County News: Killer sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder

KeithWilliams SUS-150106-152141001

KeithWilliams SUS-150106-152141001

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A man who killed a pregnant teenager in Sussex in 1986 was today (June 1) sent back to prison after attempting to kill another woman.

Keith Williams, 48, previously of Sackville Road, Hove, pleaded guilty to attempted murder when he appeared at Hove Trial Centre.

Williams, who appeared via video link from Belmarsh, was sentenced to life in prison and must serve a minimum of 16 years.

Sentencing, Judge David Renie said: “You will not be released at that stage unless the parole board decides that you are no longer a danger.”

Melinda Croft

Williams was convicted in 1986 of the manslaughter of Hastings teenager Melinda Croft.

He was sentenced to life in prison, serving a minimum of 23 years, and was released on licence on October 21, 2013.

Williams stabbed Miss Croft multiple times and stamped on her face before covering her body with a duvet and setting fire to it.

The court heard there was also evidence Melinda, who was six months pregnant at the time of the attack and had been Williams’ friend, was sexually assaulted.

Attack

In a case which seemed to parallel the 1986 killing in many ways, the court heard how Williams was friends with his neighbour Amarius Hatton prior to the attack on September 8, 2014.

She had invited him into her flat and the pair were playing video games before Williams left and returned shortly afterwards.

They resumed playing the game before the victim told police she felt a huge knock to the back of her head.

“I couldn’t make sense of it and then I felt another knock”, she said.

Ms Hatton was struck several more times before she realised what was happening.

“When it struck my arm, I realised it wasn’t a hard object it was sharp.”

Philip Bennetts QC, prosecuting, said: “She screamed as she was attacked and he used a pillow to muffle her cries.

“At one point he was holding her by the throat. She managed to get to the front door and screamed for help but he dragged her back inside.”

After the attack, Williams left Ms Hatton on the floor, before returning moments later to pick up his bag.

Police were called when a neighbour in the basement flat of the property heard ‘sounds of a person in pain shouting for help’.

When officers arrived in the building they heard Ms Hatton call out ‘help me, please help me’.

They found her on the floor of her flat covered in blood.

When officers went to Williams’ flat he opened the door saying: “Yeah, I lost the plot, Satan, Satan, Satan.”

He also told officers the knife he had used was behind a set of drawers next to the bed.

Mr Bennetts told the court Ms Hatton received ‘multiple stab wounds’ during the attack.

The tip of the knife used embedded in her head and had to be removed during surgery and she received 147 stitches.

Speaking about the impact of the attack, as set out by the victim in a statement made yesterday, Mr Bennetts said: “She doesn’t want to leave her property and describes being too scared to do so.”

Nerve damage to her arm also means she has lost almost all use of her left hand, although she said it had started to improve in the last month.

Emotional explosions

Rebecca Trowler QC, defending, said Williams had a background of mental health issues and had suffered a decline in his psychological state immediately prior to the attack.

She said Williams felt ‘unsupported’ when he moved to a bedsit, even though his parole board had suggested he live in supervised accommodation.

“His mental health had deteriorated and he had decided to kill himself and had cut himself shortly before the offence,” she said.

Ms Trowler said this was why he had a knife with him when he returned to the victim’s flat and he was in a ‘confused state’.

Williams was subject to psychological assessment prior to his sentencing.

Ms Trowler said these assessments raised several issues including ‘feelings of emptiness’ and ‘self destructive behaviour including suicide attempts’.

“Most importantly, they found an inability to control emotional explosions,” said Ms Trowler.

“He is unable to pause and consider consequences.”

Danger to others

Sentencing, Judge Renie said: “In 1986 you stabbed a teenager to death, you were convicted of manslaughter as oppose to murder because of your health problems and diminished responsibility.

“Only a year or so after your release you attempted to murder another person by subjecting them to a vicious knife attack in their own home.”

He said he was satisfied Williams posed a risk to other people and he would only be released, after serving a minimum of 16 years, if he could convince the parole board this was no longer the case.

Judge Renie took Williams’ guilty plea and mental health problems into account during sentencing.

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