Samantha Wright killer’s sentence backdated

Robert Chalmers
Robert Chalmers
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A DOUBLE killer succeeded in getting his sentence for the murder of a woman backdated by almost 18 months despite appeal judges rejecting his challenge against a minimum jail term of 23 years.

Robert Chalmers swigged beer and watched television just feet away from the naked, mutilated body of the victim he butchered.

Chalmers, who had previously been jailed for life for an earlier murder, was found guilty in 2011 of murdering Samantha Wright and dumping her body in a wheelie bin as part of an attempt to cover up the crime.

He had already served nine years in jail after stabbing a drinking friend, William White, 47, to death after a row at the victim’s home in Beech Road, Johnstone, in Renfrewshire, in 1973.

After his release Chalmers, 62, a handyman and labourer, eventually came to live in Magdalene Drive, in Duddingston.

It was there in October 2009 that police and a sniffer dog found Samantha’s hand poking through leaves.

The grim find ended a search which had begun when her concerned family reported her missing nine months earlier on what would have been her 25th birthday.

The judge at Chalmers subsequent trial, Lord Malcolm, jailed him for life in June 2011 and ordered he should serve at least 23 years before he can apply for parole.

He told the murderer that he had committed a “depraved and dreadful” crime.

Chalmers appealed against the minimum term imposed by the judge claiming it was excessive and maintaining that Lord Malcom should have backdated his sentence to take account of the time he spent in jail ahead of his trial and before sentencing.

The Lord Justice General, Lord Gill, who heard the appeal Lord Eassie, Lady Smith, Lord Brodie and Lord Wheatley, said: “We are quite clear in our view that a punishment part of 23 years is appropriate in the circumstances.”

The senior judge said that Chalmers case did bear certain similarities to that of Alan Cameron, 59, who had his minimum term of 25 years reduced on appeal to 14 years after he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend mother-of-four Heather Stacey before dumping her head in a bag in Edinburgh.

But he added: “However, it seems to us that the fact that the present appellant has a previous conviction for murder necessitates us taking a much more serious view of the punishment part that is appropriate in this case.”

Lord Gill said the sentencing judge did not backdate the penalty imposed on Chalmers but said that in fixing the minimum term he was to serve he took into account that he spent 545 days in prison before sentence.

The Lord Justice General said: “Although the sentencing judge tells us he took into account time spent in custody prior to sentencing we are unable to say to what extent he did so.”

In the circumstances, the appeal judges decided that Chalmers prison sentence should be backdated to October 2009.

Chalmers’ defence solicitor advocate Ann Ogg argued that the selection of a 14-year minimum term was appropriate in cases where the cause of death was not known.

She said in such cases it could not be said how the mechanism of death occurred and it could not be known if any aggravations to the crime were present.

Miss Ogg told judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh that “the only real distinction” between Chalmers case and that of Cameron was her client’s previous conviction for murder.

But she said: “It is submitted that in itself is not sufficient to merit the substantial increase in the punishment part imposed here.”