Cheshire killer given three life sentences – but could now be released

Fears have been raised over the possible release of a Cheshire killer given three life sentences and recommended to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Nicholas Burton was found guilty of the murder of 27-year-old Rachel McGrath, who he stabbed to death as she called to collect her boyfriend from a pub car park in Bramhall, Cheshire, in April 1997.

A few hours later Burton kidnapped a 17-year-old girl as she stopped at a newsagents on her way to work and subjected her to a terrifying 11-hour ordeal in which she was forced to drive to Wales.

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He threatened to kill her, and later told a court he had intended to rape and murder her.

Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts said the parents of Ms McGrath have been told Burton “would walk free next year”.

It is understood Burton could be eligible for a Parole Board hearing once his 25-year minimum tariff comes to an end next May, subject to him meeting certain criteria.

Rachel McGrath, mudered in Bramhall, Stockport in 1997 by Nicholas Burton. PA.
(Image: Press Association)

Such a hearing would be required to determine any release. It is understood Burton would be expected to be subject to strict licensing conditions should he ever be released.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Saville Roberts, the MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said: “My constituent Michael McGrath is battling for justice for his family.

“His sister Rachel McGrath was murdered in a brutal stranger attack by Nicholas Burton in 1997.

“The trial judge described Burton as merciless and manipulative and recommended that no home secretary – as the arrangement was at the time – would ever be likely to allow his release.

“Rachel’s elderly parents were recently told that Burton would walk free next year.

“They haven’t even been able to make a victim statement and believe the correct procedure has not been followed.

“Will he agree, please, to a ministerial meeting with the family to help ensure that they have all the information they need, that their voice is heard and it is respected?”

Justice minister Alex Chalk thanked Ms Saville Roberts for raising the “extremely sensitive, distressing and, frankly, appalling” case.

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He added: “Yes, of course I will be delighted to meet.”

Mr Chalk said victims must be participants rather than spectators in such matters.

Speaking during the case in 1998, Mr Justice Morland told Liverpool Crown Court that a psychiatrist had described Burton as one of the most dangerous men she had ever come across in her career.

The judge told him: “I shall recommend that no home secretary is ever likely to allow your release.”

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