The family of a Peterborough pensioner left for dead after being brutally stabbed have said they are pleased by the culprit’s life sentence.
Stephen Leonard - previously known as Stephen Chafer - will serve a minimum term of 17 years for the attempted murder of 60-year-old Fay Mills in a row over a garden rake at her home in Viney, Close, Eastfield.
Leonard (57) of St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell, Peterborough, was previously jailed for life when he was 17 for sexually abusing and murdering three-year-old Lorraine Holt in Derby in 1979.
He stabbed the innocent young girl 39 times in the attack after abusing her in the vicarage. He served 23 years in prison before his release in 2002.
Jim Holt, the father of Lorraine Holt, has criticised the Parole Board for giving Leonard the chance to reoffend.
Mr Holt, who now lives in Nottingham and was in court to see Leonard sentenced today, said outside Cambridge Crown Court: “I think the Parole Board should look long and hard at some of their decisions because they were warned that he would reoffend.
“I warned them personally that he would reoffend.”
Leonard was 6ft tall and weighed 17 stone when he attacked vulnerable Mrs Mills, who weighed six stone and was 5ft tall, the court heard.
Leonard 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.”
Leonard 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 Leonard, 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.”
Douglas Mackay a Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for in the Crown Prosecution Service East of England area, said: “Leonard launched a sustained attack on a vulnerable woman in her own home. He used a rake and a knife to inflict such life threatening injuries upon the victim that police attending her home initially feared she had been killed.
“Two neighbours went to the victim’s home in response to her audible distress. One of those neighbours was then assaulted by Leonard with a large kitchen knife, before being able to contact the police. Leonard then tried to evade justice for his actions by leaving the scene of the crime and washing his blood stained clothes.
“Since the attack the victim’s health has deteriorated enormously. The CPS worked alongside the police to build a strong case to bring Mr Leonard to justice. I would like to express my sympathies to the victim and her family and I hope that the outcome of this case provides them with some small sense of comfort. I would also like to thank the victim’s neighbours for their most brave and selfless actions”.