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Donald Neilson is best known as "The Black Panther", the English armed robber and murderer.
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Regarding the murder of Lesley Whittle, however, he claimed her death had been an accident, and that she had been accidentally knocked from the ledge in the drainage shaft.
Neilson's trial commenced at Oxford Crown Court on June 14, 1976, amidst a media circus. He was charged with four murders, as well as various other charges of attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, robbery, kidnapping,
and firearms possession. Prosecutors were unable to charge him with the murder of security guard Gerald Smith, as he had survived more than a year and a day beyond the brutal attack, and the law prevented a murder charge being brought, despite his eventual death being a direct result of this attack. The law in the UK has since been changed to prevent this anomaly from recurring.
On July 1, 1976 Neilson was unanimously convicted on all charges, with the exception of two charges of attempted murder. He received five life sentences in total, with the judge insisting on no possibility of parole.
In 2008, Neilson applied to the High Court to have his minimum term reduced to 30 years. His appeal was rejected, however, and the court told him he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
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