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Escaped rapist jailed for murder

25 September 09 14:12 GMT

A convicted rapist who strangled a pensioner while on the run from a secure hospital has been jailed for at least 27 years.

Terrence O'Keefe, who killed David Kemp, 73, was convicted of murder at Norwich Crown Court in June.

Jailing O'Keefe for life, Mr Justice Saunders described the murder in Great Yarmouth as "heartless and brutal".

O'Keefe, 39, killed Mr Kemp after absconding from a secure mental health unit in London.

He had been serving a previous life sentence imposed in 1996 for rape and robbery.

Mr Justice Saunders, sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, told O'Keefe he was satisfied that the murder, which happened in March last year, had been committed for gain.

He said: "It was, on anyone's understanding, a heartless and brutal killing. There can be no doubt that the motivation for this killing was to steal property."

The judge added that, in light of the fact that the murder was committed while O'Keefe was serving a life sentence, the Parole Board may never consider him safe to be released.

Prior to sentence, O'Keefe's defence, Tarquin McCalla, said his client still maintained that he had not killed Mr Kemp.

"He maintains his innocence. He maintains his denial for this offence and will do so both now and in future.

"In the circumstances that's all I am instructed to say", he added.

'Easy pickings'

During the trial, the jury had been told that O'Keefe stole Mr Kemp's television to raise money for drugs before killing him to prevent him speaking to police.

While on the run, O'Keefe, thought to be from Liverpool, travelled to the Republic of Ireland and back to Great Yarmouth, jurors had heard.

O'Keefe, who used a belt to throttle Mr Kemp at his flat, had met him twice before the killing and regarded the pensioner, who showed no signs of any defensive injuries, as "easy pickings" the court heard.

The court heard that about a month after the killing an associate of O'Keefe's contacted police and told them that O'Keefe had confessed to the crime.

He was being held at a secure unit at Lambeth Hospital and escaped while being treated at King's College Hospital, both in London.

Following O'Keefe's conviction for murder, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust apologised unreservedly and acknowledged that the escape "should not have happened".

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