Anthony Russell: triple murderer who raped his final victim handed a whole life order
Anthony Russell murdered three people, and the killer even pretended to help the partner of one of his victims look for her
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A “callous and calculating” man who murdered three people and raped his final victim, who was five months pregnant, has been handed a whole life order.
Anthony Russell had previously pleaded guilty to the murders of 58-year-old Julie Williams and her son David Williams, 32, at separate flats in Coventry on October 25 and October 21, 2020 respectively.
Russell lived on the same road as his first two victims.
He had also admitted the October 26 murder of 31-year-old Nicole McGregor, who was found in woodland near Leamington Spa three days later.
She had been lured there by Russell, who had befriended there while on the run for the other killings, before he raped and murdered her.
Russell who had sparked a nationwide manhunt was arrested on 30 October after being found sleeping in a car he’d stolen.
What was Russell convicted of?
Ms McGregor suffered blunt force injury to her head and face as well as a bleed to the brain and died from “external neck compression as a result of ligature strangulation”.
Hours before she was killed, Nicole had proudly shown Russell her baby scan during the chance encounter which led to her death.
After a retrial at Warwick Crown Court, Russell was unanimously found guilty on Thursday of raping Ms McGregor, after just an hour and 23 minutes of deliberations by the jury.
The 39-year-old assaulted her hours after she had showed him a picture of her baby scan.
Russell had also told the expectant father, who was Ms McGregor’s partner: “I bet you can’t wait for it to be born,” in the hours after she disappeared – knowing he had raped and killed her.
The killer strangled Mr Williams with a lanyard and left the body under his bed where it was found by police five days later, covered in 87 injuries.
Afterwards, Russell claimed he had killed a man who “had had sex with his girlfriend”.
Russell strangled Mr Williams’ mother in a “violent and sustained attack” in which she was hit five times on the head and neck, prosecutors said.
She had 113 separate injuries, and is believed to have been killed because she found out Russell had murdered her son.
CCTV footage of Ms McGregor, who lived in a flat in Leamington, was played to the jury during the trial, showing her walking alongside Russell at 7.45pm on 26 October.
During her opening speech, prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC said of the footage: “This is the last time Nicole is seen alive.
“Just three hours after meeting the defendant it appears that Nicole has agreed to walk with the defendant into Newbold Comyn.
“We suggest that the defendant lured Nicole on to the Comyn, not for sex but more likely for drugs.
“The defendant murdered Nicole McGregor shortly after that image was captured, just hours after they had met.”
After the murder, he pretended to help Ms McGregor’s partner look for her.
What have the victims families said?
Victim impact statements were read to the court by prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC from Ms McGregor’s mother, Maggie, and Ms Williams’ sister, Carol.
In the statement from Ms McGregor’s mother, she said: “She was caring, she was kind and behind her barriers, she had a heart of gold.
“Losing Nicole in the way we did just destroyed us as a family.”
Moving on to the statement made by Ms Williams’ sister, she said: “Not only was our dear, sweet, caring, loving Julie taken from us, but also our dear loving nephew, David.
“Sentencing will not bring our family back but we hope it will stop the defendant from committing these evil crimes on any more families.”
When was Russell arrested?
Russell fled Coventry on 26 October after the discovery of Julie Williams, with money and a mobile phone he had robbed from a man the day before.
He used public transport to travel to Kenilworth where he immediately continued his violent spree by robbing a woman aged 71 of £200, dragging her along the ground.
Again using public transport, Russell arrived in Leamington Spa at approximately 2.45pm
The killer fled Leamington in a car he’d stolen from a 75-year-old man he attacked.
Russell rung the pensioner’s doorbell asking for directions, and when the victim was distracted he hit him over the head from behind with a brick, leaving him with a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain.
He was arrested on October 30 after police spotted the stolen Ford C-Max parked on a road near Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, and found Russell on the back seat. Dramatic bodycam footage shows the moment he was arrested.
While being booked into custody, he told officers: “I admit it, I did it.”
What did the judge say in court?
Sentencing the 39-year-old in his absence on Friday, Mr Justice Wall told the killer: “I have no doubt that this is a case which falls fairly and squarely within the description of being exceptionally serious.
“You are a man prepared to use very significant violence on anyone.
“You are exceptionally dangerous to those who know you, and those who do not.”
What have the police said?
Det Supt Shaun Edwards, who heads our Homicide team, said: “This was a violent series of killings which happened over a period of just seven days, but which have left two families devastated for the rest of their lives.
“We believe that David was killed due to Russell’s mistaken belief that he was in a relationship with his girlfriend.
“When Russell went to speak to Julie about her son’s disappearance, we suspect that he confessed to David’s killing. He then killed Julie to stop her from speaking to the police.
“There’s no known link between Russell and Nicole, and it appears to be pure chance that he has encountered her.
“The huge effort that went into tracking Russell down, including national media appeals, can’t be overstated. We worked around the clock to bring him to justice, and I’m glad that that is what has happened today.
“The thoughts of everyone involved in this investigation are with the families of David and Julie, and Nicole, as well as the victims he robbed.”
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