Man who strangled girlfriend faces life sentence

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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 is facing a life sentence today.

Miguel da Silva was found guilty of murdering mother-of-two Susan Martin in west London in September 1994 by an Old Bailey jury.

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.

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

Da Silva, 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 the Angolan 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 was extradited to Britain on the understanding that he be returned to Spain after his trial to complete his jail spell for the rape before starting his sentence for the murder.

Da Silva, who is now 40, denied the charge but on the day his trial was due to start admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

But jurors convicted him of the graver charge after less than three hours of deliberation and he will be sentenced tomorrow.

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."