The killer of a South Yorkshire pensioner was out of jail on licence for a previous murder when he stabbed his latest victim to death, The Star can now reveal.
Ian Birley had been out of prison for 18 months when he stabbed Wombwell property developer John Gogarty 69 times in a frenzied attack on July 13 this year - carried out so he could pay back a £500 debt to a Sheffield crack cocaine dealer.
Birley was released from jail in December 2013 after being handed a life sentence in 1996 for the 1995 murder of 69-year-old Maurice Hoyle in his Barnsley home.
Birley will now die in prison after being convicted of the murder of Mr Gogarty alongside girlfriend Helen Nichols by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court.
South Yorkshire Police today said they had raised the circumstances of Mr Birley’s release from jail with the National Probation Service.
The Ministry of Justice, which oversees the Probation Service, today said a review of what happened is under way ‘to make sure lessons are learned’.
Birley and Nichols killed Mr Gogarty, 65, in his home after hatching a plan to rob him.
Mr Gogarty was attacked on his doorstep and the couple got him to hand over his bank card and PIN number before Nichols went to a nearby cash machine to take out £500, then returning to the property on Marsh Street, Wombwell.
Birley then stabbed Mr Gogarty repeatedly as he lay on the floor. Some knife blows were so strong they cut through the bone of the victim’s ribs.
After leaving Mr Gogarty’s body in the living room, the heartless pair searched for further items to steal - taking expensive watches and even a bottle of champagne that they later drunk at their flat.
They then attempted to cover their tracks by burning the clothes they had been wearing, along with the kitchen knife used in the killing, in nearby woodland.
During the trial, it was revealed a former girlfriend of Birley had been Mr Gogarty’s cleaner - resulting in him knowing precisely where his victim lived and leading to the robbery plot.
Nichols and Birley were caught after she was seen on CCTV withdrawing money from Mr Gogarty’s bank account. A public appeal led to her being identified.
When their shared flat was searched, a T-shirt stained with Mr Gogarty’s blood was found.
A jury unanimously found Birley guilty of murder and robbery and Nichols was also found guilty of murder, having already pleaded guilty to robbery.
As the verdicts were announced Mr Gogarty’s relatives held hands and suppressed cheers after the court was warned by the judge to receive the decisions in silence.
The Star can now report the prosecution applied at the start of the case to tell the jury about Birley’s previous conviction. It was rejected to ensure he could have a ‘fair trial’.
Nichols and Birley will be sentenced on Monday and will both get mandatory life sentences.
Mr Justice King said Birley will never be released from prison.
Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Handley, who led the investigation, said: “This was a horrific and unprovoked attack.
“Birley inflicted a level of violence on an innocent man that can only be described as atrocious.”
Speaking outside court, DCI Handley added that the knowledge Birley had killed before and then been released had been an ‘additional distress’ for his family.
He said the issue had been reported back to the probation service.
DCI Handley said: “It is a matter that they manage offenders in the community and the are obviously reviewing the current situation.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our sympathies are with the victim’s family following this shocking crime.
“A review of this case is underway and we will carefully consider the findings and make sure lessons are learned.
“Serious further offences are rare but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully.”