Nicholas Burton: Family of killer's victim stunned by release claim

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Nicholas BurtonImage source, PA Media/GMP
Image caption,
Nicholas Burton was found guilty of stabbing 27-year-old Rachel McGrath to death in 1997

A MP's claim that a killer who was described by a psychiatrist as one of most dangerous men she had encountered could be eligible for release next year has left his victim's family "stunned".

Nicholas Burton was convicted of Rachel McGrath's murder in Stockport in 1997.

Plaid Cymru's Liz Saville Roberts said Ms McGrath's parents had been told Burton "would walk free next year".

The Ministry of Justice said while he would have served his minimum term, his release was "by no means certain".

Speaking during Burton's trial in 1998, Mr Justice Morland told Liverpool Crown Court that a psychiatrist had described him as one of the most dangerous men she had ever come across in her career.

Ms McGrath's brother Michael said Burton was "given three life sentences by Mr Justice Morland, who made a recommendation to the home secretary at the time that he should never be released".

"Here we are, 23 years later stunned to find out that he is due to be released next year," he said.

'Incalculable injury'

Mr McGrath compared the case to that of double child killer Colin Pitchfork, whose release from prison earlier in September provoked a national outcry.

"We simply don't know how this situation has occurred, especially in light of the very clear recommendations given by the trial judge," he said.

"The situation is outrageous and has echoes of the recent Colin Pitchfork case."

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier, the MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd said Mr McGrath was "battling for justice for his family".

She said Ms McGrath's "elderly parents were recently told that Burton would walk free next year".

She told Justice Minister Alex Chalk that the family "haven't even been able to make a victim statement and believe the correct procedure has not been followed".

Mr Chalk thanked Ms Saville Roberts for raising the "extremely sensitive, distressing and, frankly, appalling" case and said he would be "delighted to meet" the family.

Mr McGrath said the family welcomed the offer to meet, but added that "this latest twist has merely added insult to incalculable injury".

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said Burton's release "can only be directed by the Parole Board after he has served the minimum 25 year term which ends next year".

"Even at that stage, it is by no means certain that they will do so," he added.

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