Killer jailed under new double-jeopardy laws

LONDON (Reuters) - A man acquitted of killing his ex-girlfriend seven years ago was given two life sentences on Friday after fresh evidence came to light in a fresh trial under new double jeopardy laws.

Mario Celaire and Cassandra McDermott in a combination image. REUTERS/MPS/Handout

The Old Bailey heard that it was the first case under the new rules in which a defendant who has previously been acquitted by a jury has been convicted.

The so-called double jeopardy rule -- an 800-year-old law which stipulated that a person once acquitted could not be tried again for the same offence -- was reformed in 2003.

Mario Celaire, 31, was jailed for life and told he must serve at least 23 years after pleading guilty to the attempted murder of ex-girlfriend Kara Hoyte, in a hammer attack in 2007, the Press Association reported.

He was also given a concurrent life term with a minimum of eight years after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of another ex-girlfriend, Cassandra McDermot, 19, in Norbury, south-east London in 2001.

The former Maidstone United player was cleared in 2002 over the death of McDermott whom he had beaten unconscious and left to choke on an undigested Chinese takeaway.

But the verdict was quashed on appeal under the reformed double jeopardy laws.

It was the “remarkable” courage of Hoyte, who was left brain-damaged after Celaire attacked her, that helped bring him to justice for both crimes, the court was told.

The attack was so fierce that parts of Hoyte’s brain were exposed when she was found in a pool of blood in her room.

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.

“You present a very real and continuing danger to young women with whom you enter into a close relationship,” said Judge Paul Worsley told Celaire, of Sydenham, south east London.

“Celaire has demonstrated time and again that he is a man with a short fuse and a propensity for violence against women,” said Brian McClusky, who led Waltham Forest Borough’s investigation into the attack on Kara.

“It is tragic that he has ruined the life of Cassandra’s family and left Kara with severe injuries that will have an impact on the rest of her life,” he said.

“Kara has shown remarkable strength and determination to be able and willing to give evidence against Celaire,” he added.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Michael Holden