martin was trying to escape from that relationship, an escape the defendant was equally determined to prevent."

The victim's daughter, Sarah Martin, now herself in her 40s, told the court in a victim impact statement: "Sixteen years on I still feel the huge loss as if it happened yesterday.

"I feel the same rawness as I felt then. Her life was snatched away from all of us in a senseless and brutal way and it has left lasting scars."

She said she was heavily pregnant with her own daughter, Kira, now an actress, at the time.

"I felt lost without my mum's guidance and support. I was so looking forward to her being a grandmother," she added.

The judge told Da Silva: "Your opportunistic escape from hospital has meant that for 15 years you have evaded the just punishment for your murder and Susan Martin's family have had no resolution or closure to their grief."