Wales

Florence Habesch: George Johnson sentenced to life

George Johnson
Image caption George Johnson abused Mrs Habesch's trust, the court heard

A killer who beat an 89-year-old woman to death, 25 years after being jailed for life for another murder, has been told he will never leave prison.

Odd job man George Norman Johnson, 47, killed Florence May Habesch as she made him a cup of tea in Rhyl, Denbighshire.

Johnson, from Rhyl, had been released on licence after being jailed for life for murder in Wolverhampton in 1986.

Mr Justice Griffith-Williams sentenced him to life at Mold Crown Court and said he must never be released.

Johnson admitted murdering Mrs Habesch at her home in Grange Road, Rhyl, on 6 February, for drugs money, and made off with £25.

Prosecutor Elen Owen said the churchgoing widow lived alone. She was a customer of Johnson's partner - who did an Avon cosmetics round - and he carried out a number of jobs for Mrs Habesch around her home.

After taking heroin and crack cocaine, he went to her house and struck her with a heavy projector case as she made him a cup of tea, causing a massive head injury.

He stole £25 and jewellery, then struck her again because she was staring at him and still moving.

Johnson got a nephew to buy drugs with the money and later told his brother what he had done.

He was taken to the West Midlands, where it was discussed whether anyone should check on the victim - but Johnson said she would be dead.

However, the court heard that a pathologist estimated she did not die until late that night, or early the following morning.

Johnson was arrested after his brother contacted police.

The judge said Johnson was "a very dangerous man" when influenced by alcohol or drugs.

"You knew that she would not give or lend you money," he told him.

"You did not scruple to take the life of that frail, defenceless old lady who had shown you nothing but kindness. You battered her to death in her own home."

Ms Owen said: "George Johnson carried out a particularly violent and unprovoked attack on Florence Habesch.

"This was a cowardly and vicious crime perpetrated against an elderly and vulnerable lady who had befriended and trusted her attacker."

The court heard Johnson and another man launched a "sustained and savage attack" with knives and a pair of scissors in 1986, killing a man in his own home for £3.

In October 1986 he admitted murder, and was jailed for life with a direction that he should serve at least 17 years.

He was released on 20 March, 2006, on the condition he took regular drugs and alcohol tests.

He was recalled in January 2007 after a positive test, but was released in December 2007.

By October 2010, he had admitted that he was taking drugs, and later admitted he was taking heroin daily and owed money to local drug dealers.

After sentencing, Det Insp Jo Williams, of North Wales Police, said: "Florence May Habesch was a gentle and dignified member of the community who played an active role in her church.

"She was a very private person who took Johnson into her trust.

"George Johnson abused the trust of Mrs Habesch in the very worst way possible.

"He took advantage of her good nature and kindness and repaid her with violence which resulted in him taking her life.

"This was a despicable, unprovoked act which is hard to comprehend and is beyond explanation.

"Incidents of this nature are very rare in north Wales."

The judge said: "No doubt an inquiry as to why you were not recalled at that time will be undertaken.

"But it was ultimately your responsibility to avoid re-offending, in particularly to avoid violent re-offending."

Wales Probation Trust said a review was being carried to "see if any lessons can be learnt".

"Our sympathies are with the victim's family following this horrific crime," said a spokesperson.

"The offender alone is responsible for these actions."

Joyce Challis, secretary of Rhyl's Christ Church, said Mrs Habesch was an active member, attending services and running a weekly bric-a-brac stall, raising "hundreds of pounds" for Save the Children.

"In later years as she became more frail she was one of the ladies in the back row in church who were not always as quiet as they might have been."

She said that a memorial service had been held and had given "comfort" to people "shocked at the way her life had ended".

"Everyone who knew her remarked what a gentle and private person she was and many of her friends have felt a personal loss and a deep sadness," she said.

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