The Daily Telegraph
Killer handed three life terms set to be released
Murderer told he should spend rest of his life locked up could be on streets in May after serving 25 years
A KILLER said by a judge to belong behind bars for the rest of his life will become eligible for release next year, prompting calls for parole reforms to be accelerated.
Nicholas Burton stabbed to death Rachel Mcgrath, 27, as she collected her boyfriend from a pub car park in Bramhall, Cheshire, in April 1997.
A few hours later, Burton kidnapped a 17-year-old girl as she stopped at a newsagent’s on her way to work and subjected her to a terrifying 11-hour ordeal in which she was forced to drive to Wales. He threatened to kill her, and later told a court he had intended to rape and murder her.
The judge handed Burton, concurrent life sentences for murder, kidnap and false imprisonment, set a minimum tariff of 25 years and jailed him for an additional 10 years for threats to kill.
Speaking during the case in 1998, Mr Justice Morland told Liverpool Crown Court that a psychiatrist had described Burton as one of the most dangerous men she had ever come across.
The judge told him: “I shall recommend that no home secretary is ever likely to allow your release.”
Ms Mcgrath’s elderly parents have, however, now been contacted by victim liaison officials and told Burton is due to be considered for parole in May after serving his 25-year minimum term.
Liz Saville Roberts, the couple’s MP, says they have been asked what conditions they would like imposed on him as part of his release on licence – including the size of any exclusion zone and contact restrictions.
She said until they were asked those questions the family had been unaware he was due to be released, and that they believed that the judge’s recommendation would mean he would die in jail.
However, the 2003 criminal justice bill transferred the right of the Home Secretary to determine whether a lifer could be released to the parole board.
The decision comes just weeks after the parole board rejected an appeal by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and allowed the release of Colin Pitchfork, jailed for 33 years for raping and murdering 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in the 1980s.
The decision has prompted demands for an overhaul of the parole board with new legal rights to appeal its decisions and its hearings opened to the public and press, as well as victims, to boost transparency. MPS are concerned that the changes may not be implemented before Burton comes up for parole.
Ms Saville Roberts yesterday appealed to ministers to meet the family to “help ensure that they have all the information they need, that their voice is heard and it is respected”.
“Rachel’s elderly parents haven’t even been able to make a victim statement and believe the correct procedure has not been followed. My constituent Michael Mcgrath is battling for justice for his family.”
Justice minister Alex Chalk thanked Ms Saville Roberts for raising the “appalling” case and added: “Of course I will be delighted to meet (the family).”