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17 March 2015, 13:06
A man who murdered an 85-year-old woman in an "senseless'' attack in her own home has been jailed for at least 20 years.
Robert Buczek, 24, repeatedly stabbed Eleanor Whitelaw with a pair of scissors at her house in Morningside Grove, Edinburgh, on the afternoon of July 11 last year.
She died 17 days later in hospital.
Buczek was found guilty of her murder following a trial last month.
At the High Court in Stirling today, judge Lord Matthews jailed the killer for life and ordered him to spend a minimum of 20 years behind bars before he can be considered for release.
The judge told Buczek: "Not only was this crime an atrocious one, but it was also senseless.''
The court heard that Mrs Whitelaw offered Buczek some water and biscuits on a hot day - an act of kindness which ended with her losing her life.
She was stabbed four or more times on the neck and body, suffering seven injuries as a result.
Buczek later made off from the house with some stamps and a box containing spoons.
Passing sentence, Lord Matthews told him: "On July 11 2014, a hot summer's day, Eleanor Whitelaw offered you, a stranger, some water and told you that her husband would be back with some biscuits.
"When her husband did come back, a short time later, he found that a dreadful crime had been committed.
"In payment for her act of kindness you had brutally assaulted her in her own home, inflicting blunt force injuries on her and striking her repeatedly with a pair of scissors, causing such severe injuries that this vulnerable elderly lady died 17 days later.''
The judge said nothing he could say or do could lessen the pain for victim's family.
"It may be for all I know that they can perhaps derive some comfort and even take pride in the fact that Mrs Whitelaw's last act was to extend a helping hand but they will surely never come to terms with the way in which it was cruelly turned aside,'' he said.
"Not only was this crime an atrocious one but it was also senseless. If your prime motivation was financial, as the evidence appeared to indicate, it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand why you, a fit young man, had to go to the lengths which you did to overcome her.''
Buczek maintains his innocence and intends to appeal, the court heard today.
Lord Matthews told him: "You have steadfastly denied involvement in this crime, in the teeth of evidence which was overwhelming and, other than expressing sympathy to the victims of the offence... you have not shown one iota of remorse.''
The court heard how Mrs Whitelaw was alone at her home when Buczek knocked on the door.
A short time later, her husband arrived back to find her lying injured on the kitchen floor and immediately called for help.
Buczek has a previous conviction for assaulting and robbing another pensioner in his home country of Poland when he was 14.
He was living at an address in Edinburgh at the time of the attack on Mrs Whitelaw, having returned to the UK to settle in the Scottish capital in 2012.
Defence QC Brian McConnachie said it was difficult to understand why the crime was committed.
"It does appear, or it certainly could be inferred, that the motivation behind the calling at the address of Mrs Whitelaw was one of dishonesty, but why that has changed to one involving significant violence and Mrs Whitelaw's ultimate death is difficult to fathom,'' he told the court.
The QC pointed to the fact that the attacker went to the house unarmed and without any form of disguise.
"It does not appear that the attacker went to her door with the prior intention of using certainly this level of violence towards Mrs Whitelaw,'' he said.
"It does not appear to be the case that there was a pre-determined plan to carry out an attack of this kind.''
The judge said he accepted that the attack was not pre-planned but concluded Buczek must pay "a heavy penalty'' for the offence.
The sentence was backdated to July 28 last year, the day Mrs Whitelaw died of her injuries at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary.
After the hearing, Nicky Patrick, procurator fiscal for High Court cases in the East of Scotland, said: "Robert Buczek carried out a cowardly, brutal attack on a vulnerable pensioner that has left family and friends devastated at the loss of a loved one.
"Taking the life of another is the most serious crime and must therefore come with the most serious consequences as today's sentence demonstrates.''