A man who murdered his wife and a pensioner during a “psychotic episode” has been jailed for life.
Daniel Appleton, 38, was handed a minimum term of 26 and a half years for bludgeoning the two women to death days before Christmas 2019.
The loss of beloved schoolteacher Amy Appleton, 32, and brave passer-by Sandra Seagrave, 76, who rushed to her aid, shocked the small village of Crawley Down, West Sussex.
Appleton appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Monday after being found guilty following a trial in December.
Amy Appleton’s mother Linda Remon faced her daughter’s killer in court as she described the “uncontrollable distress and despair” her family have experienced.
She said: “One moment we were looking forward to a special Christmas and new year and the next our world came crashing down around us.
“Our lives were turned catastrophically upside down in the most dreadful way possible.
“Not only has this devastated family and friends but the lives of 30 children she was teaching at the time.”
The horrific crime unfolded on December 22 2019 as the rest of the country was counting down the last few days before Christmas.
Ms Seagrave tried to intervene to save Ms Appleton but was instead brutally beaten to death with her own walking stick.
Both women received around five blows to the head with severe force causing fatal brain damage, the court heard.
Defence barrister Lewis Power QC said: “This has been a truly tragic, horrific and heartbreaking case.
“Daniel Appleton accepted from the outset that he was responsible for the deaths of his wife Amy and the lady Sandra Seagrave and the prosecution accepted at trial that the crime was caused by a psychotic episode.”
He added that his client had expressed “genuine remorse and contrition” for the killings.
Sentencing Appleton, Mr Justice Nicholas Hilliard QC told him that this was “not a case of insanity”.
He added: “I sentence you on the basis that you took a new psychoactive substance and under the influence of this committed these murders.
“Anyone who takes new psychoactive substances, which are Class A drugs, is interfering with their own mental processes and responsible for the consequences.”
He told the defendant that Amy Appleton “was entitled to look to you for protection and security rather than to meet her death at your hands”.
The 365 days Appleton has spent on remand will be deducted from the minimum jail term, the judge said.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Chris Friday said: “This was an incredibly difficult and emotive case, and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who supported the police investigation and helped us secure this conviction.
“Our thoughts continue to be with the families of Amy Appleton and Sandy Seagrave. We know nothing can bring Amy and Sandy back, but we hope this lengthy sentence does bring some comfort in knowing justice has been done for their loved ones.”
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