Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Double Jeopardy Killer Is Playing the System, Says Victim's Mother

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Double Jeopardy Killer Is Playing the System, Says Victim's Mother

Article excerpt

Byline: Danny Brierley

ONE of London's first double jeopardy killers was accused today of manipulating the justice system.

Mario Celaire admitted killing Cassandra McDermott seven years after he was initially cleared of battering her to death at her mother's house in Streatham.

He was being sentenced today at the Old Bailey. But the victim's mother, Jennifer, said she is still angry Celaire was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder, and so will avoid spending the rest of his life behind bars.

In May, Celaire, 31, became one of the first people in Britain to be convicted of a crime for which a jury had already found him not guilty.

At his Old Bailey trial in 2002, the former professional footballer from Sydenham denied killing the 19-yearold student. He claimed he had left her alive minutes before she died in November 2001. The jury acquitted him.

He was eventually brought to justice after a former girlfriend, Kara Hoyte, told police he had confessed to the killing. She provided the evidence needed for a second prosecution after Celaire attacked her with a hammer, leaving her partially paralysed, but it took almost a year for her to recover enough to tell detectives about the confession.

A second trial became possible because the law on double jeopardy was scrapped by then home secretary David Blunkett in 2005.

Mrs McDermott, 58, said she was happy he would be jailed, but added: "I think he has manipulated the system. He has still got control of us as a family. He pleaded not guilty to murder twice and then changed his plea when he knew he could no longer escape it. I can never forgive him for the way he killed my child and left her body. That doesn't show a man who did not mean to kill her. He left her. How can he say it was manslaughter? He just wanted to avoid a life sentence."

Mrs McDermott , a probation officer who set up a domestic violence charity in her daughter's name, said the family were concerned they might see Celaire back on the streets, even if it was in 15 or 20 years.

She also revealed how she had tried to stop Cassandra's relationship with Celaire, which began when she was 14 and he was 18: "I asked his mother if she could help me stop them seeing each other but nothing ever happened. …

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