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  1. ITV Report

Child killer jailed for life after attacking elderly woman with knife while out on licence

Stephen Chafer has been jailed for life. Credit: Cambridgeshire Constabulary/PA

A man who murdered a three-year-old girl in 1979 has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 17 years for the attempted murder of a woman in a row over a garden rake while he was released from prison on licence.

Stephen Chafer, who is also known by the pseudonym Stephen Leonard, was 17 when he was jailed for life for sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing three-year-old Lorraine Holt.

He found her sitting in the snow in tears near her home in Derby, then carried her to a nearby vicarage where he sexually assaulted her and stabbed her 39 times.

He was released on licence in 2002 and last year, aged 57, he was living under the pseudonym Stephen Leonard when he launched a frenzied knife attack on 60-year-old Fay Mills, stabbing her 20 times.

Mrs Mills, who has dementia, was so badly injured that police believed she was already dead when they arrived at her Peterborough home on June 23.

Lorraine Holt's family had campaigned to prevent him being released on licence.

Following Chafer's sentencing, her father James told ITV News he was "disgusted" by what had happened to Mrs Mills "because they (the parole board) were warned" he would re-offend.

Chafer was convicted at trial in December last year of the attempted murder of Mrs Mills and of the common assault of her neighbour Mark Patchett, who tried to help her.

He was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday, where he appeared under his pseudonym.

Judge David Farrell QC told him: “The worrying aspect of this offence is, as with the previous murder, that you have attacked a particularly vulnerable person and the attack was with a knife with particular severity.”

He said Chafer, who he described as a “serious risk to members of the public and particularly women”, would be 74 years of age before he could be considered for release from prison.

Flanked by three security officers in the dock, Chafer looked downwards throughout the hearing and showed no reaction as he was led to the cells.

Mr Patchett, who previously served in the Armed Forces, suffered a cut to his face as he confronted Chafer.

Mr Patchett said in a statement that the scene was “like a house of horrors...with blood everywhere”.

Judge Farrell ruled that £750 be awarded to Mr Patchett in recognition of his bravery.

Prosecutor Charles Falk said it was “frankly a miracle that (Mrs Mills) has survived”.

Lorraine Holt was murdered by Stephen Chafer in 1979 Credit: PA

The court heard that Mrs Mills’s daughter Sheila Mills had gone away to Kent on the weekend her mother was attacked and believed her mother was in the care of a “close friend”.

Mr Falk, summarising a victim impact statement from Sheila Mills, said: “She trusted Stephen with everything. He betrayed her trust. She cannot understand how wrong she could have been.”

Chafer was 6ft tall and weighed 17 stone when he attacked vulnerable Mrs Mills, who weighed six stone and was 5ft tall, the court heard.

Chafer claimed a "switch flicked in his head" as they argued, and the court heard he stabbed her about 17 times.

In a statement read outside court by Detective Inspector Lucy Thomson, the Mills family said: "We'd like to say that we are very pleased with the life sentence that's been given to Stephen Leonard and we're pleased that we have some justice for our mum.

"We feel so sorry that Jim Holt's family had to relive their trauma through this case.

"Our mum continues to fight every day and we hope that one day we'll have her home so we can be a family."

Chafer admitted Lorraine Holt's murder and was granted parole, after serving 23 years, in 2002.

He was returned to prison in 2013 for torching his flat, risking the lives of the other residents in the building, but was released again in 2017.

Andrew Radcliffe QC, mitigating for Chafer, said the defendant suffers from "multiple mental disorders".

A spokeswoman for the Parole Board said in an earlier statement: "The Parole Board directed the release of Stephen Leonard following an oral hearing in July 2017.

"Tragically, there are rare occasions when offenders go on to commit serious further offences after being released by the Parole Board.

"Whilst this represents an extremely small proportion of cases considered, we do take each case extremely seriously and work with others in the criminal justice system to ensure that lessons are learned to help to prevent further tragedies."