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4 June 2013, 16:23
A fantasist who attacked four people in Hampshire with coshes and a hammer, including a solicitor and his wife, during a 16-month "reign of terror'' that mirrored pages from a violent novel he was writing, was today jailed for life.
Loner Christopher Sims, 40, was told he would serve a minimum of eight years in jail and was warned by Judge Keith Cutler he would spend longer in prison unless he sought help from doctors for the crimes which were described as "motiveless and bizarre, random and without any cause or excuse" and a ''complete mystery".
Sims staked out the home of wealthy Clare and Graeme Francis in Longparish - whom he did not know - shot their golden retriever dead and attacked them several times on their own property without any apparent anger, Winchester Crown Court was told.
The couple aged in their 60s called the ordeal a "living hell'' and an "absolute terror'' that has left them afraid to walk alone and on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets.
The former BT engineer used Google Earth to get to know Mr and Mrs Francis's extensive home and grounds on the outskirts of the village in what his own defence barrister called "strange, unusual and very worrying'' behaviour.
He also clubbed a 74-year-old man, John Casey, with a lump hammer three times near Odiham in Hampshire until it broke after the Good Samaritan had offered him a lift home because he said he had hurt his foot and he had multiple sclerosis, again in a motiveless attack that Mr Casey survived but with injuries to head and groin.
Sims, from Andover, also attacked 22-year-old Ercan Yucekaya near Hook in Hampshire twice by his kebab van on separate occasions late at night. The first attack left him with a cut to his head.
The novel found by police on a computer after Sims's arrest bore "striking similarities'' to what had happened to the victims, especially Mr Francis, who was coshed over the head in February 2011 as he walked down steps from his office at his home, suffering a three-inch gash to his head and hearing loss.
The judge said that Sims targeted Mr and Mrs Francis in "their rural idyll''.
"Why you continued to act towards them like you did is a complete mystery,'' he said.
"I have come to the conclusion that there is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm on occasion by you of further specified offences.
"I hope that you start to work with the doctors so they can start to reduce the risk for the future.''
The judge said this was up to Sims but a failure to do so would mean he would continue to pose that risk to the public.
Judge Cutler said that the book was a "chilling document'' that contained "extreme and gruesome violence'' that included murder and he read out passages such as "this is how I went from a law abiding citizen to a kidnapper'' and "how can I conceal this from my wife and family. I must exist in two different worlds at the same time''.
The court heard earlier the novel also all appeared to correlate to the disintegration of Sims's own life as he lost his job, failed in a solar panel business and lost his home while all the time his behaviour became more erratic.
Detectives, who had initially been at a loss about the attacks on the Francis's, then linked all the cases that occurred between December 2010 and March 2012 after a review of the evidence that showed Sims could be involved as he had been stopped in Longparish on one occasion by officers but let go after he gave his details.
E-fit descriptions from Mrs Francis and Mr Casey also resembled Sims, the court was told.
Police went around to Sims's parents' house and were told their son's life had disintegrated.
Officers were so worried that Sims was the attacker and he might strike at the Francis's again they offered them a safe house for the night but Sims was soon detained and DNA found at the scenes matched his, the court heard.
The catalogue of attacks on the Francis's started in December 2010 when he jumped out in front of Mrs Francis, 60, in the garden of her home and tried to hit her with a cosh as she screamed for her husband. Sims then ran off.
In July 2011 the couple's dog Saffy was shot with an air rifle and killed, and later that month Sims, dressed in balaclava and blue latex gloves again confronted a petrified Mrs Francis.
The next attack was the one when Mr Francis received a blow to his head, the court was told.
Sims was described as having a personality disorder but of previous good character.
He was being treated at Broadmoor and claimed he could not remember any of the attacks. He pleaded guilty to harassment of Mr and Mrs Francis and grievous bodily harm (GBH) to Mr Francis.
He also admitted GBH to Mr Casey and the theft of his car in August 2011 and GBH and attempted GBH to Mr Yucekaya in March 2012.