Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 12:55 UK

Life terms for Blue Lagoon 'slave' murderers

Michael Gilbert

Three people convicted of the murder of a vulnerable man they kept as their slave have been jailed for life.

Michael Gilbert, 26, was tortured for his benefit money by the extended Watt family at their home in Luton.

James Watt was ordered to serve a minimum of 36 years, Natasha Oldfield will serve at least 18 years and Nicola Roberts a minimum of 15 years.

The court heard Mr Gilbert was kept as a slave and tortured before he was killed and his body dumped in a lake.

Richard Watt, 25, the boyfriend of Nicola Roberts, had previously admitted familial homicide, or causing or allowing the death, and was jailed for six years.

The youngest brother, Robert Watt, 20, was jailed for eight years for the same offence as well as perverting the course of justice.

'Monstrous family'

The brothers' mother, Jennifer Smith-Dennis, 58, was also found guilty of familial homicide and perverting the course of justice and jailed for 10 years.

Judge John Bevan told her she had created a "monstrous" and "dysfunctional" family.

James Watt who was the boyfriend of Oldfield, said "cheers" to the judge as he was sentenced.

Mr Gilbert's body was dismembered and dumped at a beauty spot known as the Blue Lagoon in Arlesey, where it was discovered by fishermen in May last year.

Victim's family welcomes sentence

During the trial, the court heard "vulnerable" Mr Gilbert, who met James Watt at a children's home when they were 15, was treated as a slave by the family.

Police said he was regularly assaulted and threatened over several years.

He was hit with bats, shot, stabbed and beatings were often filmed on mobile phones.

When the 26-year-old escaped, James Watt traced him through his benefit payments and National Insurance number and he would be forced back in to captivity.

Police had even paid for a rail ticket so he could return to Cambridge and escape the family but he was traced and bundled into a car before being taken back to the Watt family home.

The judge said Mr Gilbert died a "cruel, lonely and violent death" and that the description of him as a slave was only a "mild exaggeration".

Attacks filmed

He told the family: "In all my years, both on the bench and at the bar, I have only ever dealt with a handful of cases where the behaviour can properly be described as depraved and you can be rightly added to this list.

"How, in a civilised society, this behaviour was allowed to continue is a mystery."

The judge told James Watt: "You had your fun, now you must pay for it.

"You are dangerous, cruel, vindictive, spiteful and heartless."

He said he had considered giving him a whole-life sentence but decided not to as he would have seen it as a "badge of honour".

Judge Bevan told Richard Watt his biggest part was inaction and he had failed Mr Gilbert both in his life and in his death until he eventually told police.

He added: "Whatever the failings of the authorities in this case, Michael's refusal of help tied their hands."

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