A career criminal who killed an elderly brother and sister in a failed burglary has been jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 32 years.
Danville Neil, 65, ‘dodged justice for almost 30 years’ after attacking Second World War veteran William Bryan, 71, and widow Anne Castle, 74, during a burglary at their home from east London in August 1993.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, Neil was convicted of the murder of Mr Bryan and the manslaughter of Ms Castle.
Sentencing him on Friday, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said: ‘You have been dodging justice for almost 30 years, now justice has caught up with you.’
She later said, “It was a notorious and universally appalling crime, both because of your story and the doubly fatal consequences of what you did.”
The pensioners were beaten and overpowered as their apartment was ransacked for valuables.
The judge told Neil that his actions were “unscrupulous” and “lack of mercy”, and that the siblings died “because of your greed”.
She added: “You were a well-established and experienced career burglar in 1993.
“But you had within you the courage to offend in a much more serious way.”
Neil pulled two wedding rings and two diamond rings from Ms Castle’s fingers but failed to find some £4,000 in cash – some of which had been hidden in socks, Old Bailey said.
Ms Castle suffered a heart attack and Mr Bryan went into cardiac arrest after being beaten and choked during the nighttime raid.
No one witnessed the attack, but screams were heard from neighbors suggesting a “protracted burglary and attack”, jurors heard.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told the court: ‘The suffering of one of them was aggravated by the knowledge that the other was dead or dying, it is unavoidable.
“They were left virtually face to face, it’s not hard to imagine, even if no one would like it, the anguish they had to endure over each other’s suffering. “
Police were called to the address on August 23, 1993 and found Ms Castle’s body slumped in an armchair, with her brother lying on the floor.
Jurors saw footage of the scene, with pillows knocked over on the sofa, broken glass from a vase, a crooked lampshade in the corner, a pair of glasses on the floor and Ms. Castle on the ground with the contents spilled.
A hammer and a screwdriver were found at the scene of the crime.
The murders remained unsolved for almost 30 years until Neil’s DNA was found in the knot of a strap used to tie Mr Bryan’s hands.
The court heard that Neil had been convicted of around 15 burglaries between 1973 and 1998.
In 1984, he carried out two home invasions in three months in which the occupants were physically assaulted.
A couple were beaten with an iron bar and the woman was also suffocated with a pillow as their three children slept at their home in Penge, south London.
The husband’s hands were tied with a belt and Neil attempted to pull the wife’s ring off his finger.
Although neither child was injured, Neil told the couple: “Your child is dead, it’s true that we killed your little girl, understood. Tell us where the money is or we’ll smash your head.
Two months later, Neil assaulted another woman after he broke into her home in Norbury, south London, before fleeing with a music center and £15 in cash.
He was jailed for the two violent burglaries and released on license in August 1992 – a year before the double murders.
During his trial, Neil had accepted that his DNA had been found at the scene of the murders, but denied having been there or knowing the victims.
He claimed an innocent explanation for the forensic bond was that he sold binoculars to Mr Bryan at a car boot sale and it was the strap that was used to bind him.
But Mrs Castle’s grandson remembered that his great-uncle was keen on gadgets and had two pairs of binoculars which he would have bought new.
Jurors heard the victims had lived together in a flat in Bethnal Green since Mr Bryan was discharged from the army in 1945, Ms Castle being widowed in 1987.
A statement from Mrs Castle’s granddaughter, read out to court, described her as a ‘pillar of the community who was well loved and respected by all’.
He went on to say that the pair “showed all the things that are good about people.”
Another family statement said “for almost 30 years there has been a weight on our shoulders.”
Cheers and applause were heard in the public gallery as the sentence was handed down.