Shirebrook deaths: Cannabis user killed his aunt and grandmother

Julie Hill, 51, and her mother Rose, 75 Image copyright Hill family
Image caption Christopher Whelan's mother said he loved both his aunt Julie Hill, 51, and his grandmother Rose Hill, 75

A man with mental health problems exacerbated by cannabis use has been given two life sentences for brutally killing his aunt and grandmother.

Christopher Whelan, 21, drowned his aunt Julie Hill in the bath at her Derbyshire home on 25 February and strangled his grandmother Rose Hill.

He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Whelan, from Sheffield, will serve a minimum term of 15 years before he can be considered for release.

Image copyright Derbyshire Constabulary
Image caption Christopher Whelan phoned police and told them he had killed his aunt and grandmother

His mother - who is the sister of Julie Hill and daughter of Rose Hill - said the sentence "has been just".

"I can't stop loving him, he's my son, but he has done a terrible thing," she said.

"I do know he loves his nan and he loves his aunty Julie. My mum has been like a second mum to him. She has loved him and he has loved her."

She said her son "definitely seemed to become worse" since using cannabis.

"Let this be a warning to any other young men who might be dabbling with it," she added.

Image caption Christopher Whelan killed his grandmother and aunt at his aunt's house in Station Road

On Friday the court heard that Liam Parker, 22, found his mother Julie's body at her home in Station Road, Shirebrook, and took his own life two months later.

The prosecution claimed Whelan's actions resulted in this third death, but have since withdrawn this "following further enquiries by the police".

Sentencing Whelan, Mrs Justice Carr said: "The last minutes of these women's lives must have been both terrifying, bewildering and agonising.

"These were savage and brutal attacks even before the killings."

Cannabis 'exacerbated violent thoughts'

Nottingham Crown Court heard Whelan had suffered from intrusive violent thoughts for many years, but had not acted upon them before the killings.

Two forensic psychiatrists told the court that he was suffering from a medical condition that substantially impaired his judgment and ability to exercise self-control.

The defence psychiatrist thought he had autism, but the prosecution psychiatrist disagreed with this, and thought he had anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.

His aunt had been growing cannabis at her home as she believed it alleviated her depression, and she used to give her nephew some in return for helping to grow it.

The judge told Whelan: "Your consumption of cannabis has deteriorated your mental health and exacerbated your violent thoughts.

"You had obsessional thoughts regarding violence which you felt compelled to act on."

Image caption Shirebrook is close to the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

Whelan told one of the psychiatrists he had travelled to his aunt's house in Shirebrook intending to rob her for money.

He attacked his 75-year-old grandmother after forcing her to sit on a chair in the cellar with a sock in her mouth.

He used at least two weapons - including an axe, and a sharp knife to cut her wrist - before strangling her with his hands.

The court heard he attacked his 51-year-old aunt in the bathroom - leaving her with a missing tooth and multiple bruises and lacerations - then held her down in the bathwater.

Satan 'there'

Whelan claimed he thought Satan was talking to him during the attacks.

He later told one of the psychiatrists: "I went in there for money but he [Satan] went in there for violence."

He phoned police to tell them what he had done and was charged with murder on 29 February.

His guilty pleas to manslaughter were accepted because of his mental health problems.

An inquest is due to be held into the death of Liam Parker, who died on 20 April.

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