The family of a Donaghadee pensioner who was brutally murdered by her next door neighbour have described her killer as a “monster”.
Robert George Harvey was sentenced to at least 23 years in prison yesterday for killing 77-year-old Tilly Campbell at her Barnagh Park home during the early hours of October 7, 2006.
Harvey, who was drunk and broke after ploughing the last of his money into a poker machine, smashed his way in to Mrs Campbell’s home and battered the frail pensioner repeatedly with an axe.
Following his sentencing yesterday, detective superintendent Sean Wright read out a statement on behalf of Mrs Campbell’s grieving son Don and daughter Julie Wright, saying that the past three years “have been very long and painful for us as a family”.
“Mum was a frail, vulnerable lady who lived on her own in a home where she had felt safe. She suffered a horrible death by this evil man and no court sentence will ever be enough for him.
“We have lost a mother and our children have lost their grandmother. As a family, we feel that society needs to be protected against monsters like Robert Harvey — no other family should have to endure what we have gone through,” the statement said.
Earlier in court judge Mr Justice Hart said it was evident Harvey “subjected Tilly Campbell to an exceptionally violent and prolonged assault, the ferocity which indicates he showed her absolutely no mercy”.
He added that “the exceptional brutality of this crime” coupled with Harvey's criminal record for violence in the past, and a pre-sentence report on him also indicated that he “poses a serious risk of harm to the public”.
The court was told that before the killing a drunken Harvey said he “wanted money, and at some point said he was going to do something evil”, while another friend thought he also said “he would do anything for it”.
But Harvey was to claim in his pre-sentence report that he “thinks he went next door to ask for painkillers and that he must have lost his temper when she (Tilly) shouted at him and then hit her with a metal ashtray”.
But Mr Justice Hart rejected this possibility, not least because of the broken window in the pensioner's home.
“Using a heavy weapon (an axe), he struck repeated blows to her scalp and forehead, as well as on her neck.
“It may also be the case that he attempted to strangle her because of the injuries found to the top of the voice box,” said Mr Justice Hart.
He added that the report also indicated that following the attack, the pensioner managed to make her way to her spare bed room, where she was found huddled up against the wall by firefighters.
Mr Justice Hart said he was satisfied Tilly was “in a particularly vulnerable position at the time she was murdered” and that her killing “was done for gain in the course of a burglary” and that Harvey tried to “destroy the crime scene by setting fire to the bungalow”.
After handing down his sentence, he warned Harvey that “whether he be released after that time will be for the Parole Commissioners to decide”.