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Judge slams killer who murdered woman during botched burglary after he refused to go to sentence

A CROWN court judge has slammed another callous killer after he refused to attend court for sentence for the brutal murder of a parish council clerk more than 26 years ago. Justin Plummer, 50, was convicted on June 19 2023 of the murder of Janice Cartwright-Gilbert on February 28 1997. Plummer was a prolific burglar who murdered Mrs Cartwright-Gilbert (above) during the botched burglary of her home, near Wilden in Bedfordshire. She disturbed him while he was on her property before he broke her nose then stamped on her head, leaving her unconscious. He then took her into a caravan on the property before stabbing her "in a frenzied manner through the heart and the lungs" then her neck with a pair of scissors and a knife. He then tied the electric flex from a heater around her neck, before setting her on fire and leaving the caravan with the door shut. However, a neighbour saw the flames and pulled the body of the 38-year-old from the fire, which destroyed the caravan and killed her two pet dogs. Sentencing Plummer to life with a minimum term of 16 years last month at Aylesbury Crown Court, Mr Justice John Cavanagh said: "Justin Plummer has refused to leave his cell so as to attend this hearing. He was not prepared to attend either in person or via Prison Video Link. I am satisfied that there is no good reason for his non-attendance. There are no reasons outside his control why he is unable to attend this hearing. He has simply taken the decision that he is not prepared to attend this hearing. I have considered, therefore, whether it is in the interests of justice for the hearing to proceed in his absence. I have decided that it should proceed. Justin Plummer has voluntarily waived his right to attend his sentencing hearing. "This is yet another example of a distressing trend in which those who have been convicted of very serious offences decline to attend their Sentencing Hearing. This is an act of moral cowardice, and can serve to deny the victim’s family the resolution and closure that a sentencing hearing should provide. In Justin Plummer’s case, it is a clear indication of lack of remorse." He jailed him for life with a minimum term of 16 years, which was the same sentence he got when he was convicted of the same murder in December 1998. That conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2021, because, as a result of questions over the qualifications of an expert witness who had given evidence about trainer prints that linked him to the murder scene. The evidence that was placed before the jury at his 2023 trial did not include the discredited expert evidence. As he has already served the minimum term for the murder he could be released by the Parole Board once seen as eligible. Cowardly criminals who have refused to attend court for sentence included Jordan McSweeney, when he was jailed for the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena in December 2022 and Thomas Cashman, when he was jailed for 42 years for the murder of Olivia Prat-Korbel in April. In the wake of Cashman's refusal, the Government vowed to look at changing the law to be able to force defendants to attend their sentences, but it has yet to happen.


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