March 2011

Child killer Robert France jailed for burglary

Robert France when he was arrested for the murder of Gillian Atkins in 1983, above left; and France after he was jailed for burglary, inset top; murder victim Gillian Atkins, inset bottom.

A child killer who broke into a couple’s home and stole sentimental family heirlooms to feed his drug addict has started another spell behind bars.

Robert France (54) spent more than 23 years in jail after being sentenced to life for murdering 14-year-old Market Deeping schoolgirl Gillian Atkins in 1983 – but after being released from prison on 28th April 2010, it took him just five months to return to his criminal ways when he raided a home in Robert Avenue, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough.

On Thursday, France, of no fixed abode, who was recalled to prison after the burglary because it breached the licence conditions of his release, was given a further five year prison sentence after admitting the burglary.

Prosecuting, Craig McDougall said: “The couple left the address on Friday, 1st October, and returned on October 3 to find their house had been broken into.

“A search revealed that the back door had been broken into in a unique way. The door is wooden, and there had been a number of holes drilled into a circle, and a panel punched out.

“France had carried out a rough search of the house, and had taken computer games and jewellery items of sentimental value.

“He had also taken a dress belonging to the couple’s granddaughter, and it had been left in front of a photo of the girl in the lounge. There were two smudges of blood on the dress.”

Judge Nic Madge, said: “The placing of the dress in front of the photo would have caused additional trauma to the victims. He might not have realised it at the time, but if he had thought about it he may have realised that trauma was an inevitable consequence.”

The court also heard a victim impact statement from one of the residents of the house, who stated that many of the items had belonged to her mother and grandmother, and she had planned to pass them onto her children and grandchildren.

She stated: “I am so upset I can’t put it into words.”

Mr McDougall also said that France had a number of convictions, including 12 for burglary, dating back to when he was a teenager.

Defending, Corrine Ransom said: “He does have a long history of offending regarding burglaries, and of course the very serious conviction he received in 1983.

“He was locked up for many years, which had an enormous effect on his life. He found adjustment very difficult on the outside, and acquired a heroin problem inside.”

Judge Madge said: “There are a number of aggravating features – the trauma suffered by your victims, the premeditation and planning, including the use of tools, the theft of property of a sentimental value, the fact that you are a persistent offender and the offence was committed while you were on licence.”

France was jailed for life after a jury convicted him of the brutal murder of the 14 year old girl in 1983.

He had strangled her and battered her with a brick.

He was originally released in July 2007, but was recalled in March 2008 for a public order offence, before being released on April 28 2010.