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Family weep as killer locked up

Published 23/06/2015

Palmira Silva who was beheaded by Nicholas Salvador during a 45-minute rampage through a north London neighbourhood
Palmira Silva who was beheaded by Nicholas Salvador during a 45-minute rampage through a north London neighbourhood

The family of a "mild and trusting" great-grandmother who was beheaded in her back garden by a deranged cage fighter wept today as her killer was locked up indefinitely in a secure mental hospital.

Nicholas Salvador carried out the ferocious machete attack on 82-year-old Palmira Silva after beheading two cats during a 45-minute rampage through neighbouring back gardens.

The 6ft, heavily built 25-year-old believed he was killing "demons" when he ran amok with a knife and broom handle, tearing down fences and kicking down neighbours' doors in Edmonton, north London, on the afternoon of September 4 last year, the Old Bailey heard.

CCTV footage taken from a police helicopter overhead showed cafe owner Mrs Silva in a pinny as she mildly approached the bare-chested Salvador over her garden wall.

After a brief exchange, the crazed killer vaulted into her well-tended flowerbed and stabbed her repeatedly before cutting her head off and holding it aloft, the court heard.

The final moments of Mrs Silva's life and the immediate aftermath were edited out of a harrowing 14-minute film clip shown to the jury in front of members of the victim's family.

Afterwards, children playing nearby had to be hastily taken out of harm's way as Salvador strode through backyards towards them, brandishing his weapons.

On the CCTV, an officer could be heard to say: "He's agitated and lethal ... he needs taking out."

An officer climbed on to a flat roof to warn the youngsters of the danger before they were rescued from a front window.

Salvador was eventually cornered in the front room of a neighbour's house and Tasered six times during a violent and chaotic struggle in which one police officer was injured.

Afterwards, he showed signs of mental illness, repeating phrases like "red is the colour" and "I am the king" over and over again.

In his demented state, he believed Mrs Silva was a supernatural entity - either Adolf Hitler back from the dead or a demon who had taken the form of a little old lady, jurors were told.

The jury took 40 minutes to find Salvador not guilty of murder by reason of insanity after two psychiatrists agreed he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Mrs Silva's family wiped away tears and hugged each other as the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, handed Salvador a hospital order for his continued detention in Broadmoor.

The judge told him: "It is established beyond any doubt that you killed Mrs Silva in an attack of extraordinary brutality and ferocity.

"You thought you were encountering some demonic force which had taken on a human form. You could not have been more deluded.

"Nobody who saw it could forget the mild and trusting way Mrs Silva approached you over the wall while you were brandishing a knife."

He added: "This gentle, intelligent 82-year-old lady should have been able to live her life in peace and with security, proud in the achievements of others, but that was not to be."

The judge also commended all the police officers who worked to protect the public when they captured and restrained Salvador.

In particular, Pc Steven Robertson was praised for climbing on to a roof to help bring two children to safety.

After the verdict, Mrs Silva's daughter, Celestina Muis, said in a statement that her mother's death had devastated the whole family, adding that they "no longer feel safe".

She said: "Palmira had a full life, loving her children, grandchildren and great-grandchild. She was very much the glue that held us all together. Our lives have been torn apart knowing what happened to my mother."

Nikki Wright also told of the hurt she felt, particularly knowing that her 10-month-old daughter would grow up without knowing her great-grandmother.

Another granddaughter, Christina Silva, said: "Every day I wake up and replay the attack on my grandmother in my head. Since the attack I have completely changed from the person I used to be. The thought of being alone in the house terrifies me."

Earlier, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC told the jury there was no dispute that Salvador was mentally unwell when he attacked Mrs Silva.

The skunk cannabis smoker had become obsessed with shapeshifters and lost his job in billboard advertising three days before the killing over concern about his behaviour.

At the time of the killing he had been staying with friends three doors away from Mrs Silva in Nightingale Road.

Mr Rees said: "This was, was it not, a deeply upsetting and horrific incident. Mrs Silva was not targeted because of who she was. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"But for the efforts of the police and a measure of luck other people were not seriously injured or worse.

Bernard Richmond QC, for Salvador, said: "It is one of the bitter ironies of this case that Mrs Silva was probably the least evil person you could think of."

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