Michael Weir: Hackney man jailed over 1998 murders including ‘horrific’ killing of East Finchley pensioner in groundbreaking case
- Credit: Archant
Almost two decades after his original conviction for the East Finchley murder of pensioner Leonard Harris was quashed, Hackney man Michael Weir has been jailed for that murder and that of another woman at the Old Bailey.
Jewel thief Weir, 53, has been jailed for life after he brutally battered war veteran Mr Harris, 78, and mother-of-three Rose Seferian, 83, during burglaries in 1998 - leaving them both for dead.
During the attacks, Weir stole a signet ring and gold watch from Mr Harris and ripped diamond rings from Ms Seferian's fingers.
Retired cabbie Mr Harris's widow Gertrude also sustained head injuries but survived the assault, dying several years later in a care home.
The two deaths were not linked at the time after police failed to match Weir's palm print to one recovered from the Harris home in 1998.
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The Weir case is believed to be legally groundbreaking: the first instance of a defendant convicted twice for the same offence, following an acquittal in the Court of Appeal.
A jury at the Old Bailey found Weir guilty of both murders on November 14 this year.
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Jailing him for life with a minimum term of 30 years on Monday, Mrs Justice McGowan said: "For the families, it's impossible to understand the extent of their grief but it is not difficult to understand their sense of loss and outrage.
"You killed their parents, they died terrified - killed for items of jewellery."
The pensioner was found by an estate agent on January 28 1998. He was calling for help from the communal landing of his building, while his wife, who suffered from dementia, lay badly hurt on the floor of the bedroom.
An 18-carat gold Zenith watch that Mr Harris had taken from a German soldier during the Second World War and his gold ring were missing.
Mr Harris died in hospital almost five months later on 16 June 2018.
Weeks after the first assault, Ms Seferian was set upon in the three-bedroom flat in Kensington, west London, that she shared with her son and two daughters.
She managed to raise the alarm and her son found her covered in blood and "almost unrecognisable" from her injuries.
By 2018, the new DNA evidence in the Harris murder had been obtained and the palm prints from both scenes had been matched to the defendant.
In his evidence, labourer Weir admitted he had a long history of stealing to get money for drugs but denied ever being at either victim's home.
Weir was first convicted of Mr Harris's murder in 1999 but his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on a technicality in 2000. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) missed a deadline to challenge that judgement in the conviction to the House of Lords by a day.
Weir was charged again over Mr Harris's death due to a change in the double jeopardy law in 2005.
Jill Harris, Mr and Mrs Harris daughter-in-law, said the family felt "let down by the criminal justice system" for the errors that saw Weir's first conviction quashed and the CPS's failure to make an appeal in time.
She said her husband Frank had suffered a stroke that doctors believed was linked to the stress of the retrial process.
Ms Harris added: "It was a terrible shock for all of us especially my husband Frank who is an only child and had no other siblings to support him.
"My father-in-law lived for a few months with my husband visiting regularly. We asked the children if they wanted to see their Papa but they couldn't cope seeing him like that."
The Met's Det Insp Shaun Fitzgerald said: "Weir brutally assaulted Leonard and Rose in their own homes and this sentence reflects the horrific nature of these crimes.
"He has never owned up to his actions that night or shown any remorse for what he did."
Additional reporting by PA Media.