A POLICE informant convicted of the 'cruel and ruthless' murder of Wirral widow Alice Rye has been jailed for life.

A jury of nine women and three men took three-and-a-half hours to unanimously find Kevin Morrison guilty last Friday.

Sentencing Morrison, Mr Justice Douglas Brown told him: "You are a truly evil man and you are also on the evidence very dangerous.

"The jury convicted you of a wicked murder which was obviously planned and carried out in a cruel and ruthless manner.

"What made you submit yourself to the scrutiny of the police may never be known for certain.

"But you obviously wanted a substantial reward and took the chance that after 18 months nothing would connect you with this murder.

"You then callously accused an innocent man, causing him great distress, and those allegations were, of course, totally false.

"That they were false was demonstrated by the great skill of the forensic science service, both government and private, to whose application and perseverance the public owes a considerable debt. Your gamble failed because of the forensic science evidence and the diligent work of the investigating police officers.

"The sentence upon you is one of life imprisonment."

White-haired Morrison had denied murdering 74-year-old Mrs Rye at her detached house in Poulton Road, Spital, on December 10, 1996.

Morrison, 60, of Pinfold Caravan Site, Wettenhall Road, Poole, Nantwich, showed no emotion in the crowded courtroom when the verdict was returned nor when the sentence was passed.

Thirteen charges alleging rape, indecent assault and serious sexual offences by Morrison against three girls, the youngest aged six, and spanning 1968 to 1986 were laid on the file against Morrison. He had denied the charges.

Similarly seven charges alleging theft, handling stolen goods, obtaining property by deception and burglary against Morrison between January 1995 and May 1998 were laid on the file. Morrison had also denied these offences.

During his nine-day trial Mr Robert Fordham, QC, prosecuting, described the murder, which involved the mutilation and sexual torture of the victim, as 'brutal' and one of 'great wickedness and great horror'.

Morrison was caught out when he went to the police, claiming to have information about the killing. Had it not been for him taking that initiative it was unlikely he would have been brought to justice, he said.

Mr Fordham said that Morrison, 'a cruel lunatic and a sexual oddity, a circuit not properly wired', chillingly sought out his victim after researching the electoral roll for a female living alone.

Morrison called around with a briefcase and conned his way inside the security-conscious churchgoer's home. He forced Mrs Rye at knife-point to an upstairs back bedroom, where she was tied hand and foot, gagged, choked with a rope and sexually tortured with a knife.

Mrs Rye, who was just five foot four inches tall, was then repeatedly stabbed in the chest and back, one wound penetrating her heart to a depth of at least 11 centimetres. After her death small kitchen knives were pushed into each eye, he said.

Concerned neighbours found her partly-naked body with a ligature wrapped around her neck the following day.

Despite police investigations, no breakthrough was made until May 1998, when Morrison mentioned to his police 'handler' that he had information relating to the murder. Morrison went on to claim that on the afternoon of the murder Mr Darlington approached him and gave him a package to look after.

He said he later discovered it contained personal items belonging to Mrs Rye, and three parts of a blood-stained knife, and disposed of all the articles.

Morrison claimed the killer had watched 'Cracker' on television and put the knives in the victim's eyes to confuse the police into 'looking for a nutter'.

His account was correct except for one detail - it was Morrison and not Mr Darlington who committed the murder, said Mr Fordham.

"The man was not simulating a nutter. He was a nutter," he said.

Mr Fordham said that DNA tests showed that Morrison's semen was on the victim's knickers he took from the murder scene as a trophy.

Police recovered these knickers, together with 14 other pairs, from a lock-up garage Morrison rented in Worcester Walk, Ellesmere Port.

Throughout the two days he gave evidence, Morrison maintained his innocence and said that Mr Darlington was the murderer. Mr Darlington, a father-of-five from Ellesmere Port, described Morrison's accusations as 'just a pack of lies'.

Morrison denied suggestions that he went to the police to collect £5,000 in reward money, and said that it was his conscience, but not a guilty conscience, that had persuaded him to come forward.

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