A murderer is to marry the daughter of a priest he met when she was working as a prison counsellor.
The revelation was made yesterday as ‘model prisoner’ Paul Maxwell finally confessed to the horrific killing of 85-year-old Joe Smales in an attack at his home in Wakefield 15 years ago.
Maxwell, 47, read a statement to the court he wrote in Armley Jail in which he apologised to the family of Joe and Bert Smales for his “cowardice”.
The killer also said on oath that he was prepared to give evidence against his own brother, Daniel Mansell, who has had his convictions over the incident in 1996 quashed and is pursuing a compensation claim against West Yorkshire Police.
Maxwell pleaded guilty to murder and two offences of robbery on the first day of his retrial on Thursday.
Giving evidence before he was sentenced yesterday, Maxwell said his decade-long attempts to overturn his original murder conviction, costing the taxpayer millions of pounds, was due to his inability to take responsibility for his actions.
He added: “I believe that the family and friends of Bert and Joe Smales have suffered way beyond what would be expected of the family and friends of a murder victim. I sincerely apologise and deeply regret bringing about so much suffering.”
The court heard he had formed a relationship during the past 11 years with a woman who counselled prisoners and they planned to marry.
He said: “She has done much to me help and realise my full potential as a human being. I am not the person I was in 1996.
“At some point I had to stand up, take responsibility and be man enough to take responsibility for my actions. Today is that day.”
Mr Justice Butterfield gave Maxwell a life sentence and ordered that he must serve a minimum of 17 and a half years. He will be able to apply to the parole board for release in around four years time after already serving 13 years.
The judge said he had “lied and lied and lied again” and his appeals and denial had added to the suffering of the victim’s family.
The attack on the reclusive elderly brothers sent shockwaves far beyond the tight-knit community of Stanley, in Wakefield.
Joe, 85, and 68-year-old Bert, who was also badly injured in the attack, had lived all their lives at their cottage on Moor Road, topping up their pensions by selling eggs.
Maxwell and Mansell were convicted of murder and two offences of robbery after a trial in 1998. But in December 2000 they had their convictions quashed in the Court of Appeal. Mansell was “discharged” by the court and told he would not face a retrial. Maxwell was told he faced a re-trial but pleaded guilty to all three of offences.
At their trial in 1998, a jury heard the Smales brothers’ quiet existence was shattered in June 1996 when their attackers barged through the door, threatening Bert with scissors and getting away with £7,000.
Tragically, the brothers failed to report the incident and were targeted again four months later, when Joe was fatally attacked.
After the hearing Det Supt David Pervin, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “We are pleased that Maxwell used this opportunity to explain his actions to the court. West Yorkshire Police now needs time to fully assess the implications of what Maxwell has said before deciding, in consultation with the family, on the most appropriate way to proceed.”