Kiaran Stapleton jailed for Anuj Bidve murder

Killer sentenced to minimum of 30 years for shooting Indian student in act of ‘cold-blooded, controlled aggression’

Kiaran Stapleton

Kiaran Stapleton told the court he was not concerned about being sent to prison over Anuj Bidve’s death. Photograph: PA

The “truly wicked and highly dangerous” killer of student Anuj Bidve has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 30 years before he is eligible for parole.

Kiaran Stapleton, 21 – who had referred to himself in court as “psycho” – was convicted of murdering the 23-year-old Indian postgraduate student in the early hours of Boxing Day in a random and unprovoked shooting at close range as he walked to the sales in Manchester city centre. A jury took just 90 minutes on Thursday to decide he was guilty.

On Friday morning, Mr Justice King, the trial judge, passed sentence at Manchester crown court.

The judge said Stapleton had committed a “truly wicked act” and was “highly dangerous” and posed a high risk of serious harm to other people.

He told Stapleton: “In my judgment, this was no impulsive act on your part. It was a piece of cold-blooded, controlled aggression.” He said Stapleton had shown the most callous disregard for his victim in laughing and smirking after he shot him and also through his behaviour during the trial, when he frequently grinned and laughed in the dock.

He said Stapleton would serve a minimum term of 30 years and “only then will you be released if you are deemed not to be a risk to the public”.

“You have behaved in a way demonstrating that you are positively boastful about having killed Mr Bidve,” the judge said. Stapleton’s only reaction to the sentence was to nod as he was led from the dock and then gestured with a hand towards his family in the public gallery as if to say: “Chin up.”

Bidve, a postgraduate microelectronics student at Lancaster University, had been walking through Salford in the early hours to avoid the queues in the Boxing Day sales at Manchester city centre. The group of friends were approached by Stapleton, who asked them the time. One of them replied that it was 1.30am and the killer pulled out a gun and shot Anuj Bidve in the head for no apparent reason.

While on the run from police two days later, Stapleton had a teardrop tattooed on his check, which can signify that the bearer has killed someone. At an earlier hearing, he had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but the plea was rejected by the prosecution and the case went to trial. During his first appearance before magistrates, he said his name was: “Psycho, Psycho Stapleton.”

Anuj Bidve only arrived in the UK to study in September 2011 and his group of friends had considered visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow at Christmas, but chose Manchester. His parents, Subhash and Yogini,travelled from their home in Pune, India, in January to make a solemn pilgrimage to the place where he died and were greeted by senior police and council officials.

They returned for a second time to watch their son’s killer at the murder trial. During proceedings, the couple said Stapleton had “grinned, smiled and openly laughed at the memory of our son”. At one point he looked towards the jury and pointed to his face saying: “Look at this face. Does it look bothered?”

The Bidves spent last Wednesday – which would have been their son’s 24th birthday – visiting the scene in Ordsall Lane, lighting a candle, laying flowers and cards and saying prayers for him. They said in astatement outside court on Thursday that when he arrived in the UK, he had carried the hopes and dreams of the family and they were gone “in the blink of an eye” when Stapleton shot him. Their son was the kindest and most genuine person on Earth, they said, and Stapleton was the complete opposite, yet he was still alive.

Lancaster University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mark E Smith, expressed the university’s deepest sympathies to the family for their terrible and lasting loss and said an annual student scholarship had been established in Anuj Bidve’s name, enabling a student from the University of Pune to come to the engineering department at Lancaster to study.

Initially, police regarded the attack as racially motivated, but their investigation found no evidence to support this assertion. There was no obvious reason for the shooting, other than the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Detective Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle, who led the murder inquiry, said it was a “cold-blooded motiveless killing for which he has shown no remorse, and only Stapleton knows why he committed such a horrific act”. Her colleague, Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford, said it caused shock and outrage in the community. People in Salford were “absolutely appalled” by what happened on their doorsteps. There was an outpouring of anger and grief, culminating in hundreds of people paying their respects at a candlelit vigil in Bidve’s honour.

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