Pub chef jailed for 34 years for murder of teenage model

A pub chef with a history of sex offences and violence against women must serve at least 34 years of a life term for the murder of the 18-year-old aspiring model, Sally Anne Bowman.

Her family cheered in the public gallery of the Old Bailey yesterday as the jury pronounced the verdict on Mark Dixie, 37, after four hours of deliberation. He gave only a slight shake of his head.

Dixie, of no fixed abode, struck as the girl returned home from a night out. He stabbed her seven times then had sex with her dead or dying body yards from her house in Croydon, Surrey. He had claimed he had not killed Ms Bowman, but admitted having sex with her corpse.

Before the sentencing Ms Bowman's mother, Linda, had read an impact statement to the court. She said: "There is so much I never got to tell her. I need to feel her soft skin and smell her favourite perfume. My heart will never mend, not even with time. I cannot ever see things getting easier. I lost the will to live when she was taken away from me in such a brutal and depraved way."

Referring to Dixie, Mrs Bowman wept as she added: "I cannot see why he killed her and why he did what he did. It was bad enough knowing Sally Anne had been stabbed to death but then to be told that after death he raped her and stole her belongings. It leaves me feeling he took her last bit of dignity. Please can you ask him why he did kill her? Why did you do these things?"

As Judge Gerald Gordon read out the sentence he told Dixie: "I shall only say that what you did that night was so awful and repulsive that I do not propose to repeat it. Your consequent conduct shows you had not the slightest remorse for what you had done."

Ms Bowman had been returning from a night out in Croydon with her sister, Nicole, early on 25 September 2005, and was dropped off by her boyfriend, Lewis Sproston.

Dixie had been celebrating his birthday that night with an alcohol- and drug-fuelled bender at a friend's house on Avondale Road, south Croydon. He had left the house at 2.30am and was apparently prowling the streets looking for sex.

At about 4.25am he saw Ms Bowman outside her home on Blenheim Crescent, moments after Mr Sproston drove away. He stabbed the teenager seven times then raped her on her driveway, took her underwear and handbag and returned to his friend's house.

Despite previous convictions for sex attacks on women in the UK and in Australia, Dixie had escaped justice for nine months because his DNA was not on the police database. He was caught only after he was arrested for his part in a minor scuffle at during a World Cup 2006 football match at Ye Olde Six Bells pub in Horley, Surrey, where he was working. He was required to provide a DNA sample. Twelve days later, the police database matched him to the murderer.

But he continued to protest his innocence and detectives are said to be furious that he forced Ms Bowman's family to sit through the gruesome evidence. His refusal to admit the crime also meant two previous victims had to give evidence against him, re-living attacks he had committed years before. Officers believe Dixie had a vicarious thrill hearing details of his crimes being retold in court by his victims.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy said: "Dixie has made his victims relive horrific ordeals. He made Sally Anne's family sit through horrific evidence." Police believe Dixie could be responsible for other unsolved or unreported sex attacks.