A man who shot dead an Indian student at point-blank range in a random and motiveless attack was warned he faces the rest of his life in jail after being found guilty of murder.
Kiaran Stapleton, 21, who boasted his nickname was "Psycho", blasted Anuj Bidve, 23, in the head last year in the early hours in Salford, Greater Manchester, as the talented post-graduate student made his way with friends to the Boxing Day sales.
Stapleton had not taken drink or drugs and his victim was entirely unknown to him. There was no racial dimension to the killing and the only possible factor that might have provoked him was a remark made earlier in the evening by an acquaintance that his ex-girlfriend was sleeping with another man. When asked how he selected his victim Stapleton said it was because he had "the biggest head".
The jury at Manchester Crown Court rejected Stapleton's claim of diminished responsibility after he earlier admitted manslaughter in a crime that sent shockwaves of horror through Britain and India.
Mr Bidve's devastated parents, Subhash and Yogini, who travelled from their home in Pune to attend the month-long trial, paid tribute to their son as "the kindest and most genuine person on this earth". But they said: "Stapleton, in the blink of an eye, and the time it took a bullet to leave the gun he was holding, turned Anuj's hopes and dreams into our living and continuous nightmare."
Detective Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, who led the investigation, said: "There was absolutely nothing remarkable about Stapleton's history and nothing that would ever have suggested he could commit such a cold-blooded, random killing."
Stapleton, who continually smirked during proceedings, smiled as he was taken away.
Mr Justice King will pass sentence today but warned he would only be released if he was considered to no longer pose a danger to the public. "That may not ever happen," he added.
Stapleton could have been seeking status within his community although he was not known as part of a gang.
He appeared to revel in the notoriety of his new role as killer – immediately searching the internet for details of the crime and even checking into a hotel overlooking the shooting scene and photographing himself observing the investigation unfold.
He surrounded himself with friends who watched him have a teardrop tattoo on his face – a symbol for murder – just hours after the shooting. In one outburst he said of the prospect of a long sentence: "To be honest I'm not bothered. I love prison, I watch Coronation Street, I have got a fat canteen. Lock me up for 65 years. Does this face look bothered? I've even got a new rug and bedding coming for my cell."
Victim and killer were of strikingly different characters. Whereas Mr Bidve was brought up to know the difference between right and wrong, his assailant was the "complete opposite", the Bidve family said. Anuj was a widely-admired son of an middle-class family who studied hard and whose parents borrowed money to send him to Britain to complete his education.
At Lancaster University, which has established an annual exchange scholarship in his name, he studied postgraduate electronics and planned to return to Pune and use his skills to build a successful career.
Stapleton by contrast grew up in a family of nine on the tough Ordsall estate in Salford and was distantly related to some of Greater Manchester's most notorious criminals. But, despite scarcely attending school from the age of 11, he held down a factory job and stayed loyal to his partner and child until his mood swings led to the end of the relationship.
Yet while police were astonished that he had committed such a serious crime, he had a history of low level criminality including violence and carried out a road rage attack shortly before he killed Mr Bidve.
Much of the evidence focused on Stapleton's mental condition. Both sides agreed he had an anti-social personality disorder and psychopathic traits which meant he was unable to feel remorse and demonstrated extreme callousness– although this fell short of being a psychopath.
He was arrested after his friend Ryan Holden told police he had witnessed the shooting.