A self-confessed “psychopath” was today jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years after he was found guilty of bludgeoning a pensioner to death with a hammer.
Graeme Jarman struck Judith Richardson, 77, at least 30 times after forcing his way into her flat in Hexham, Northumberland.
Jarman, who denied murder during his trial at Newcastle Crown Court, fled the scene with Miss Richardson's handbag, sparking a major manhunt before he was arrested in Filey, North Yorkshire, a fortnight later.
Jarman, 48, tricked the spinster into opening her front door by showing her Age UK charity leaflets and immediately began battering her.
Her ground floor flat was ransacked and her jewellery was stolen as she lay dying in her hallway. She was brutally beaten for a second time as the killer left.
During the trial which lasted almost three weeks, Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said the attack was not random and that Jarman had been following potential victims the day before.
What the jury did not know is that Jarman was already convicted of locking a teenage girl in his car boot and raping her at gunpoint.
During the seven-hour ordeal he told her he was an "ordinary, everyday psychopath".
A few years later, he barged into a 23-year-old woman's home, tied her up and sexually abused her.
He robbed that victim too, before going on the run, just as he did after murdering Miss Richardson, changing his appearance as he went.
The court was shown CCTV of Jarman in Hexham the day before the pensioner's death last August, which showed him talking to elderly residents.
Mr Smith said he was "observing potential victims".
On the day of the murder, Jarman went to Miss Richardson's home with the charity leaflets and a hammer that he had stolen from a shop in Hexham, Mr Smith added.
Miss Richardson, who lived with her terrier Hamish, was settling down to her lunch of buttered toast.
He struck her with the hammer straight after she answered the door and she fell against the wall of the lobby, bleeding from her initial head wound or wounds.
Jarman searched through her bedroom for items to steal as she lay injured but still alive.
She managed to crawl a few metres along the hallway before Jarman struck again more than 30 times.
He fled, taking a number of buses to different towns where he bought clothes and shaved his head.
He arrived in Newcastle and threw her handbag in a bin before selling her jewellery for £300 scrap value.
A member of the public found her bag, alerted police and officers responding to a simple lost property case were met by a bloody scene.
He was finally arrested after the case received national publicity.
By then, Jarman's DNA had been found on tissues at Miss Richardson's home. The tissues also had traces of her blood. Jarman's fingerprints were also found on the charity leaflets.
Jarman denied the offence, claiming he took her handbag which had been left outside her home by the real killer.
He was convicted by a 11-1 majority by the jury, which began it deliberations yesterday.
Jarman showed no emotion as the jury foreman delivered the verdict, reached after seven hours of deliberation.
Judge Mr Justice Openshaw said the defendant clearly "presents an extreme danger to women" and may never be released from jail.
He added that Jarman "has shown not the slightest regret or remorse" after taking the life of "an entirely decent, respectful member of the community".
The judge said: "He must have struck the first blow with the hammer almost as soon as he entered the flat.
"She suffered truly appalling injuries with her skull fractured by the blows.
"The violence used was extreme.
"I consider the seriousness of the offence to be considerably high.
"The sentence for murder is handed down by law. It is life imprisonment."
The judge said the minimum term of 35 years before Jarman can even be considered for release reflects the horrific nature of his crime.
"There is no early release for such a sentence," he said.
"That he will be detained until he is an old man is a price he must pay for committing such a terrible crime."
Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson, who led the manhunt, said he was "delighted" when a librarian in Filey spotted Jarman after police warned the fugitive liked to hang out in bookmakers, used buses and frequented libraries.
Speaking outside court, he said: "It's clear he was a cruel individual, he had a propensity for extreme violence, there was some sexual offending included but he was also a thief and therefore the motivating factors were many and quite complex."
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Young, who led the murder inquiry, said the pensioner had experienced "a very violent death".
"The attack initially occurred in the doorway," he said. "Judith, it would appear, crawled down the hallway.
"The attack continued to the end of the hallway where there was a sustained attack."
He added: "This is one of the most vicious murders I have dealt with in the course of 25 years in the police force.
"I think he is a very selfish individual who is motivated by greed.
"He has a gambling habit. He has targeted females in the past and on this occasion he has targeted a very elderly female.
"The motivation for the offence was to steal but the level of violence was totally unnecessary."