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A man who raped a mum-of-two before burning her alive has been jailed for at least 24 years.
Jill Barclay was walking home after a night out in Aberdeen last September when she was attacked in a random act of “unspeakable” violence. “Feral” Rhys Bennett, 23, stalked the terrified 47-year-old before he sexually assaulted her - subsequently dousing her in petrol and setting her alight.
Prosecutor Lorraine Glancy KC told the court that forensic evidence suggests Ms Barclay, who has been described by her loved ones as a “deeply loved life partner, mother and daughter”, was still alive when Bennett set her on fire.
Bennett, from Ballingry in Fife, pleaded guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday (24 May) - and was sentenced to at least 24 years behind bars and indefinitely placed on the Sex Offenders Register. In addition to rape and murder, he also admitted to destroying evidence to cover up his crimes.
A statement from Jill’s family said: “We would like to thank family, friends, and the community for their comforting support following Jill’s tragic death as we have waited for justice. Jill was a deeply loved life partner, mother and daughter.
“She didn’t deserve to die that day and especially in the unspeakable, brutal way it happened. This man has taken so much from us and changed our lives forever. Our family would like everyone to respect our privacy at this difficult time so we can be left in peace to grieve.”
Whilst sentencing Bennett, Lord Arthurson told the labourer: “Your crimes against Ms Barclay were unimaginably wicked and indeed medieval in their barbarity.”
Det Supt Andrew Patrick, who led the investigation, added that Bennett’s “senseless and brutal” murder of Ms Barclay had a “significant impact on the community in Dyce and throughout the North East”.
The Det Supt explained that a murder investigation was launched after Ms Barclay was found dead near Stoneywood Road on 17 September, 2022. Police inquiries, including CCTV analysis, “quickly” led to Bennett, who worked for energy firm Petrofac, being traced in Fife. He was arrested and charged later that day.
He continued: “I believe that the evidence we were able to gather has led to Bennett’s guilty plea and, as a result, Jill’s family has been spared the further distress of a trial. This was a particularly harrowing investigation and it deeply affected everyone involved. I am glad that Bennett will now face the consequences of his depraved and wicked actions.
“Thankfully, crimes like these are extremely rare in our communities. When such incidents take place we will use all resources necessary to carry out thorough, rigorous inquiries to ensure we track down those responsible to bring them to justice as swiftly as possible.”
Det Supt Patrick added that his and the force’s thoughts remain with Ms Barclay’s family and friends.