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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 18:05 GMT
Killer gets 26 life sentences
Andrew Aston
The judge called the crimes a "campaign of terror"
A crack cocaine addict who beat two war veterans to death has been given 26 life sentences for his "campaign of terror".

A jury found former butcher Andrew Aston guilty of murdering 87-year-old war veteran George Dale and 80-year-old Francis Hobley from Stechford, Birmingham.

Mr Justice Butterfield said Aston, who refused to leave his cell to hear the verdicts, had exhibited a "gratuitous desire" to hurt his victims.

Roger Aston, father of the killer, gave evidence in court which led to the conviction of his son.

We can only take grim satisfaction that an evil danger has been removed from society for years to come

DCI Graeme Pallister
West Midlands Police
He said: "Although he is my own son and I love him, we can't have that evil out there and I had to make a stand."

Aston, 29, was also convicted of 24 other charges of assault and robbery in a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

The judge said the killer had waged a campaign of terror against vulnerable and frail people over a three-month period.

'Brutal' crimes

Aston, who often posed as a policeman to con his way into pensioners' homes, had committed crimes that were "brutal, cowardly and often extremely violent".

The court was told the two war veterans were killed during a series of vicious raids by Aston in the Birmingham area in 2001.

Mr Dale, a former anti-aircraft gunner who served in Malta during the Second World War, was murdered because he tried to challenge Aston, the court heard.

Smethwick area of Birmingham
The murder victims lived in the Birmingham area
The war veteran, who was partially sighted, was attacked at his home on 16 March last year and died of his injuries two weeks later.

Mr Hobley, a Dunkirk veteran who also served in Burma, was killed because Aston needed to feed his craving for cocaine.

He died last June after an incident at his home in Stechford three months earlier.

Aston gave police a bogus alibi after DNA tests linked him to one of the killings, falsely claiming to have been with two girls on the day Mr Dale was savagely attacked.

Charges denied

Detective Chief Inspector Graeme Pallister of West Midlands Police said: "We take no pleasure in his conviction because so many innocent people have suffered so much at his hands.

"We can only take grim satisfaction that an evil danger has been removed from society for years to come.

Aston of Stechford had denied the murder, assault and robbery charges.

More than 20 of the offences were alleged to have been committed in an area around Smethwick and five others in Stechford.

His barrister, Ian Alexander QC, told the court that Aston believed the evidence against him had been "manipulated" to make him appear guilty.

The BBC's Lisa Hampele
"He wanted to hurt people"

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