A man has admitted to the rape and murder of a mum-of-two in Aberdeen.
Rhys Bennett, from Ballingry in Fife, pled guilty to assaulting and killing 47-year-old Jill Barclay at Edinburgh High Court on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old also admitted to attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
Ms Barclay’s body – which had been set on fire – was found outside an address on Stoneywood Road in the Dyce area of Aberdeen at around 3.30am on Saturday, September 17.
The area surrounding Stoneywood Road and Victoria Street was cordoned off with police indicating enquiries would be ongoing “for some time”.
The next day, officers confirmed they had arrested Bennett and that they were treating Ms Barclay’s death as suspicious.
Her family said she 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,” the family said in a statement.
“This man has taken so much from us and changed our lives forever.”
Ms Barclay worked for energy services company Petrofac in Aberdeen and was a keen kickboxer. After her death, a fundraiser raised more than £27,000 to help her family.
The court heard how the mum-of-two had been enjoying a night out with a friend in the Spider’s Web pub in Dyce on the Friday night.
Bennett, who was staying in the area for work with a fencing company on farms, had gone to the pub in work clothes with colleagues.
CCTV footage showed Bennett following Ms Barclay from the pub towards a derelict property at Farburn Gatehouse. It appears to show her being wary of getting too close to him and was described as “chilling”.
Bennett subjected the mum to a sustained violent assault including raping her. He inflicted multiple blunt force trauma injuries to her head, causing her to suffer lacerations, nose fractures, scalp haemorrhages, a linear skull fracture, a subdural haemorrhage and a subarachnoid haemorrhage.
Pathologists said the wounds suggested the use of either a knife or some other sort of improvised weapon – like a piece of glass.
Bennett kicked and stamped on Ms Barclay’s head and body and struck her head against a pipe before choking her and dragging along the ground.
A man walking a dog on Stoneywood Road described hearing a high-pitched scream and a woman shouting, “no”, repeatedly.
Bennett left the scene, went to his accommodation and gathered his belongings before returning and attempting to move Ms Barclay into his van. Failing, he moved her back to the pathway at the side of a gatehouse on the Stoneywood Roundabout.
He took a can of petrol from his van and poured it on her and set her on fire.
“Your victim was still alive when you set that fire,” the judge Lord Arthurson said addressing Bennett.
“To be crystal clear, you burnt her alive.
“Your offending is of an exceptional gravity – unimaginably wicked and, indeed, medieval in barbarity.
“You took away her future and the hopes and dreams of her wider family.”
Bennett took the hi-vis clothing he had been wearing and burned it by placing it under Ms Barclay’s body.
He drove off in a van to the A96, to the Aberdeen bypass before driving home to Ballingry.
An off-duty police officer driving home spotted the fire and called 999. Firefighters discovered the body.
The next day, Ms Barclay’s partner reported her missing. Tattoos allowed police to identify her.
Detectives were able to track down Bennett where the van was found. Traces of Ms Barclay’s blood was found on his clothing, his hands and on his bathroom sink.
“No sentence that this court can impose will ever compensate,” Lord Arthurson said, “No sentence of this cout could ever be sufficient in their eyes.”
On Wednesday, Bennett was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 24 years for what the judge described as “two of the gravest crimes known to the law of Scotland.”
He was also placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.
Bennett’s defence solicitor, Iain McSporran KC, said the 23-year-old had no recollection of his crimes.
The officer who led the inquiry into Ms Barclay’s death, detective superintendent Andrew Patrick, said it was a “particularly harrowing investigation”.
“Jill’s senseless and brutal murder had a significant impact on the local community in Dyce and throughout the North East,” he said.
“I would like to thank the public for their support throughout the investigation to bring Bennett to justice.”
David Green, lead homicide prosecutor for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said: “Rhys Bennett raped and murdered a woman who was simply walking home after a night out through streets she knew well. Jill Barclay should have arrived home safely to her partner and children.
“This senseless and brutal crime has devastated a family and shocked the wider community.
“While we welcome today’s sentence as justice being served, we are acutely aware that no sentence can ever adequately reflect the suffering of Jill Barclay’s loved ones.
“Our thoughts remain with them.”