'Whole life' term for hair fetish killer

A hair fetishist has been given a "whole life" jail sentence for the "depraved" and "callous" murder and mutilation of a mother of two.

Italian national Danilo Restivo was found guilty in just five hours yesterday by a jury at Winchester Crown Court of the murder of Heather Barnett, 48, in 2002.

The 39-year-old was also linked during his trial to the murder of 16-year-old Elisa Claps in Italy in 1993, who was killed using the same "hallmark" method.

The trial heard that Restivo entered the flat of his neighbour Mrs Barnett, in Bournemouth, Dorset, in November 2002 and bludgeoned her with a hammer before cutting her throat.

He then cut off her breasts and left a clump of someone else's hair in her right hand and some of her own underneath her left hand in the carefully planned ritualistic murder considered unique by detectives.

He left the body for Mrs Barnett's children, Caitlin, then 11, and Terry, then 14, to find in the bathroom.

Restivo even claimed he comforted the horrified youngsters as they fled the scene just as he arrived home opposite.

The jury of five women and seven men agreed with the prosecution that the manner of Mrs Barnett's murder was Restivo's "hallmark" and linked the killing to the murder of Elisa, who disappeared in Potenza, Italy, in September 1993, even though he was not charged with it.

Michael Bowes QC, prosecuting, told the court: "The prosecution's case is that the circumstances in which Elisa Claps was killed so closely resemble the circumstances in which Heather Barnett was killed that you can have no doubt that both of the killings must have been the work of one person - that is Danilo Restivo."

Speaking outside court yesterday, Mrs Barnett's sister, Denise Le Voir, said she was a feisty woman with a sense of humour who loved her children very, very much.

"Heather would have been horrified by the cruel and callous way Danilo Restivo designed her murder and mutilation so her children would find her body on return from school."

She called the killer arrogant and said the media spotlight should be on him and not her sister's family.

She said that both the Claps and Barnett families were happy Restivo was now behind bars.

Detective Superintendent Mark Cooper, who the led the investigation, said the inquiry had been "complex and challenging".

"This was a horrendous and brutal murder and I cannot even begin to describe him (Restivo)," he said.

All 12 members of the jury chose to return to court this morning to hear Restivo's sentence.

Some of the jurors wept as they heard the victim impact statements read on behalf of Mrs Barnett's daughter and sister.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Burnett told Restivo the murder was so serious that no minimum term would be appropriate.

"The seriousness of this offence is exceptionally high - namely the depravity of the killing, the careful planning and preparation, its sexual content and the previous killing of Elisa Claps - drive me to the conclusion that the alternative starting point (for a minimum prison term) of 30 years would not be appropriate.

"I can find no mitigation in this case, none have been advanced on your behalf.

"There is, in my judgment, no minimum period which could be properly set - you will never be released from prison."

Mr Burnett described the crime was of "inhuman depravity", made worse by the fact that Restivo would have known his victim's children would find her body.

He said: "You knew an 11-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy would find their mother butchered on the bathroom floor.

"This feature of the case will haunt those who sat through it.

"Why you picked Heather Barnett as your victim I do not know but it's clear that you did so to satisfy a sadistic, sexual appetite.

"The evidence in this case shows you are a cold, depraved, calculated killer."

Restivo is now subject to a European Arrest Warrant and is expected to be extradited back to Italy - where the case has attracted huge interest - to stand trial for Elisa's murder.