Student jailed for 'executing' Torquay couple

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A student has been convicted of what prosecutors described as the cold-blooded execution of an elderly couple.

Odai Salah, 29, strangled Rosemary Windle, 72, and suffocated Maurece Smith, 71, at their flat in Torquay, Devon, to get their money.

After the killings in January Salah took cheque books and credit cards and kept watch to ensure the bodies had not been discovered.

Salah was jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years.

The prosecution told Exeter Crown Court the law student got to know the couple when he tried to do business with them through his failed food and wine company.

Mrs Windle had a successful business selling linen and other goods to wealthy clients in the Middle East and Salah, a Lebanese national, told them he could help by putting her in touch with his contacts.

At the time of the killings he was studying for a PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University.

However, Salah was £170,000 in debt and had credit card companies, banks and other organisations demanding he repay what he owed, the prosecution said.

Det Supt Steve Carey, who led the murder investigation, described the murders as a "wicked crime".

Image caption,
The couple were found covered in blankets

He said Salah quickly came to the police's attention because he tried to cash a cheque for £27,000 in Mrs Windle's name at a bank in Exeter on the day of the murders.

He said: "He was bound to come to light sooner or later as he started interfering with the victims' accounts."

Police discovered the bodies three days after the murders.

Mr Smith's body was in an armchair covered with blankets and pillows and a cushion over his face. A broken knife blade was found under his body.

Mrs Windle's body was found in the garage covered by a blanket.

Salah's DNA was found on the victims and the murder weapon was traced to a set from his home, the court heard.

Prosecutor Paul Dunkels QC described the killings as a "cold-blooded execution" in order to get money.

It was not clear what triggered the attack, Mr Dunkels said.

He said: "He must have determined that the only way to get money from them was to kill them both. That is what he did."

Jailing Salah, the judge, Mr Justice Jack, said: "I come to the conclusion that you are devoid of any morality."

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