London

Hotel hammer attack man Philip Spence's sentence increased

The Cumberland Hotel Image copyright AFP
Image caption The three sisters were attacked at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch on 6 April

A man who bludgeoned three sisters with a claw hammer in a London hotel while children slept alongside them has had his jail sentence increased.

Philip Spence, 33, from Harlesden, was convicted in October of three counts of attempted murder and jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years.

The Court of Appeal ruled he must now serve a minimum of 27 years.

During the trial it was heard one victim was hit so hard she lost part of her brain and can no longer speak.

The three judges sitting in the appeal court said: "It seems highly improbable that he will, after the expiry of 27 years, or indeed ever, be safe for release."

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Philip Spence admitted the attack but denied attempted murder

Spence attacked the sisters, from the United Arab Emirates, at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch on 6 April.

He admitted the attack during the trial, but denied attempted murder.

The court heard he hit Ohoud Al-Najjar, 34, with such force her skull split open as her nine-year-old nephew cowered under the sheets beside her.

She survived the attack but was left with just 5% brain function, lost sight in one eye and can no longer speak.

Her sisters Khulood, 36, and Fatima, 31, were both left with life-threatening injuries and still require medical treatment.

The attack was also carried out in front of Khulood's three children, aged seven, 10 and 12.

Spence fled the scene with a suitcase containing iPads, gold jewellery and mobile phones.


Analysis by BBC Legal Correspondent Clive Coleman

Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC argued that, although Philip Spence was convicted of attempted murder and not murder, he should receive a "whole of life" term.

These sentences are normally reserved for the most heinous murderers - people who have murdered more than one person, or murdered a child with a sexual or sadistic motive. Rose West received one, for example.

Mr Buckland said it was only recent advances in medical science that have been able to keep Spence's victims alive.

He told the court that even in the very recent past such cases would have led to murder convictions.

The Lord Chief Justice said he could envisage a case where the court might impose a whole life sentence for attempted murder, but that Spence's case was not such a case.


Her sisters Khulood, 36, and Fatima, 31, were both left with life-threatening injuries and still require medical treatment.

The attack was also carried out in front of Khulood's three children, aged seven, 10 and 12.

Spence fled the scene with a suitcase containing iPads, gold jewellery and mobile phones.

He dumped the claw hammer just outside the hotel in Marble Arch.

In a victim impact statement read at Spence's trial, Fatima Al-Najjar said the injuries to Ohoud had left her with a "living dead sister".

Speaking at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Anthony Leonard QC had said it was "nothing short of a miracle combined with the finest medical attention" that she survived.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Spence dumped the claw hammer used in the attack as he left the four-star hotel

The case was referred to the Court of Appeal by Solicitor-General Robert Buckland, on the basis the sentence was unduly lenient.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Globe and Mr Justice Knowles, said it was a "shocking" case but not one where a whole-life order would be the right sentence.

"In our judgment, the minimum term should be one of 27 years.

"It will be for the parole board in due course to consider whether this defendant, who is obviously highly dangerous, will, if ever, be released."

In October, Spence was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary during the attack.

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