Appeal judges reject killer’s jail term plea
A FORMER Papworth Hospital worker who strangled his girlfriend and dumped her body at a disused airfield has failed to win a cut in the minimum jail term he must serve for her murder. Shaun Leslie Hilton, 39, of Brooke Street, Soham, was jailed for life a
A FORMER Papworth Hospital worker who strangled his girlfriend and dumped her body at a disused airfield has failed to win a cut in the minimum jail term he must serve for her murder.
Shaun Leslie Hilton, 39, of Brooke Street, Soham, was jailed for life at Cambridge Crown Court in February after being found guilty of murdering Kim Fuller.
He had admitted the killing in March last year, but the jury rejected his contention it was manslaughter due to diminished responsibility.
The judge ordered Hilton to serve a minimum 15 years before he could be considered for release on parole.
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On Wednesday last week, London's Criminal Appeal Court refused to cut the minimum term, rejecting submissions it was too long.
Mr Justice Crane dismissed claims made by Hilton's QC Karim Khalil who, while accepting the concealment of the body was an aggravating feature, claimed the sentencing judge gave too much weight to it.
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The QC said the body was fully clothed, uncovered, in an obvious place and had not been hidden under nearby trees.
But Mr Justice Crane, sitting with Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mrs Justice Dobbs, said Hilton also had sent misleading text messages from Miss Fuller's phone to a male friend after she went missing.
"We accept, like the judge, the concealment could have been more skilful and more could have been done," he said.
Nevertheless, the combination of that with the misleading mobile phone messages made it clear Hilton's intention was to conceal the body, he concluded.
"We take the view that was a significant aggravating factor," Mr Justice Crane said.
Mr Khalil also referred to Hilton's mental health problems. At the trial, the jury rejected the opinion of three psychiatrists who said a defence of diminished responsibility was available to Hilton.
"The learned judge, of course, heard the evidence of the psychiatrists," Mr Justice Crane said. "Some criticism has been made today by Mr Khalil of the judge's description of the appellant as having lied and lied and lied in the context of his medical history."
While he was prepared to accept there were essentially two lies, Mr Justice Crane said the sentencing judge was in a much better position than the Appeal Court to assess the degree of culpability of Hilton in relation to his medical condition.
"It is difficult for us to second guess the learned judge's view," he said.
Mr Justice Crane said the Appeal Court had to stand back and ask whether the judge's conclusions, reached in careful sentencing remarks, on the balancing of the aggravating and mitigating features were justified.
"In our view, his judgement in that respect is not open to reasonable criticism," he said.
Miss Fuller, a 34-year old building society worker with two children, met Hilton through a dating agency in 2004 and they were engaged by the end of the year.
Hilton, however, was continuing an affair.
He strangled her with a scarf on March 3, 2005 and dumped her body in Norfolk.