Life for pair who murdered for Rolex watches

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The Independent Online

Two armed robbers were jailed for life yesterday for murdering the wife of a millionaire to steal her £13,000 Rolex watch. Daniel Whyte, 24, and Jason James, 29, were found guilty of shooting Giuseppina Martorana, 46, in front of her husband and family at her home in August, 2000.

The judge, Mr Justice Bell, recommended that James served at least 25 years before being eligible for parole and White 20 years. Both are from west London.

The men, experienced robbers, had followed Mrs Martorana and her husband Giuseppe, 59, to their home in the village of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, after a shopping trip to London where the couple had been looking at rings in Harrods to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

The men had spotted the couple's expensive watches when they went into a McDonald's restaurant near Harrods to buy an ice-cream.

As they arrived at their home, the men jumped from their stolen Renault Laguna, grabbed Mr Martorana and took his watch. Whyte handed his accomplice a silver-coloured revolver and James knocked Mrs Martorana to the ground, shot her in the back, stood over her and snatched her watch from her wrist.

The victim's 18-year-old son, Steven, and his girlfriend, Isabella Agnes, 19, were also shot and wounded as they ran from the house to find out what had happened. Steven still has a bullet lodged in his spine and his girlfriend had her left kidney and spleen removed.

When Mr Martorana tried to save his wife, James shot at him but missed and escaped in the Laguna with Whyte.

The victim, who had come to Britain from Sicily with her husband in the Sixties, died a month after the attack.

James was sentenced yesterday at St Albans Crown Court, Hertfordshire, to five life terms for murder, two charges of attempted murder, and two charges of robbery.

Whyte was sentenced to three life terms for murder and two charges of robbery. He was cleared of two charges of attempted murder against his victim's son and his girlfriend.

Mr Justice Bell said: "It is difficult to imagine a more lawless and heartless crime than the murder of Mrs Martorana. This was an exceptionally awful crime which must be met with a long period of actual imprisonment. No sentence can begin to compensate her family for her loss or bring the rest of her life back."

Whyte and James had a string of convictions, including a previous Rolex robbery, and had been in trouble with the law since their childhood. James was first in juvenile court in 1985 for attempted robbery, theft and drug offences.

In 1987 he appeared in court again for attempted robbery and taking vehicles without consent. A year later he was charged with carrying an offensive weapon in public. In 1995 he was sentenced to six years for two robberies. He was among three men who held up a couple in west London at knife-point as they returned home with the takings from a restaurant. The same year he was in a gang of three who robbed a shop owner of a Rolex.

Whyte was sent to a young offenders' institute in 1993 for two years for attacking a man with a baseball bat and an axe, inflicting serious injuries. The following year he was sentenced to six years for a robbery with an air pistol. In 1997, he was convicted of stealing mail and possessing drugs.

He told the court he had asked James why he had fired. His accomplice said: "I just started when people came out of the house and couldn't stop."