A man who claimed voices told him to kill a pregnant 21-year-old as she walked to work was jailed for life today and told he must serve a minimum of 20 years in prison.
Alan McMullan, 54, fatally stabbed Claire Wilson in the street as she walked to her job as a Pizza Hut waitress in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, on June 7 last year.
McMullan denied murdering Miss Wilson, who was six months pregnant, on the grounds of diminished responsibility but a jury at Hull Crown Court took just 90 minutes to convict him yesterday.
Judge Michael Mettyear, the Recorder of Hull, said it was possible McMullan would never be released from jail and he stressed it would be a matter for the Parole Board to consider.
He described the killing as "senseless and unnecessary" and it had a devastating impact on the family.
He told the defendant: "This was a horrendous killing. Your victim was 21 years of age. She was six months pregnant and on her way to work.
"You stabbed her in broad daylight in the town centre. She had everything to live for.
"You ended her life for your own distorted and selfish ends. As a result of your actions, the baby's life was also lost.
"The sympathy of the court goes out to the family, her partner and her friends."
The judge said he had read of the "terrible struggle" the family had to endure following the murder.
He said it was another example of a town centre knife attack which rightly causes worry and concern in the community.
A bearded McMullan showed no emotion as he was jailed for life by the judge in a packed court, which included relatives of the victim and the jury, who returned to hear sentence being passed.
The judge said his task was to specify a term that must elapse before the Parole Board could even consider the defendant eligible for release.
However, he added: "It seems most unlikely that anyone could consider this defendant safe to be released unless he is very old and very infirm."
The judge went on to praise several members of the public who went to help Miss Wilson and who gave chase to McMullan.
In particular he singled out Stephen Page who followed McMullan and alerted the police.
He said he had been "extremely brave" under the circumstances as he was with his family, including two young children.
"They had the misfortune of witnessing this tragic stabbing," he added.
He awarded Mr Page £250 from public funds as a demonstration of the public's gratitude.
The victim's family declined to comment today, but Miss Wilson's father, Stuart, said he thought the sentence "appropriate" and thanked for judge for his handling of the case.
McMullan, of Sherwood Road, Grimsby, walked up behind Miss Wilson as she walked to work and plunged a knife into her back, killing her and her unborn baby daughter April.
He told police officers who arrested him: "I've got voices in my head telling me to do it. I left the knife stuck in her."
McMullan, who was described by police yesterday as "lonely" and wanting support, had handed himself into police three times in the year before the attack, armed with a knife and claiming voices were telling him to harm or kill people.
He was admitted to hospital on each occasion, where he received treatment from mental health services before being released.
On the third occasion, in July 2008, McMullan was arrested under the Mental Health Act but staff found he was exaggerating his symptoms to gain admission to hospital.
Jane Lewington, chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Care Trust Plus, said: "This was an extremely sad and tragic event and I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Claire Wilson for their devastating loss.
"We appreciate this has been a very distressing time for everyone involved.
"The Care Trust Plus welcomes the verdict of murder, as we have strongly supported the Crown Prosecution's belief that Mr McMullan's mental state was not substantially impaired.
"It has been made clear in court that this was an extremely rare and unusual case."
She said that following the offence, McMullan's care was reviewed and found "no significant omissions in the care and treatment provided."
She said an internal inquiry resulted in some recommendations to further improve general procedures. The recommendations relate to the wider service rather than issues that would have affected the care and treatment provided to McMullan, it concluded.
Speaking after he was convicted yesterday, Detective Superintendent Christine Kelk, of Humberside Police, said McMullan had lied to specialists and given different accounts of his symptoms.
"The jury saw through all that," she said. "He's tried his best to hoodwink the system. I'm just glad he didn't get away with it."
She said he was "motivated by his own self-interest" and wanted to be in hospital.
"He clearly was very lonely, he felt like he wanted some support," she said. "He wanted an easy life, wanted food on a plate, to be warm and cared for and that's what he sought to get from all that."Reuse content