Michael Weir, 53, has been jailed for life
A sadistic thief who murdered defenceless pensioners in their own homes has today been jailed for life, in a case that broke new legal ground.
Jewel thief Michael Weir has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years for the murders of two pensioners during burglaries carried out in 1998.
The 53-year-old was convicted 20 years after the killings in a unique double jeopardy case.
Weir viciously attacked war veteran Leonard Harris, 78, and mother-of-three Rose Seferian, 83, during burglaries in 1998.
Connections between the two deaths were not made at the time.
But Weir was then arrested for Mr Harris’s murder in June 1998 after DNA evidence from a glove found at the scene linked him to the attack.
He was convicted in July 1999 but acquitted following an appeal in May 2000 when the Court of Appeal ruled that evidence provided by the prosecution was inadmissible.
The Crown Prosecution Service had been set to overturn that decision, but then missed a deadline to appeal to the House of Lords by one day.
Jill Harris, the daughter-in-law of Mr Harris, revealed after the sentencing today that her husband had suffered a stroke in the wake of his father’s murder.
She added: ‘We feel as a family totally let down and failed by the criminal justice system with failings that have occurred to enable the defendant to be acquitted of the murder on technicalities the first time.’
In a victim impact statement, Rose’s daughter Sona Seferian said the ‘magnitude and horror’ of what happened that day was ‘indescribable’.
She added: ‘The magnitude and horror of what happened to our Mum on that day, is indescribable.
‘Our lives became sad because of the way mum died. We have been through pessimistic periods but for the love of our mum, we shake ourselves up and try to be positive to make her proud.
‘We all had a wonderful bond with our mum, she was a kind hearted, loving and gentle, down to earth person, who was very family orientated.
‘We all know that no one is eternal. Death will strike at some point in life but not provoked in such a horrific and senseless way.’
Gertrude and Leonard Harris. Mr Harris was killed by Weir in 1998. Prior to his death Mr Harris had been a carer to his wife. Following the attack, her health rapidly deteriorated and she died around two years later
Mrs Harris added: ‘My husband isn’t good at showing his emotions so they stayed pent up inside him but from that day his character changed.
‘The doctors have never found a reason for this stroke and when I mentioned the retrial to them and suggested could the stress of it have caused the stroke they said very likely.
‘I have found it very difficult to cope with the situation and it has often ended up with myself and my husband in tears.
‘We feel as a family totally let down and failed by the criminal justice system with failings that have occurred to enable the defendant to be acquitted of the murder on technicalities the first time.
Rose Seferian was killed after she was assaulted in Kensington, London, in 1998
‘The defendant was initially convicted of murder at the first trial however because his DNA should have been destroyed as he was acquitted for a previous case.
‘This resulted in the matter going to the court of appeal and him having his conviction overturned for murder.
‘The Crown Prosecution Service had 14 days to appeal the decision to the house of lords but what I can only describe as incompetence as they didn’t serve the papers in time resulting in the acquittal standing.
‘My brother and Frank went to the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time who gave us an apology but the damage had already been done resulting in the effects that I have already mentioned previously.’
In 2017, a palm print recovered from inside Ms Seferian’s flat on a window frame where Weir broke in was finally matched to the defendant.
By 2018, new DNA evidence in the Harris murder had also been obtained and the palm prints from both scenes had been matched to Weir.
Weir was re-arrested on March 26, 2018 for both murders and continuously denied both offences.
Mrs Justice McGowan told jurors they had made legal history after they found Weir guilty of both murders following an Old Bailey trial.
It is also the first time a second murder charge has been added to a double jeopardy case, brought in light of new and compelling evidence following a change in the law in 2005.
Weir had tied Mr Harris to a chair in his living room while he tortured his 81-year-old wife, who suffered from dementia, in the bedroom in January 1998.
Estate agent Jeremy Clapich found Mr Harris on the first-floor landing on his block of flats in East Finchley, north London, bleeding from his skull, face, and groin.
Weir had made off with an 18-carat gold Zenith watch which the veteran had taken from a German soldier.
Weeks later, Weir murdered Rose Seferian, 82, at her flat in Kensington, west London, inflicting horrific injuries before ripping three rings from her fingers and taking money from her handbag.
The jewellery, worth around £100,000, included a gold wedding ring with her husband’s initials engraved on it and the date of their marriage; a diamond solitaire gold ring and a silver diamond ring.
Ms Seferian managed to raise the alarm and her son found her covered in blood and ‘almost unrecognisable’ from her injuries.
Mr Harris died in hospital on 16 June 1998 while Ms Seferian died a month after she was attacked.
Leonard Harris with his wife Gertrude. Mr Harris’s killer Michael Weir has today been jailed for life
Prior to his death Mr Harris had been a carer to his wife. Following the attack, her health rapidly deteriorated and she died around two years later.
The case the first time a second murder charge has been added to a double jeopardy case, brought in light of new and compelling evidence following a change in the law in 2005.
Weir had told his lawyers the police had planted his DNA at the scene, and he was the victim of vindictive ‘fit-up’.
The stolen jewellery has never been recovered an police believe Weir sold the cherished items for a few pounds to buy drugs.
Weir, from Hackney, east London, denied two counts of murder but was convicted of both.