Suffolk

Ali Qazimaj guilty of murdering Peter and Sylvia Stuart

Ali Qazimaj Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Ali Qazimaj told the court he was innocent and had never been to the UK

A man who tried to claim he was the victim of mistaken identity has been convicted of murdering a couple.

Ali Qazimaj was found guilty of killing Peter and Sylvia Stuart who disappeared from their home in Weybread, Suffolk.

The body of Mr Stuart, 75, was found in a nearby stream last June, but Mrs Stuart, 69, has yet to be found.

Qazimaj, 43, formerly of Tilbury, Essex, was convicted at Ipswich Crown Court, after claiming during his trial he was actually called Vital Dapi.

The defendant also told the court he had never been to the UK, before being arrested in Luxembourg in July and extradited.

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Media caption'Twisted' killer Ali Qazimaj traced after international manhunt

But Suffolk Police believes Qazimaj originates from Albania and has been in the UK since 1999, when he claimed to be from Kosovo and was granted asylum.

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In a statement after the conviction, the Stuarts' family said: "To the twisted individual who committed this wicked crime, we hope you spend the rest of your miserable existence reflecting on the utter senselessness and brutality of what you did to two innocent people.

"Maybe one day you will find the moral courage to tell us where Mum is so that we may give her and our family some final peace."

Image copyright Diss Express
Image caption The body of Peter Stuart was found but his wife Sylvia remains missing, presumed dead
Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Ali Qazimaj was pictured on CCTV in Dover, fleeing the country
Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Hairs matching Sylvia Stuart's DNA was found in a car driven by Ali Qazimaj

The court heard debt-ridden Qazimaj had killed the Stuarts for money and then fled the country, catching a ferry from Dover.

Five grey hairs matching Mrs Stuart's DNA profile were found in the car he left behind, along with traces of Mr Stuart.

The couple were last seen alive on CCTV footage taken at Goodies Farm Shop in Pulham Market, Norfolk, on 29 May. They were reported missing five days later, and Mr Stuart's body was found on the same day.

He had nine stab wounds, eight of which the court heard could have been fatal.

Image copyright Norfolk Police
Image caption The Stuarts visited a farm shop together five days before they were reported missing and Mr Stuart was found dead
Image copyright Suffolk Police
Image caption Peter Stuart was found near his home in Weybread

The court heard that Qazimaj worked as a carer for a relative of the Stuarts by marriage, Sidney Paxman.

Prosecuting, Karim Khalil QC had told the court that Mr Paxman had described the Stuarts as "millionaires".

This attracted Qazimaj, who had accrued gambling debts and had "started borrowing heavily" from Mr Paxman.

Police believe his plan was to convince the Stuarts to sell their house and "obtain some sort of commission in the process".

Giving evidence during the trial via videolink, Mr Paxman, 88, said Qazimaj had confessed to doing "something bad" during a conversation on 3 June.

The couple's daughter, Christy Paxman gasped and cried as the verdicts were given in court.

Speaking after the verdicts, Det Ch Insp Andy Guy said: "There were four key strands of evidence: the fingerprints, the DNA, the handwriting samples and the physical appearance.

"All within themselves are strong pieces of evidence, and put together I think was absolutely compelling. To try and argue in the witness box that you're not the man in the photograph when clearly you are is quite bizarre."

He said he hoped Qazimaj, who will be sentenced on Tuesday, would reveal where Mrs Stuart's body can be found.

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