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Yarmouth's man killer jailed 27 years

PUBLISHED: 17:09 25 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:16 06 July 2010

Terrence O'Keefe

Terrence O'Keefe

A convicted rapist who strangled a pensioner while on the run from a secure hospital was jailed for at least 27 years today.

A convicted rapist who strangled a pensioner while on the run from a secure hospital was jailed for at least 27 years today.

Terrence O'Keefe, who killed 73-year-old David Kemp before stealing his television to raise money for drugs, was convicted of murder by a jury at Norwich Crown Court in June.

Jailing 39-year-old O'Keefe for life, Mr Justice Saunders described the murder of Mr Kemp in Yarmouth in March last year as a “heartless and brutal” attack on a lonely and vulnerable victim.

O'Keefe, originally from Liverpool, killed Mr Kemp after absconding from a secure mental health unit in London while serving a previous life sentence imposed in 1996 for rape and robbery.

Mr Justice Saunders, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, told O'Keefe he was satisfied that the murder had been committed for gain.

Passing sentence, he said: “David Kemp was 73 years of age at the time - he was clearly, on the evidence, taken by surprise.

“It was, on anyone's understanding, a heartless and brutal killing - there can be no doubt that the motivation for this killing was to steal property.”

The judge added that, in light of the fact that the murder was committed while O'Keefe was serving a life sentence, the Parole Board may never consider him safe to be released.

Ordering that the killer must serve at least 27 years before he can be considered for parole, the judge added: “I want it to be well understood, however, that that does not mean that Mr O'Keefe will be released at the end of 27 years.”

Prior to sentence, O'Keefe's counsel, Tarquin McCalla, said his client still maintained that he had not killed Mr Kemp.

“He maintains his innocence,” Mr McCalla told the court. “He maintains his denial for this offence and will do so both now and in future.

“In the circumstances that's all I am instructed to say.”

Heavily-built O'Keefe, who used a belt to throttle Mr Kemp at his flat, had met him twice before the killing and regarded the pensioner, who showed no signs of any defensive injuries, as “easy pickings”.

Police did not initially think that Mr Kemp, who lived alone in a flat near O'Keefe, had been murdered.

But about a month after his death, one of O'Keefe's associates contacted police and claimed that the drug user had confessed to the killing.

O'Keefe was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court in September 1991 of robbery and having sex with an under-age girl and given a 57-month custodial sentence.

In June 1996 at the Old Bailey he was given a life term - with a recommendation he should serve at least 10 years - for rape, false imprisonment and robbery.

But he went on the run while being held at a secure unit in London in February 2008 and used a false name to claim benefits before killing Mr Kemp.

Following O'Keefe's conviction for murder, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust apologised unreservedly and acknowledged that the escape “should not have happened”.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to all those affected by David Kemp's death.

“Terrence O'Keefe absconded from an acute hospital, where he had been taken for medical treatment, while under escort by our staff.”

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