Former New Age guru jailed for life for killing girlfriend in 1977

A former New Age guru was given a life sentence yesterday for murdering his girlfriend 25 years ago and hiding her mummified body in a steamer trunk in his apartment.

Ira Einhorn, 62, who counted the rock star Peter Gabriel and other celebrities among his friends during his years as a counterculture superstar in Philadelphia in the Seventies, showed no emotion as the 12-person jury returned its guilty verdict after two-and-a-half hours of deliberation.

The verdict by a Philadelphia court brings to an end an extraordinary legal saga that began with the 1977 disappearance of Einhorn's girlfriend, Holly Maddux, 30. After police found her body in the trunk two years later in the flat that she shared with Einhorn, he was charged with murder. But he skipped bail before the trial in 1981 and became a fugitive.

The verdict has also brought relief to the relatives of the victim, who had campaigned for years to bring Einhorn, once known as the "Unicorn", to justice. Meg Wakeman, Holly's sister, described her as "the leading light and life of our family", saying she had been taken by an "act of utter selfishness and cowardice".

Prosecutors said Einhorn had bludgeoned Ms Maddux to death after she tried to end a five-year relationship. Jurors heard poems and diary entries written by him depicting violence as a natural occurrence at the end of love. "To kill what you love when you can't have it seems so natural," one said.

Einhorn was finally captured living in a converted windmill in southern France in 1997 after years on the run that also took him to England, Ireland and Sweden. He had, meanwhile, been convicted of murder in absentia in a 1993 trial in Philadelphia.

France agreed to extradite Einhorn to America only after prosecutors agreed to drop the 1993 murder conviction and to guarantee that a guilty verdict would not incur the death penalty.