Abortion clinic killer faces life in prison

John Salvi, 24, was found guilty yesterday of murder after a Massachusetts jury turned down a defence claim that he was insane when he went on a shooting rampage at two Boston abortion clinics on 30 December 1994, killing two receptionists and wounding five others.

Salvi, who says he believes abortion is part of a worldwide conspiracy against the Roman Catholic Church, faces life in jail after convictions on two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of assault with intent to murder. There is no death penalty in Massachusetts.

Salvi's defence did not question the police version of the facts of the case, but contended that at the time of the killings he was prey to paranoid schizophrenia. Some of the evidence appeared to support the insanity plea. Witnesses testified that as Salvi fired 10 bullets into one of his victims, he cried: "This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!"

Before the trial started Salvi repeatedly disrupted hearings, insisting he be granted an opportunity to make a statement to the media about an anti-Catholic conspiracy in which, he said, the Freemasons and the Ku- Klux-Klan were involved.

The prosecution successfully argued, however, that Salvi had carried out the killings with clear premeditation and was fully alert to the fact that what he was doing was illegal and wrong. Witnesses said that he was seen practising at a shooting-range the day before his rampage.

Salvi's father said his son had been a normal healthy child, but late in his teens became strange and withdrawn, spending long hours closeted in his bedroom reading the Bible. Salvi's lawyers said his crime had been triggered by the murders of four Catholic priests in Algeria on 27 December 1994.