A convicted criminal on licence bludgeoned, strangled and stabbed his friend to death after meeting her on a dating website.
Martin Saberi, 55, who had served 16 years for robbery, has now been jailed for life for the murder of Amy Griffiths in January 2019.
Saberi used a baseball bat to attack the 51-year-old after travelling to her flat in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, by train, the court heard.
He also stabbed another woman in the neck outside a London shop just three days earlier.
Prosecutor Rachel Brand QC said Saberi had met Ms Griffiths in person only once before, in June 2018, but they had exchanged numerous messages over a period of months which appeared to show an affectionate relationship.
She told the court that Saberi had stolen a laptop and an Xbox from Ms Griffith’s flat in Chalverton Court, Droitwich.
Saberi showed no emotion as the court was told Ms Griffiths and his other victim, a 59-year-old woman who walked with the aid of a stick, had suffered knife wounds to the same part of the neck.
The killer, who is said to suffer from PTSD and is being treated at high-security Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, appeared for his sentencing hearing by video-link.
Saberi, of Brackley Close, Wallington, south London, had previously claimed someone else was responsible for the attack on Ms Griffiths but then admitted murder, wounding and possession of a knife at a hearing last month.
Ms Brand told the court that Ms Griffiths, who was born male and previously named Michael, had served in the RAF for a number of years but had identified as and lived as a female in recent years.
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Jailing Saberi for life, Judge James Burbidge QC said the first victim, who needed 30 stitches, was “most fortunate” not to have died.
Pointing out that the minimum term will not expire until Saberi is almost 80, the judge told him: “Your position is aggravated by your previous convictions for violence, starting with an indecent assault on a female in 1993.
“In 2000, for an offence of robbery, you were sentenced to life imprisonment after you entered a jeweller’s shop, posed as a genuine customer and produced a gun.
“So far as the killing of Amy Griffiths is concerned, I accept that your mental illness was a factor in the killing. Whether it was a significant factor is difficult to determine.
“There are a number of aggravating factors – Amy was killed in her own home and, when you left her dead, you stole some of her belongings – a despicable act.
“The violence you engaged in was extreme.”
Saberi was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 24 years and 10 months.
The judge said he had decided to “draw back” from imposing a whole life sentence, and said there was no suggestion “this was a murder aggravated by hostility towards the deceased because of her transgender identity”.
Outlining the circumstances of Saberi’s arrest, Ms Brand said officers at Stoke Newington police station in north London had taken him into custody on the evening of January 14, hours after he had killed Ms Griffiths in the early hours.
Ms Brand told the court: “He was obviously very intoxicated.
“He lay on the floor in the public area of the police station for quite some time.
“Eventually… he told the person on the front desk that he had killed his friend.
“He said it had happened at three o’clock in the morning, he gave his own name and he gave the name of Amy Griffiths.”
After the body was discovered, police at Stoke Newington arrested Saberi, who reacted by clapping his hands in a “sardonic gesture” towards officers.
Tributes poured in for Ms Griffiths at the time of her death, remembering her as a “lovely person” who “didn’t have a selfish bone in her body”, The Mirror reports.
She was described as a “hero” in the local LGBT community by friends after her body was found on January 14, 2019.
Detective Chief Inspector Carl Moore, of West Mercia Police, said: “Martin Saberi is very obviously a dangerous and violent individual and today’s sentence reflects the horrific nature of both offences he pleaded guilty to, in which he attacked two women with a
knife in completely unprovoked and unforgivable incidents.
“Amy was a much loved, much respected person who so many people have spoken warmly of and i know she is deeply missed by those whose lives she touched.
“Amy’s family do not wish to make a statement and would ask that their privacy be respected as they continue to process the loss and be allowed to grieve. However, I hope today’s outcome will provide some comfort to both them and Amy’s friends far and wide, that justice has been done and that it will provide a small measure of closure knowing Saberi will spend so many years in prison.”