A man who brutally raped and murdered a defenceless pensioner in her Glasgow home has been jailed for life.
Registered sex offender Jason Graham battered Esther Brown to death at her home in the city’s Woodlands area earlier this year.
On Wednesday at the High Court in Livingston, Graham was jailed for a minimum of 19 years.
During the attack in May, Graham repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on the 67-year-old’s head and body and struck her with pieces of wood from a chair.
The 30-year-old left the retired librarian lying in her blood-soaked property to buy tobacco with her bank card at a shop near her home.
Ms Brown’s body was discovered inside the West Princes Street property on June 1 after she had been missing for four days.
Graham had previously been jailed for seven years for raping an older woman in 2013.
Brian McConnachie QC, defending, told the court that his client’s position from the beginning was that he had no recollection of what he had done to his victim and that he had been intoxicated with both alcohol and drugs.
He said: “Mr Graham understands that there is nothing I can say which can in any way, shape or form mitigate the offences in respect of which he has tendered a plea of guilty.
“In relation to what I do say it’s not to any extent with a view to providing some kind of excuse for what took place because clearly there can be none. His position to me from the outset has been he had no recollection.”
Mr McConnachie said Graham suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of witnessing his mother commit suicide by jumping from the window of a tower block when he was a child.
He said: “He had witnessed, even before his mother’s suicide, a great deal of physical abuse from his father towards his mother.
“Notwithstanding his grandparents’ love and best efforts it seems he repeatedly became involved in both drugs and criminality from the age of about 10 or 11, and that’s been a cycle which it seems has never ended.
“He has said to me he deeply regrets what has happened. The author of the report states an opinion that Mr Graham had a high level of planning in seeking out a vulnerable victim and forcing his way into her home.
“In my submission there is no evidential basis for that. Nobody knows why he attended at the particular door where he ended up.”
Passing sentence, Lord Armstrong told Graham that at the age of 30 his criminal history already comprised 23 previous convictions, including a sentence of seven years and six months imposed in the High Court in October 2013 for sexual offences.
He said: “Following your early release from prison on 16 June, 2018, you were being managed in the community as a registered sex offender.
“I note that you have previously been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD but also that the condition would not have affected your ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of your actions.
”He added that neither the accused’s inability to remember what he’d done nor his excessive alcohol and drug consumption distracted from the nature or extent of his crimes.
“There are no reasons which could possibly justify the taking of another’s life as you did and the only sentence for murder is imprisonment for life.
“Your victim lived a fulfilling and rewarding life. That has been demonstrated by the outpouring of grief from the local community and their collective shock at her untimely death. She was an exceptionally kind, compassionate and caring person.”
He highlighted that Ms Brown had worked as a mentor to street pastors and provided practical help to refugees escaping conflict.
She worked with the Woodlands Community Trust for more than ten years after retiring and was a director of a local charity until just a few weeks before her murder.
She also volunteered at a local cafe and foodbank. Her local community held her in such high regard there are plans for a lasting memorial in her memory.
Speaking outside the court following the sentencing, Helen Moran, who worked with Ms Brown in the community, and Sharon McKay, who lives in the Woodlands area, said they were “disappointed” with Grahams’ punishment.
“It’s a worry for the community, he (Graham) poses a danger to anybody,” Moran said. “Esther was honestly a wonderful person, we worked together preparing meals for people in need.”
McKay added: “The impact of her death has been huge in the community.
“The sentencing is very disappointing as many of us in the surrounding community have been victims of perpetrators being let back into society. We need to see change in the justice system.”
Reverend Martin Ayers of St Silas Church, where Esther regularly worshipped, said her death had caused much grief.
He added: “We will ensure that this does not define our memories of a tremendous, energetic and compassionate woman of God.”
Detective Superintendent Suzie Chow, of Police Scotland’s major investigation team, said: “This was a brutal attack and one that left Esther’s family and the community absolutely devastated.
“It has been a harrowing ordeal for Esther’s family, her friends and those who knew her and my thoughts are with them as they continue to come to terms with her death.”
Officers investigating the crime found Ms Brown’s landline and mobile phone handsets in the u-bend of the toilet in her bathroom.
David Green, procurator fiscal for homicide and major crime, said: “This was a shockingly brutal attack on a woman in her own home.
“Jason Graham’s conviction follows diligent work by police and specialist prosecutors to identify the accused and bring this case to court.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with Ms Brown’s loved ones as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with Esther Brown’s family and friends.
“While nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved-one, we note the life sentence imposed on Jason Graham for this terrible crime.
“The Scottish Government does not comment on nor intervene in the decisions of the independent court.
“It is understood there will be a Significant Case Review to help operational agencies involved in protection arrangements to assess the circumstances with a view to learning any lessons.”