Man's 'double jeopardy' trial ends with guilty verdict

Footballer convicted of killing ex-girlfriend after acquittal seven years ago

By John-Paul Ford Rojas
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:07

A violent footballer who beat his ex-girlfriend to death yesterday became the first person acquitted of a crime to be jailed for it under new "double jeopardy" laws. The former Maidstone United player Mario Celaire, 31, must serve a minimum of eight years after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Cassandra McDermott.

He was given a concurrent life term, to serve at least 23 years, for the attempted murder of Kara Hoyte, another former girlfriend, in a hammer attack six years after he was cleared in 2002 over the death of Ms McDermott, 19. Celaire beat her unconscious and left her to choke on an undigested Chinese takeaway. The verdict was quashed on appeal.

The "remarkable" courage of Ms Hoyte, who was left brain-damaged after Celaire attacked her, helped bring him to justice for both crimes, the Old Bailey was told. She gave an account to police and family using "writing, drawing and gestures" despite appalling injuries that left her paralysed and severely mentally disabled.

There was loud applause and a shout of "Rot in hell" in court as Celaire, a convicted rapist with a history of violence against women, was jailed. Judge Paul Worsley told Celaire, of Sydenham, south-east London: "You present a very real and continuing danger to young women with whom you enter into a close relationship."

The judge said Celaire had waited until the very last minute to plead guilty to see if the evidence of his severely disabled victim would stand up to scrutiny. Ms Hoyte was on the verge of tears during the sentencing as she held hands with her mother Eunice Lander, who comforted her as the harrowing details of the case were read out.

The judge said a presentence report about Celaire revealed his "desire to remain in control" of any relationships. A psychiatrist had said he had "significant egotistical and narcissistic elements to his personality" and had made "lengthy and persistent attempts to avoid responsibility for offences of the utmost seriousness", he added. Ms Hoyte, like Celaire's previous victim, was 19 when he attacked her in February 2007, and had also recently dumped him for another man after their abusive relationship. Like Ms McDermott, she was just 15 when her affair with him began.

After the attack by Celaire she was found lying in her bedroom in Walthamstow, east London, covered in blood. She had suffered such severe injuries that parts of her brain were exposed.

The court heard Celaire "callously" visited her in hospital days after the attack, thinking she would never be able to tell her story. Her mother was with her and encouraged him to hold her hand but she pushed him away and put her hand over her face. Later, she identified him as her attacker when her mother wrote a series of names on a board and she pointed and banged at the word "Mario".

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 clarified the previous prohibition on trying someone for the same crime a second time if they had been acquitted at the first trial. The MacPherson Report (after the murder of Stephen Lawrence) proposed that double jeopardy should be abolished when "fresh and viable" evidence came to light. The 2003 Act requires all cases to be approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Court Of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal.