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Former Royal Marine jailed for life following East Harling murder trial

Alexander Palmer in 2010
Alexander Palmer in 2010

A former Royal Marine commando has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 28 years for the “callous and planned” murder of dog walker Peter Wrighton.

Following an eight-day trial at Nottingham Crown Court, Alexander Palmer, of Freesia Way, Cringleford, was convicted on Wednesday by a jury who took 44 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict.

Alexander Palmer
Alexander Palmer

The body of Palmer’s victim, Peter Wrighton, 83, was discovered in a remote area of heathland in East Harling on Saturday August 5 with his two dogs Gemma and Dylan found close by.

Mr Wrighton had been subjected to such a violent and frenzied stabbing that it initially prompted officers to believe he had been attacked by an animal.

The court heard how this apparently premeditated and unprovoked crime resulted in hundreds of officers and staff assisting in one of Norfolk’s largest murder inquiries in recent decades.

Speaking to numerous witnesses and conducting fingertip and forensic searches, all available resources were used to try to identify an offender in a complex investigation.

A significant breakthrough saw an anonymous caller, responding to media coverage, stating that when receiving mental health treatment, Palmer had talked of voices telling him to harm people and, in particular, dog walkers.

Further analysis of automatic number plate recognition data, CCTV footage and mobile phone records revealed Palmer and his vehicle, a black Ford Focus with the registration L666 AHP, were in the area at the time of Mr Wrighton’s murder.

On Saturday, August 12, one week after the murder, Palmer was arrested in connection with the incident and taken into police custody for questioning.

Two days later, he was charged with murder and remanded into custody before being transferred to a secure hospital where he remained until his trial began last week.

During police interview, Palmer claimed he had been in the area because he was in a low mood.

He stated he had spent time in East Harling as a child with his family and often went there.

He denied ever meeting Mr Wrighton and claimed he did not enter the east side of the heath where Mr Wrighton’s body was found.

However, jurors listened to evidence about a crater located close to the scene of the murder.

They were shown an e-fit, produced after speaking to witnesses, which was an almost identical match to images of Palmer and also reviewed forensic evidence around DNA resulting from cellular matter matching Mr Wrighton, discovered on Palmer’s jacket, which linked him to Mr Wrighton’s body.

Jailing him for life, the Honourable Mr Justice Goose called him a “highly dangerous man”.

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