Serial killer Donald Neilson dies aged 75

 

Serial killer Donald Neilson, who was known as the Black Panther, has died in hospital, prison sources said.

Neilson was given four life sentences in 1975 and was one of a small group of notorious prisoners who were told they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The 75-year-old was taken to hospital from Norwich prison with breathing difficulties on Saturday and was pronounced dead at about 6.45pm yesterday, the Prison Service said.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "HMP Norwich prisoner Donald Neilson was taken to outside hospital in the early hours of Saturday December 17 with breathing difficulties.

"He was pronounced dead there at approximately 6.45pm on Sunday December 18.

"As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation."

In June 2008, a High Court judge ruled the notorious killer must never be released from prison.

Neilson, who murdered heiress Lesley Whittle in 1975 and also shot dead three sub-postmasters during armed robberies, had applied for the setting of a minimum jail term which would have given him a chance of parole.

But Mr Justice Teare, sitting in London, announced that Neilson's "whole life" tariff must remain.

He said: "This is a case where the gravity of the applicant's offences justifies a whole life order."

The judge rejected argument on behalf of Neilson, who was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment at Oxford Crown Court in 1976, that the sentencing "starting point" should be one of 30 years.

Neilson, a jobbing builder, kidnapped 17-year-old Lesley Whittle from her home in Shropshire, leaving a ransom demand for £50,000.

Her body was later found in an underground drainage system hanging from the bottom of a ladder to which Neilson had secured her by the neck with wire.

Mr Justice Teare said that between February and November 1974, Neilson - who lived in Bradford - "shot and killed three sub-postmasters in the course of armed robberies of their premises".

He added: "The trial judge said that the applicant (Neilson) never set out without a loaded shotgun or other loaded weapon and that he never hesitated to shoot to kill whenever he thought he was in danger of arrest or of detection."

The fourth murder, committed between January 3 and March 7 1975, was that of Lesley Whittle.

Mr Justice Teare said: "The three murders of sub-postmasters involved a substantial degree of premeditation because the applicant took with him a loaded firearm which he was prepared to use.

"They were committed for gain. The victims were particularly vulnerable because of their occupation.

"The manner in which the young girl was killed demonstrates that it too involved a substantial degree of premeditation or planning. It also involved the abduction of the young girl."

The judge said that there "are and were no mitigating features".

Mr Justice Teare added: "The trial judge said that the applicant's sentence of life imprisonment must mean life and that if he ever were released from prison it should only be on account of great age or infirmity."

It was plain from the sentencing remarks of the trial judge that Neilson was "ruthlessly prepared to shoot to kill if he considered such action necessary".

The location and manner of Lesley Whittle's death "indicates that she must have been subjected by the applicant to a dreadful and horrific ordeal", he added.

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower