Derby

Man found guilty of Cromford taxi driver murder

Victim Stuart Ludlam
Image caption Stuart Ludlam was found dead in the back of his cab

A man labelled a "gun fanatic" has been jailed for life for shooting dead a taxi driver at a railway station.

Stuart Ludlam, a 43-year-old father-of-three, was found dead in his taxi at Cromford Station in Derbyshire on 17 September last year.

Colin Cheetham, 61, from Ripley, was found guilty of murder during a trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

Cheetham was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years. His victim was found in the taxi boot at the station near Matlock.

He had been made to kneel in the boot and was shot in the head, the court heard.

Prosecuting, Peter Joyce QC said Cheetham appeared to have no motive other than the desire to shoot a "complete stranger".

Mr Joyce said he had planned the killing meticulously, spending much time checking out the location.

Mr Ludlam had been shot as soon as he arrived at Cromford Station after being made to kneel in the back of the car.

Records showed the mobile phone used by Cheetham, who was previously a member of a gun club, to call Mr Ludlam was bought from Morrison's supermarket in Derby.

Officers searching Cheetham's house also found a camera and photographs of various train stations - including Cromford - while the gun fanatic also researched train timetables to ensure the killing could take place in a secluded location.

Mr Joyce said: "It was his [Cheetham's] gun, he had planned it, it was his phone.

"He had no knowledge of Mr Ludlam but he had a fascination with taxis and a fascination with guns and Mr Ludlam was just the unlucky man with whom this fascination ended."

Mr Ludlam, of Darley Dale, Derbyshire, was found with two gunshot wounds to the head by holidaymaker Peter Noble, who dialled 999.

After the case, Det Ch Supt Tony Blockley, from Derbyshire Police, said: "Colin Cheetham is an evil man who carried out a despicable act which was seemingly motiveless.

"This crime was totally unpredictable. My own personal point of view is that he has executed Mr Ludlam simply to see what it would be like to kill someone due to his personal fascination with firearms.

"My only hope is at some point he can explain to someone why he has done this as we have never been able to prove a motive or glean the real story about what happened from Cheetham.

"That leaves many unanswered questions for Mr Ludlam's family and friends."

Andrew Brough, 57, of Heanor, Derbyshire, previously pleaded guilty to firearms offences in connection with the investigation. He will be sentenced on 22 July.

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