On 3rd June 2015 Sean Heiss was convicted (by a majority of 10-1) of the murder of Margaret Sheehy, his mother. He was sentenced today, 4th June, to life imprisonment with a minimum ‘tariff’ – the period of time that has to be served before his case could be considered by the Parole Board – of 27 years and 3 months.
On 11th June 2012 Sean Heiss strangled his mother to death following an argument at her house. He then took her bank cards, got on the Eurostar to Paris, and then went to Spain.
Mr Heiss had a history of psychotic illness and, in October 2012, stabbed Clementina Liscano to death near a cashpoint in Barcelona where he was sleeping rough. This was an extremely violent attack in which Ms Liscano was nearly beheaded.
He was convicted of murder in relation to that and sentenced to 22 years in Spain. Whilst serving that, he was extradited to England to stand trial for this murder. We are not exactly sure, but it is likely that he could be paroled for this after approximately 15 years, depending on his behaviour in prison.
He admitted killing his mother, but stated that this was a case of Diminished Responsibility due to his mental state at the time.
We have a fact sheet on sentencing for murder here. The Judge decided that although Mr Heiss took his mother’s bank cards and details, and that the argument related to money, the motive for the murder was anger rather than greed.
This would appear to give a starting point of 15 years. Why then the big increase (a near doubling) of the sentence? We have not seen the sentencing remarks, but it is probably because of the circumstances of the offence, and the extremely aggravating feature of the other murder, albeit that that post-dates this murder.
Had this been a case of a murder, followed by a conviction, then another murder, then the starting point would have been a whole life tariff. Here, whilst it was not a case for a whole life tariff, the Court was entitled to increase the tariff substantially in light of this other murder.
For that reason, it is unlikely that any appeal would succeed. It is likely (but we are not sure) that Mr Heiss will serve his sentence in England, concurrently with the Spanish sentence. By the time that he could be considered for Parole in England, the Spanish sentence will have expired.