Double-jeopardy first-conviction of Mario Celaire

In a legal first, Mario Celaire a former footballer who had been cleared by a jury of murdering his ex-girlfriend, has now been convicted of her killing.

 In a legal first, Mario Celaire a former footballer who had been cleared by a jury of murdering his ex-girlfriend, has now been convicted of her killing. This is the first time someone has been convicted of an offence they had previously been acquitted of by a jury. This conviction comes after an amendment to the 'double jeopardy' rule, which now allows a suspect to be tried twice for the same crime if compelling new evidence is found.

In 2005, the 800-year-old legal principle that anyone acquitted by a jury could not be retried even if new evidence was uncovered, was repealed in England and Wales.  This change in the law allows the Court of Appeal to order a retrial if the evidence is strong enough.

Mario Celaire became the first person in UK history to be convicted of a crime for which he was previously been found not guilty.  He has been given two life sentences for killing a former girlfriend, Cassandra McDermott, and trying to murder another female victim, Kara Hoyte.

Mario Celaire had denied beating Cassandra McDermott, 19.  She had been left to die alone at her mother's house on October 25th 2001. Celaire was acquitted of her murder after a trial in 2002.

Some six years later, Celaire, 31, a former footballer from Sydenham in south London, attacked another ex-girlfriend, Kara Hoyte.  He used a hammer to attack her and Kara Hoyte was left with terrible injuries. These included severe brain damage but she was still able to identify her attacker.

At his second trial in May this year, the one-time Maidstone United player pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of McDermott and the attempted murder of Hoyte.

Celaire admitted he attacked McDermott after their four-year relationship ended. He slammed her head three or four times against a hard edge, such as a door, and then left her unconscious under a duvet in her room where she choked on her vomit and died.

He admitted attacking Hoyte after the pair split up in 2007. Celaire, who changed his surname to McNish after his original murder acquittal, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to life in jail with a minimum term of 23 years.

Simon Denison QC, for the prosecution, informed the court that Celaire had a history of violence towards women.

Simon Denison QC recounted that Celaire was 15 when he took part in the gang rape of a vulnerable 17-year-old girl at Lewisham College. He and the attackers lured the girl into a basement.

Celaire pleaded not guilty but was found guilty and jailed for five years.  This was  reduced on appeal to four years.

Cassandra McDermott, 15 and Celaire, 19  began  their  volatile relationship in 1997.  The subsequent violent disturbances resulted in the police attending on a number of occasions but McDermott repeatedly refused to press charges.  Denison described the final attack as "A sudden violent assault in which Cassandra suffered four or five hard blows to the face that left her unconscious on the bedroom floor, the cause of her death however was tragic. While she was lying on her back unconscious, she vomited. Being unconscious, she was unable to clear her airways and inhaled the gastric contents into her lungs and died."

Denison said the crown had to accept Celaire's plea of manslaughter as there was no evidence of a sustained assault or the use of a weapon.

Six years later Celaire used a hammer on Kara Hoyte after she began a relationship with another man.

Jennifer McDermott, the mother of Celaire's previous victim, praised Hoyte for helping bring her daughter justice.  Up until now she would have been unable to bring closure to that part of her life.

Mrs Jennifer McDermott, 58, the mother of Cassandra said in a victim impact statement read to the Old Bailey "My heart goes out to Kara for her bravery and determination. She has shown immense courage to see this process through of telling her story but also of the confession that Mario made to her of killing Cassandra. It was Kara's determination for justice that made it possible for Cassandra's case to be reopened."

The public gallery erupted and there was a shout of "rot in hell" in court as Celaire was jailed.

The judge told Celaire: "You present a very real and continuing danger to young women with whom you enter into a close relationship."

Celaire was given two life sentences and told he must serve a minimum of eight years after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of McDermott. He was given a concurrent life term with at least 23 years for the attempted murder of Kara Hoyte.

Kara also read out a letter to the court, and addressed Celaire

"Mario, why did you do this to me?" she wrote. "I don't hate you, I pity you. I will get better and better with each day and stronger. You have only damaged my shell, I am still the same determined and strong person I always was … I leave here today free, with the whole world at my feet and a new life to be whatever I choose to be. You, on the other hand, have a long time to reflect and to understand you cannot control another person – that their life is just that: theirs."

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