A LANDSCAPE gardener who killed two men at a Suffolk travellers site has been told he will spend at least 35 years in prison.
Christopher Line, 29, had denied responsibility for the killings of David Castell, 29, and Shane Hill, 20, at Willow Park, in Beck Row.
It took a jury at Ipswich Crown Court four and a half hours to unanimously find Line guilty of two offences of murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 35 years before he can apply for parole.
Sentencing Line, Mr Justice Saunders told him: “These were brutal and merciless killings and demonstrate that the defendant has little regard for the lives of others.
“He was in possession of shotguns which he has stolen in burglaries and he has shown that he is prepared to use them to take life.”
The judge said that while he was certain it had been planned to use a firearm to defend the site, he was less sure that the killings were carefully planned.
Mr Justice Saunders said: “It seems to me that something went wrong in the defendants’ attempts to protect the property.”
After Line was found guilty of the two murders, the jury of six men and six women heard that Line was currently serving a five year sentence for arson after starting fires at a house in Norfolk the day after the shootings at Beck Row.
During a two-week trial, the court heard allegations that Mr Castell and Mr Hill, both from Southend, had arrived at the site on the evening of March 15 last year to carry out an arson attack.
Karim Khalil QC, prosecuting, claimed that Line, who had been left to guard the property by the owner and his employer, Sam Vinden, had lain in wait with a cache of weapons.
After a caravan and a toilet block were set ablaze, the body of Mr Hill was found in the road outside while the body of Mr Castell was found by police inside a burning car parked nearby.
Both men had suffered multiple gunshot wounds inflicted at point-blank range in what prosecutor Karim Khalil QC described as an ‘execution’.
Giving evidence, Line, of Willow Park, Beck Row, claimed that the double murder had taken place just yards from where he was standing without his knowledge.
During cross-examination, Line denied that the killings had been meant to send a message to any potential enemies or that he had ambushed the two victims.
Jane Grove, the mother of Mr Castell, said: “The verdict today will never bring David back, his family will always be left with a huge void where David should have been – his children will grow up never really knowing their dad.
“Any sentence would never be as great a punishment as his family will live with.
“I would like to thank the police for pursuing the case to the end to obtain the justice for David that he deserves.”