Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 14:20 UK

Web murderer given life sentence

David Heiss after his arrest
Heiss became angry when his obsessive messages were blocked

A man from Germany has been jailed for life for stabbing a Nottingham student 86 times after stalking his girlfriend.

David Heiss, 21, from Limburg, became infatuated with 20-year-old Matthew Pyke's girlfriend Joanna Witton, 21, during repeated internet exchanges.

Heiss, who denied the murder charge and said he was acting in self defence, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court.

The judge described Heiss's motive as "bizarre" and ordered him to serve at least 18 years for the 2008 attack.

During the trial the jury heard that on 18 September, 2008, Heiss flew from Frankfurt to Birmingham with a knife and made his way to the flat Mr Pyke shared with Miss Witton on North Sherwood Street in Nottingham.

He waited until Miss Witton left for work the following morning and confronted Mr Pyke, originally from Stowmarket in Suffolk.

Matthew Pyke's mother Kim: 'He was very trusting'

Heiss had claimed he was acting in self defence after Mr Pyke charged at him with a knife.

The court heard Miss Witton, who was originally from Selby in North Yorkshire, met Heiss through a website she ran with Mr Pyke.

Heiss spent six months pestering her with declarations of love and visited the couple twice in Nottingham before the attack.

He became infuriated when the couple, who conducted their entire social life online, blocked Heiss from their website, preventing him from sending further messages to Miss Witton.

'Wonderful man'

Mr Justice Keith said Heiss had remained in denial about the murder.

He told Heiss: "The law permits only one punishment for the crime of murder and the sentence I pass on you is one of imprisonment for life.

"The fact that your motive for murder was so bizarre doesn't make your killing of Matthew any the less serious."

Speaking after the trial, Mr Pyke's brother Adam said: "All it takes is one stab wound and somebody dies.

"He was a great brother to have and it's still difficult to come to terms with the fact that he's not going to be here any more."

Matthew Pyke and Joanna Witton
The couple had just celebrated the third anniversary of their relationship

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Pyke's family and Miss Witton said: "We will never truly come to terms with what happened to Matthew that morning.

"While we have wanted justice throughout the course of this trial, all we really want is Matthew back with us.

"There will always be a massive part of our family missing and not a day goes by without us thinking about Matthew and what might have been.

"It's not fair that we should all have to live like this for the rest of our lives because of one man's actions. He has taken a wonderful, caring, loving young man from all of us."

Det Ch Insp Tony Heydon from Nottinghamshire Police warned people about the dangers of the internet.

"It is the worst case I have dealt with. It is a horrific incident, a very pre-planned premeditated murder.

"The scene we found on the day was horrific and what happened to Matthew was a terrible act, everyone is shocked about what happened.

Web warning

"David Heiss was very clever on the internet, and he learned a lot of information about Joanna Witton and Matthew Pyke and others.

"It is very, very interesting that he could do that.

"One of the things that's important here is that people need to realise that on their computers there is a lot of personal information that other people can gather.

"We know that Heiss found out a lot of information about where they lived and where they worked and all sorts of things about their social network that perhaps now with hindsight they wouldn't want him to know.

"So people need to bear that in mind when they are on their own systems using Facebook, people need to be careful."

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