Europe’s judges give triple killer hope of freedom

Arthur Hutchinson
Arthur Hutchinson
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A MULTIPLE murderer has become the first British convict to challenge his “life means life” tariff following last month’s controversial ruling by European judges that it breaches human rights.

Arthur Hutchinson, jailed for stabbing a wealthy Sheffield couple, Basil and Avril Laitner, to death after breaking into their home on the night of their daughter’s wedding in 1983, who also killed one of their sons and repeatedly raped a teenage wedding guest, has launched the appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Strasbourg court ruled last month it was “inhuman and degrading” for prisoners to face death in jail. Previously under UK law, whole-life tariff prisoners had no possibility of parole or release.

The killers who launched the challenge were Jeremy Bamber, who shot dead five members of his family in 1985, Douglas Vinter and Peter Moore.

Speaking to ITV News, a spokesperson for the Laitner family said: “Whenever even the name Arthur Hutchinson rears its ugly head, it does nothing but create fear and distress to the victims of this heinous crime.

“Let the Human Rights judiciary members be thrust into our position for just a day and maybe they would understand this.

“We are confident that justice will be done and more importantly, be seen to be done, so that this matter can finally be put to rest.”

Some 49 prisoners in British jails are serving whole life tariffs. The most recent murderers to receive a whole life tariff are Mark Bridger, who killed five-year-old April Jones, and Dale Cregan, who murdered two police officers.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “I have repeatedly made clear how profoundly I disagree with the recent ruling by the European Court.

“Our judges should be able to tell those who commit the most heinous crimes imaginable that they may never be released.

“To be told this breaches human rights is absurd – and an insult to those who wrote the original Human Rights Convention. What about the rights of the victims and their families?

“I continue to strongly believe that whole life tariffs are appropriate for the worst murder cases. This is why I want wholesale reforms to our human rights laws.”

The Daily Telegraph reported the Government has been asked to provide a full response to Hutchinson’s claim and could face a full hearing next year. The newspaper said if the claim was backed, 73-year-old Hutchinson, from Hartlepool could be released from prison.

The judge at Hutchinson’s original 1984 trial at Sheffield Crown Court ruled that he should serve 18 years but then-Home Secretary Leon Brittan later ruled he should face the whole life tariff.

An appeal to get this overturned was thrown out at a hearing in 2008 by a High Court judge, who ruled there was “no reason at all” to disagree with the Home Secretary’s decision.

Hutchinson was on the run from police in Selby for rape when he knifed solicitor Basil Laitner, his wife Avril, a doctor, and son Richard in October 1983 at their home in Dore, Sheffield.

Mr and Mrs Laitner had attended the wedding of their daughter Suzanne to Ivor Wolfe in a Sheffield synagogue. They had held a lavish reception for 200 friends and relatives before Hutchinson broke into their home.

A court heard how he stabbed Richard Laitner with a Bowie knife as he lay in his bed.

When Basil Laitner went up to investigate Hutchinson turned the knife on him, leaving him slumped on the staircase.

Hutchinson then found Mrs Laitner cowering in a bedroom. She tried offering money to make him leave, but he killed her too after a long struggle.

Callng himself “The Fox”, Hutchinson boasted of his cunning and claimed the authorities would never catch him. While a fugitive he wrote to and telephoned the Yorkshire Post. He was eventually seized by police in woods near Hartlepool. He denied all the charges he faced.