A habitual cannabis user was jailed for life today for the “savage and brutal murder” of two school friends, promoting calls for a public health campaign about the side effects of the drug.
Thomas/Tom Palmer, 20, will serve a minimum of 18 years.
A jury at Reading crown court rejected Palmer’s admission of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
It decided instead that he was responsible for murdering Steven Bayliss, 16, and Nuttawut Nadauld, 14, known as T-Wood.
Palmer will serve at least 20 years minus the time he has served on remand since the killings.
Sentencing, Mr Justice David Bean said the victims “were boys with the whole of their lives before them – dearly loved by their families and popular with their friends”.
Addressing Palmer, the judge said: “All this was wiped out in a matter of minutes … when you killed them both in a savage and brutal attack.” The judge said the most likely explanation for Palmer’s behaviour was “a sudden and lethal explosion of anger, although what caused it remains something of a mystery”.
A habitual user of cannabis and a fan of violent horror movies, Palmer murdered the pair with a hunting knife on a leafy footpath near Wokingham, Berkshire, in September 2005.
Palmer told prison doctors he had tried and failed to kick his cannabis habit in the year before the killing. After trying the drug at the age of 14 he was smoking it daily by the time he reached 15.
He did not smoke on the day of the killings but told doctors he had been using the skunk form of the drug regularly in the preceding weeks. Doctors told the court the drug had “exacerbated” Palmer’s anxiety and the strange auditory and visual hallucinations he reported suffering in the months before the attacks.
Palmer told clinicians he had attacked the boys when they tried to comfort him as he had a severe panic attack.
One friend became concerned when he discovered Palmer had used one of his knives to carve swastikas into his chest. After killing the boys, Palmer called police to say two people had been “cut a little bit” before handing himself in.
Police found the two schoolboys’ bloodied bodies in woods. They were lying in the foetal position with their heads so close they were almost touching.
Steven’s blue BMX bike lay discarded nearby and he was still clutching his rucksack. Palmer later told officers he carried out the attack after the two boys mocked him about his odd eating habits and his parents’ divorce.
The jury heard that Steven and T-Wood were in a group of about 15 friends in Wokingham who would meet in the woods to drink alcohol and smoke cannabis.
Palmer would sometimes video them copying stunts from the Jackass television programme, jumping into bushes and messing around.
The court heard that Palmer had a fascination with knives, buying the one he killed the boys with from a local sports shop. In the days before the deaths, Palmer repeatedly watched a DVD about a serial killer who filmed himself stabbing his victims to death, the court heard.