A man has been found not guilty of murdering an elderly woman he beheaded in a rampage in north London on the grounds of insanity.
Nicholas Salvador was cleared by a jury at the Old Bailey after just 40 minutes over the brutal killing of 82-year-old Palmira Silva. But the 25-year-old cage fighter will be locked up indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act.
He was caught on CCTV beheading Mrs Silva and two cats during a 45-minute rampage through back gardens in Edmonton. The Old Bailey heard he believed he was killing "demons" when he ran amok, tearing down fences and kicking down neighbours' doors on the afternoon of September 4 last year. The need for a jury to formally decide the issue of insanity dates back to a 19th century law when being labelled a lunatic had awful consequences.
The jury retired at 11.40am yesterday and returned the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity after 40 minutes.
Salvador is expected to continue his treatment at Broadmoor high-security hospital.
Video footage taken from a police helicopter overhead showed 82-year-old café owner Mrs Silva, wearing a pinny, approaching the bare-chested Salvador over her garden wall.
After a brief exchange, the crazed killer vaulted into her well-tended flowerbed and stabbed her repeatedly before cutting her head off and holding it aloft, the court heard.
The final moments of Mrs Silva's life and the immediate aftermath were edited out of a harrowing 14-minute clip shown to the jury in front of members of the victim's family.
After the verdict, Mrs Silva's daughter Celestina Muis said in a statement how her mother's death had devastated the whole family who "no longer feel safe".
She said: "Palmira had a full life, loving her children, grandchildren and great grandchild. She was very much the glue that held us all together. Our lives have been torn apart knowing what happened to my mother."
Nikki Wright also told of the hurt she felt, particularly knowing that her 10-month-old daughter would grow up without knowing her great grandmother. Another granddaughter, Christina Silva, added: "Every day I wake up and replay the attack on my grandmother in my head. Since the attack, I have completely changed from the person I used to be. The thought of being alone in the house terrifies me."
Psychiatrists said 25-year-old Salvador had paranoid schizophrenia and believed Silva was a supernatural entity - either Adolf Hitler back from the dead or a demon in human form.
Prosecution and defence both argued that Salvador was severely mentally ill, and the jury agreed. Prosecutor Jonathan Rees said "the defendant was a very sick man" and Silva was tragically "in the wrong place at the wrong time." (© Daily Telegraph, London)