Drug addict gets life for killing British backpacker

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The Independent Online

A drug addicted drifter was starting a life sentence today after he was found guilty of murdering Caroline Stuttle, a British backpacker in Australia.

A drug addicted drifter was starting a life sentence today after he was found guilty of murdering Caroline Stuttle, a British backpacker in Australia.

Ian Previte, 32, was also convicted on one count of robbery with violence against 19-year-old Ms Stuttle, who fell 10 metres to her death from the Burnett River Bridge, in Bundaberg, Queensland, during a bag snatch on 10 April 2002. She died instantly when her skull fractured and her spine severed as she hit the ground, the trial at Bundaberg Supreme Court was told.

Ms Stuttle, from York, was travelling in Australia during her gap year and had only been in Bundaberg for a few days when she was killed. She was walking home to a caravan park after phoning her boyfriend, Ian Nelson, in England when Previte, who had taken a cocktail of illegal substances, attacked her in an attempt to steal money for drugs.

Previte, wearing a black shirt and grey trousers, showed no emotion as he was jailed for life.

Passing sentence, Justice Peter Dutney said: "Ms Stuttle should have been enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Instead, your act of throwing her off a bridge, in the dark, in a strange country, for a miserable few dollars, you killed her in the most dreadful way."

The Crown Prosecutor, Peter Feeney, arguing for a concurrent 10-year sentence to be passed for the charge of robbery, said: "He was preying on a girl walking alone at night," and added: "There was considerable violence done." During the trial, the court heard that Previte had smoked marijuana and taken various other drugs before robbing and murdering Ms Stuttle. He boasted of the killing during conversations with cellmates, which were secretly recorded. Previte also admitted killing Ms Stuttle in a recorded police interview.

Previte described how Ms Stuttle fought to hold on to her handbag. He said he "flung" her around as she struggled and during the struggle she went over the side of the railing.

The jury of seven men and four women took seven hours to reach unanimous guilty verdicts on both charges. The jurors were reduced to 11 last week after one member became ill. After the verdict, Ms Stuttle's father, Alan, who attended the trial, which he said had "drawn a line under this awful situation".

He said: "We are so relieved this matter has finally been put to sleep and I think it is important now we all move forward with great confidence and know this isn't hanging over our heads.It has been two and a half years of a great deal of pain and anguish."

Mr Stuttle paid tribute to his daughter and her brother Richard, who also attended the trial. He said: "She was doing what she wanted to do, she was in a wonderful country like Australia, she was having the holiday of a lifetime."

Ms Stuttle's mother, Marjorie Marks-Stuttle, who is divorced from Mr Stuttle, said the verdict was "good news". Minutes after Previte was found guilty she said her feelings were "just relief that justice has seen to be done. It's been a very emotional time."

Mrs Marks-Stuttle, who stayed in the UK because she was unable to face the ordeal of sitting through the trial, said her grief for Caroline would remain for ever. "My son's out in Australia so he's had to live every day in court. My heart goes out to him. I wish I was there to give him a hug. It's good news ... but the grief will never go away."

After her daughter's murder, Mrs Marks-Stuttle set up Caroline's Rainbow Foundation, a charity which raises awareness of the importance of personal safety when backpacking. She said: "Her rainbow is always with us ... If we can save another life so parents don't have to go what we've gone through then that will be a relief to help other people."

Information about Caroline's Rainbow Foundation can be found at www.carolinesrainbowfoundation.com.

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