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Appeal judges back killers' 16-year terms

PUBLISHED: 12:52 09 July 2009 | UPDATED: 11:14 12 August 2010

TWIN brothers who beat a man to death and set fire to his body have failed to convince the nation s top judge that they deserve cuts in their jail terms because of their low IQs.  James and Stuart Head, both 35, of Curtismill Way, Orpington, were found gu

TWIN brothers who beat a man to death and set fire to his body have failed to convince the nation's top judge that they deserve cuts in their jail terms because of their low IQs.

James and Stuart Head, both 35, of Curtismill Way, Orpington, were found guilty at the Old Bailey in November last year of the murder of Nigel Stemp.

They were each jailed for life and ordered to spend at least 16 years behind bars.

Last week, lawyers for the men challenged their minimum jail tariffs as "manifestly excessive".

Top judges - including the country's most senior judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge - were told that the Head brothers had such a low IQ that their sentences should be cut.

The court heard that they had an IQ of between 53 and 61 and had had learning difficulties since they were youngsters.

But Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Blair, said the men knew the difference between good and evil, and were possessed with a "low cunning".

He described the murder as "horrifying", adding that Mr Stemp, 54, was a "vulnerable" man who required walking sticks to get around. One witness testified that it would require no more than a "breath of wind" to knock him over.

The judge said that the Head brothers had intended to kill Mr Stemp - rather than just cause him injury - and had gone to his flat with the express intention of doing that, before setting fire to his body in an attempt to cover up the murder.

Mr Stemp, a photographer, and the Head brothers had been involved in an unsuccessful - and unofficial - house swap in April 2007 but were told to move back by housing associations.

Mr Stemp was upset that the Head brothers had set fire to his sofa in the back garden while they were living in his property, and demanded compensation.

Instead, after spending the evening in the pub on April 15, 2007, they attacked him in his home with two wooden batons, repeatedly hitting him over the head until he died. Attempts were made to cut his throat.

When the Head brothers left, they started a number of fires in a bedroom in a bid to get rid of his body. Although none of the blazes took hold, his corpse was badly charred.

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