Child killer Stephen Leonard jailed over attack on woman

Stephen Leonard Image copyright Cambridgeshire Police
Image caption Stephen Leonard was known as Stephen Chafer when he murdered a three-year-old girl in 1979

A man who nearly decapitated a woman with dementia after being released from prison has been jailed for life.

Stephen Chafer was jailed in 1979 for sexually assaulting and stabbing to death a three-year-old girl. He was jailed again in 2013 for arson.

Now known as Stephen Leonard, the 57-year-old was convicted in December of attempting to murder Fay Mills in a row over garden tools in Peterborough.

At Cambridge Crown Court, Leonard was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years.

Judge David Farrell QC called him a "highly dangerous individual" and a "serious risk to members of the public and particularly women".

Image caption Lorraine Holt, whom Chafer was related to through marriage, was murdered in 1979

The court heard an argument over a rake at Ms Mills' home on 23 June caused "a flick of the switch in the head".

Leonard hit the 60-year-old over the head with the tool before grabbing a knife and stabbing her repeatedly, cutting her throat three times.

He was out of prison on licence at the time.

Prosecutor Charles Falk said it was "frankly a miracle that (Ms Mills) has survived".

Mr Falk, summarising a victim impact statement from the victim's daughter Sheila Mills, said: "She trusted Stephen with everything. He betrayed her trust. She cannot understand how wrong she could have been."

Image caption Lorraine Holt's grandmother wrote to the Parole Board to plead with them to keep her killer in jail

In 1979, Leonard admitted Lorraine's murder and was jailed, before being released in 2002.

He was 17 when he found her sitting in the snow in tears near her home in Derby, then carried her to a nearby vicarage where he sexually assaulted her and stabbed her 39 times.

More than 10 years after his release Chafer - by this point known as Leonard - removed the fire alarms at his flat, part of a block of nine in Peterborough, and set it alight.

He admitted arson and was sentenced to 26 months in prison, but was released on licence in August 2017.

Andrew Radcliffe QC, mitigating for Leonard in the most recent offence, said the defendant suffers from "multiple mental disorders".

Sentencing, Judge Farrell QC told Leonard: "The worrying aspect of this offence is, as with the previous murder, that you have attacked a particularly vulnerable person and the attack was with a knife with particular severity."

He said Leonard would be 74 years of age before he could be considered for release from prison and asked the Parole Board to "consider the sentencing remarks that I make today".

Image caption Lorraine's father Jim Holt has kept newspaper cuttings of his daughter's case down the years

He also awarded £750 to Ms Mills' neighbour Mark Patchett, who came to Ms Mills' house after hearing calls for help and himself was cut by the defendant.

Lorraine's father Jim Holt, who had sent a petition to then Home Secretary Jack Straw in 2000 to keep her killer in jail, said the two-week attempted murder trial had been "horrendous" for his family.

"It's like being back in 1979, that same weekend, and it all happening again."

A Parole Board spokesman said it was "rare" for released offenders to go on to commit serious further offences.

"Whilst this represents an extremely small proportion of cases considered, we do take each case extremely seriously and work with others in the criminal justice system to ensure that lessons are learned to help to prevent further tragedies," he said.

Cambridgeshire Police said Leonard's latest crime was the subject of a serious case review.

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