A triple killer has been jailed for a third time for the murder of a pensioner who was stabbed when he went to help his convicted paedophile neighbour who was being robbed in Hertfordshire – experts argue it must not damage the release of life sentence prisoners.
Ian McLoughlin, 55, above, was given life with a minimum of 40 years at the Old Bailey after he admitted killing Graham Buck in Little Gaddesden in July.
Mr Buck, 66, suffered fatal stab wounds when he responded to cries from the home of 86-year-old Francis Cory-Wright in the village near Berkhamsted.
McLoughlin was on day release from prison where he was serving a life term for the murder of Brighton barman Peter Halls, whom he stabbed multiple times in 1992.
He had previously been jailed for the manslaughter of Len Delgatty, 49, in 1984, whom he hit over the head with a hammer after a row, before leaving his body in a cupboard.
Mr Justice Sweeney said that he was barred from passing a whole life term because of a European judgment that those sentences are in breach of human rights.
The judge said: “The implementation of a whole life order within the current legislative framework in this country is in breach at the time of passing of sentence of article three of the European Convention.
“It is not appropriate to impose a whole life term.
“However even for a man of 55 years of age, the minimum term of years must be a very long one indeed.”
He read part of the victim impact statement from Mr Buck’s wife Karen who said: “To kill him was the most senseless, vicious act of violence.
“His family, friends and I will never be able to make sense of what happened. There was no justifiable reason and we will be left with that thought, and of his pain and suffering, for the rest of our lives.”
She said breaking the news of the death to her daughter was “the worst act I have ever had to carry out in my entire life
McLoughlin met Mr Cory-Wright in prison, and turned up at his house on July 13 while on day release from HMP Spring Hill, claiming to need help setting up a charity supporting elderly ex-offenders.
Mr Cory-Wright was jailed for 30 months in 2011 for indecently assaulting a 10-year old boy in the 1970s.
The meeting began pleasantly, but McLoughlin then grabbed the 87-year-old from behind and demanded to know where he kept his “gold and silver”.
He tied him to his bed, stuffed silver family heirlooms into a pillowcase and demanded bank cards and pin codes.
Father-of-three Mr Buck, who lived two doors away from Mr Cory-Wright, went to help him after hearing shouting in his front garden.
In police interview, McLoughlin said: “I’m not sorry for what I did to the nonce, but I’m sorry for what I did to the pensioner.”
He said he was confronted by Mr Buck as he tried to flee Mr Cory-Wright’s house, dragged him back into the kitchen and stabbed him in the neck.
Witnesses described seeing Mr Buck with his throat slashed “wide open”, prosecutor Ann Evans said. He died on his front lawn, with his pet dog sitting beside him.
Mr Justice Sweeney said: “The photographs I have seen make it clear that it is no exaggeration to say that the slash was wide enough to put a fist in.”
McLoughlin also admitted robbery and was given eight years to run concurrently.
The court heard details of his history of violence. When he killed Mr Delgatty, 49, he hit him over the head with a hammer several times after a row and left his body in a cupboard.
He also tied a towel around his neck to reduce the blood loss and the noise of the blows.
McLoughlin was jailed for 10 years for manslaughter at the Old Bailey, reduced to eight years on appeal.
After his release, he went to live in Brighton, where Mr Halls, 55, offered him work.
McLoughlin said he assumed Mr Halls was gay and thought he might be expected to sleep with him.
Ms Evans said: “The defendant claimed that Mr Halls confessed to liking young boys and … that he took holidays in Morocco for under-age sex.”
McLoughlin stabbed Mr Halls several times and had served 21 years behind bars before killing Mr Buck.
Speaking outside the court after sentence, Mr Buck’s wife, Karen, said: “Today has brought to a conclusion the first part of a long journey for myself and Graham’s family.
“The sentence handed down by Mr Justice Sweeney today reflected the seriousness of the crimes Ian McLaughlin committed.
“However, at the end of the day, it does not change anything. I would once again like to thank everyone who has helped and supported us through the period since Graham’s death, especially the police officers, the family liaison officers, and all our friends, neighbours and colleagues.
“Many questions still remain unanswered at this stage, and I await the Ministry of Justice’s inquiry into day release of prisoners with interest.
“Graham’s death has left a hole in many people’s lives. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.”
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said the murder of Graham Buck must not be allowed to damage the day release system for life sentence prisoners.
“Risk assessments, which are carried out on every lifer who goes on day release, is not an exact science.
“Of course if prison staff had any idea that murder or robbery was McLoughlin’s intention that day he would have been back inside a closed prison pretty much instantly – but McLoughlin’s plans were known only to himself.
“McLoughlin’s case must not be allowed to damage the very good system of releasing life sentence prisoners on day release which, over 50 years, has proved itself to be a valuable tool in assessing trust and reliability even if on the rare occasions like this when it goes wrong – it goes horrifically wrong.”