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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 14:08 GMT
'Vigilante' killers jailed for life
Police at Alfred Wilkin's house
The victim's house was vandalised before the arson
Two self-styled vigilantes have been jailed for life for murdering a retired sea captain they wrongly suspected of being a paedophile.

Pub cellarman Ian Lawless, 40, and his unemployed godson, Gary Lawson, 20, firebombed former tugboat skipper Alf Wilkins's Grimsby flat.

They struck on 7 February 2001 after reading he had been accused of molesting a nine-year-old girl on their estate.

Mr Wilkins, 67, had been cleared of the charges - but the pair poured turpentine through his letterbox before setting light to the fluid and caused a fire which led him to suffocate.

Alfred Wilkins
Mr Wilkins was cleared of all criminal charges

His body was found in the kitchen of his smoke-damaged flat in Arundel Walk on the Yarborough estate, with his 12-year-old black Alsatian dog Lucky lying nearby.

The word "Nonce" was scrawled on the window.

Mr Justice Grison at the Old Bailey told Lawless and Lawson: "There are those who may describe your actions as taking the law into your own hands.

"But what you did had nothing to do with the law.

"You took part in the systematic persecution of a 67-year-old man who, whatever he may have done in the past, presented no real danger to the community where he lived.

"That persecution resulted in his death."

Lawson shouted abuse from the dock before he was sentenced.

He said: "If this is what you get for telling the truth, I will never tell the truth again."

Ian Lawless
Ian Lawless: Life imprisonment

After the case, police condemned vigilante action against suspected child abusers.

Detective Superintendent Gavin Baggs, in charge of the case, said the convictions sent a strong message about what happens to people who chose to take the law into their own hands.

Mr Wilkins, a former deep sea fisherman, had been targeted earlier after a report of his court case appeared in a local newspaper.

Hooded raiders

A post-mortem examination revealed bruises on his body.

They were consistent with a savage beating at the hands of two hooded vigilantes who broke into his graffiti-daubed flat eight days earlier.

Gary Lawson
Gary Lawson: Shouted from dock

Lawless, of Conway Avenue, and Lawson, of Ludlow Avenue, were convicted at Hull Crown Court in February, but remanded for sentencing until Friday. They had denied murder.

Lawson was also convicted, together with his 17-year-old girlfriend Chantelle Day, of Haven Gardens, Grimsby, of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to the incident in which Mr Wilkins was badly beaten.

They were both sentenced to three years detention on Friday for that offence.

During the trial the judge lifted an order protecting the identity of Day.

Another man, Gary Fairbanks, 43, also of Ludlow Avenue, was cleared of inciting Lawson to kill Mr Wilkins.

Fairbanks pleaded guilty to charges of threats to destroy property and intimidation of witnesses and was jailed for two years.

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See also:

21 Feb 02 | England
'Vigilantes' face life sentences
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