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Fury over ruling that could see Attracta’s killer freed

The husband of murdered Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron last night said he was perplexed by a court's decision to quash the whole life sentence handed down to her killer.

Trevor Hamilton — one of Northern Ireland's most notorious murderers — has been given hope that he may one day be free from jail after the Court of Appeal quashed his whole life sentence and imposed a minimum sentence of 35 years.

Although he upheld Hamilton's appeal against his sentence Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr however, stressed it is still possible he may never be freed.

Hamilton (26) abducted and battered Mrs Harron to death in December 2003. The 65-year-old's badly decomposed body was found months later buried in a makeshift grave along the riverbank near her Concess Road home in Sion Mills.

Following his conviction in April 2006 Mr Justice McLaughlin said the motive behind the pensioner's abduction was sexual and that he believed he had killed her to avoid detection and handed down a life sentence with no hope of parole.

However last month his lawyers launched an appeal on his behalf.

Handing down his ruling yesterday Sir Brian said that while his crime was a " heinous offence" after much "anxious thought" none of the members of the panel who heard the appeal felt that this was a case in which they could feel no doubt that Hamilton should remain in prison for the rest of his life.

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"Accordingly, for the reasons that we have given, we have concluded that the whole term order made by the judge must be quashed," he said. " A very substantial minimum period must, however, be imposed and we have concluded that this must be one of thirty-five years.

"To that extent this appeal against sentence is allowed.

"We wish to emphasise that our decision does not mean that the appellant will be released at the expiry of the minimum term that we have imposed.

"It will be then a matter for the Parole Commissioners to decide whether it is safe to release him. Only if it is concluded that he no longer represents a danger to the public will his release ever be authorised. On the present evidence, there is every prospect that that day will never come."

Responding to the judgement Mrs Harron's husband Michael last night told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am feeling nonplussed to be honest.

"Hamilton has all the characteristics of a psychopath and he has never expressed any remorse. I just couldn't understand it when they said 35 years.

"They are shutting him up for the next 35 years. I will be not be around by the time he is eligible for release but members of my family will. It has reached the point that after four and a half years nothing surprises me anymore. But look, no sentence can make up for the hurt that was done to us."

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