London

Prolific thief Michael Weir jailed for 1998 'double jeopardy' murders

Michael Weir Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Michael Weir was found guilty of two counts of murder at the Old Bailey

A serial burglar has been sentenced to life for the murders of two pensioners during break-ins in 1998.

Michael Weir, 53, of Hackney, was convicted at the Old Bailey, 21 years after the killings, in a unique double jeopardy case.

He violently assaulted 78-year-old war veteran Leonard Harris and mother-of-three Rose Seferian, 83, during two burglaries five weeks apart in 1998.

Weir will serve a minimum term of 30 years in prison.

During the attacks, Weir stole a signet ring and gold watch from Mr Harris and ripped diamond rings from Ms Seferian's fingers, jurors heard.

Connections between the two deaths were not made at the time, after police failed to match Weir's palm print to one recovered from Mr Harris's flat in East Finchley, north London.

Image copyright Family Handout
Image caption Leonard and Gertrude Harris were attacked in January 1998

Weir was originally found guilty of murdering Mr Harris in 1999, but his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal the following year on a technicality.

He was retried under the so-called double jeopardy law when new forensic evidence came to light, and prosecutors believe Weir is "the first convicted man to be convicted twice".

Trial judge Mrs Justice McGowan told the jury they had made "legal history".

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Rose Seferian died after being violently assaulted in flat in Kensington, west London, in March 1998

Jurors were told a palm print found on a window frame inside Ms Seferian's Kensington flat, where Weir broke in, was not matched to him until 2017.

The trial heard that by 2018 new DNA evidence had been obtained and palm prints from both murder scenes were identified as Weir's.

It is believed to be the first time a defendant has been found guilty of the same murder twice, and where a second murder charge has been added to a double jeopardy case.

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