A CAREER criminal who brutally murdered a defenceless and vulnerable elderly woman 25 years ago was today told it is “inevitable he will die in prison”.

Raymond Kay, 70, was handed a life term in prison for the murder of 86-year-old Amy Shepherd in her own home on August 2, 1994.

He must serve a minimum term of 17 years before he is considered for release, but the killer was told by The Honourable Justice Finola O’Farrell DBE he is likely to die behind bars.

Kay, of Baker Fold, Halifax, delivered Meals on Wheels to Miss Shepherd, known as The Duchess locally, at her sheltered accommodation in Folly Hall Gardens, Wibsey, as part of his community service.

He used this to build up trust with Miss Shepherd, which was why she let him into her house on the fateful day in 1994.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “Amy Shepherd was known locally as The Duchess for her sense of style; always smartly dressed and wearing jewellery.

“She never married but was very sociable and had a wide circle of friends of all ages.

“She had visited Wibsey Co-op and bought her support. She got a taxi home and the driver carried her shopping to her door. This was the last time she was seen alive.

“You turned up soon after, and she recognised you as a trusted person.

“We may never know exactly what happened, but the most likely explanation is you were in the process of stealing and she disturbed you.

“The violent assault you inflicted was unnecessary, cruel and grotesque. The most serious injuries were strangulation with her own tea towel, a deep stab wound completely severing her upper trachea, a sexual assault, numerous fractured ribs.

“This attack was brutal, vicious and sustained. You stole two rings, a watch and some cash of little value.

“You evaded justice for 25 years, even giving a statement in 1994 so police could count you out.

“It’s only now through the careful preservation of crime scene items, new techniques in DNA, and efforts of the team you have been brought to justice.

“Aggravating features are this was a murder for gain, the victim was particularly vulnerable, it was committed in her own home, the physical suffering inflicted before her death and gratuitous violence.

“I accept your primary aim was to steal, you are a career burglar.”

Prosecutor Richard Wright QC said Kay has made 26 court appearances for 60 offences between 1964 and 2006, with a “significant period” of offending in the 70s, 80s and 90s, mainly house burglaries, thefts and deception.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell added: “This was the brutal murder of a defenceless, elderly woman. It is inevitable you will die in prison.”

A victim impact statement, from Miss Shepherd’s only living relative, nephew Gary Antcliffe, said: “My auntie was a lovely, harmless old lady.

“She did not deserve the cruelty she endured, and not a day goes by that my wife and I do not think about her and miss her.

“Not knowing who committed this crime has caused anxiety, severe upset and depression.

“This court case gives us some hope of closure, but we could not face coming to court due to anxiousness of what we might hear.”

Detective Superintendent Chris Gibson, who led the most recent investigation, said: “We never close a case until it is solved and today we have been able to get justice for Amy and closure for her family.

“Kay now has a life sentence ahead of him in which to consider the consequences of his actions. He has been brought to justice thanks to advances in DNA technology and some excellent police work.

“Kay might have thought that he had ‘got away’ with what he did but the advances in DNA techniques mean that we are increasingly able to bring people to justice for their crimes, even if they were committed many years previously.”

Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, added: “This case demonstrates just how crucial it is that we have a team set up specifically to crack historical unsolved murders and serious cases in taking advantage of the forensic and scientific investigation processes now available.

“It’s important that no murder investigation is closed until no stone has been left unturned and justice is done.

"I am pleased that the investment agreed to fund this crucial unit continues to be vindicated and that their painstaking work has now led to this latest conviction and hopefully some sort of closure for the family of Amy, and my thoughts are with them today.”