A man convicted of murdering Weybread couple Peter and Sylvia Stuart has today (Tuesday) been jailed for at least 35 years.
Ali Qazimaj, 43, from Tilbury in south Essex, had denied the killings and claimed throughout his four week trial at Ipswich Crown Court that he was a victim of mistaken identity.
Sentencing Qazimaj, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said the murders were “exceptional and terrible” and described him as a “ruthless and accomplished killer.”
Mr Stuart-Smith said Qazimaj would have to serve at least 35 years imprisonment before he could be considered for release.
Yesterday (Monday) it took a jury less than four hours to find Qazimaj - who insisted that he was a man called Vital Dapi who had never before been in the UK - guilty of the murders of Mr and Mrs Stuart.
Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, who had presided over the trial, told the jury members that while in terms of time they had not taken long to reach their verdicts, he believed they had reached the correct conclusions.
The couple had been reported as missing from their home in Mill Lane, Weybread in June last year after they failed to turn up for a weekly line dancing class and had not been seen for some time by neighbour.
A police search revealed the body of Mr Stuart, 75, partially submerged in a stream in a wooded area at the rear of the couple’s home. He had been stabbed nine times with what the jury heard had been “considerable force”.
Despite following up hundreds of lines of enquiry, police have been unable to locate Mrs Stuart, 69, but prosecutor Karim Khalil QC told the trial there was “compelling evidence” that she too had been murdered by Qazimaj.
Among more than 30 witnesses who gave evidence was a fingerprint expert who said there was “no doubt” that prints found on an abandoned car in Dover belonged to Qazimaj while a DNA specialist said traces of blood and hair found in the same vehicle came from Mr and Mrs Stuart.
Today (Tuesday) Qazimaj remained impassive in the dock, as he had throughout the trial, as he was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mr Justice Stuart-Smith who said Qazimaj would have to serve at least 35 years.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Christy Paxman, the murdered couple’s daughter, said in the past she had always looked for a silver lining but had now “seen the nasty side of life.”
Qazimaj, speaking through a statement read out by his barrister, maintained his innocence and said: “I would never kill a man, let alone two people. I would like you to understand that you are sentencing a man who is innocent.”