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Serial killer Neilson dies aged 75

Serial killer Donald Neilson, who was known as the Black Panther, has died in hospital, prison sources said.

Neilson was given four life sentences in 1975 and was one of a small group of notorious prisoners who were told they would spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

The 75-year-old was taken to hospital from Norwich prison with breathing difficulties on Saturday and was pronounced dead at about 6.45pm on Sunday, the Prison Service said.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "HMP Norwich prisoner Donald Neilson was taken to outside hospital in the early hours of Saturday December 17 with breathing difficulties.

"He was pronounced dead there at approximately 6.45pm on Sunday December 18. As with all deaths in custody, the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation."

In June 2008, a High Court judge ruled the notorious killer must never be released from prison.

Neilson, who murdered heiress Lesley Whittle in 1975 and also shot dead three sub-postmasters during armed robberies, had applied for the setting of a minimum jail term which would have given him a chance of parole.

However Mr Justice Teare, sitting in London, announced that Neilson's "whole life" tariff must remain. He said: "This is a case where the gravity of the applicant's offences justifies a whole life order."

The judge rejected argument on behalf of Neilson, who was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment at Oxford Crown Court in 1976, that the sentencing "starting point" should be one of 30 years.

Neilson, a jobbing builder, kidnapped 17-year-old Lesley Whittle from her home in Shropshire, leaving a ransom demand for £50,000. Her body was later found in an underground drainage system hanging from the bottom of a ladder to which Neilson had secured her by the neck with wire.

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