Strangler fails in sentence slash bid

PUBLISHED: 09:10 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:25 25 August 2010

A MAN jailed for trying to strangle his ex-girlfriend to death has failed in an Appeal Court challenge to his life sentence and minimum term.

A MAN jailed for trying to strangle his ex-girlfriend to death has failed in an Appeal Court challenge to his life sentence and minimum term.

Mitchell Zelder, 29, of Southwell Close, Grays, left Kelly Johnson unconscious overnight after attacking her at her home in Bosworth House, Erith, on July 26 of last year.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of nine years to serve, at Woolwich Crown Court in April after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder, harassment and witness intimidation.

Last Friday in a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London, he challenged both the life term and the minimum jail period, but had his case rejected by three top judges.

Mr Justice Stadlen, sitting today with Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Roderick Evans, said the attempted murder was so serious that a life sentence was justified.

And the aggravating features of the offence, including the fact that he left Miss Johnson unconscious in her flat and made an attempt to stop anyone from discovering her, justified the nine-year minimum.

Zelder and Miss Johnson had been involved in a relationship, but had split up by the time he made the attempt on her life last summer.

He went to her Erith home and, after a confrontation, strangled her, causing her to lose consciousness, before taking her mobile phone and leaving the flat.

He then used the phone to send text messages to Miss Johnson's mother, in order to dissuade her from visiting her daughter that evening.

The following morning, the worried mother went to visit and was let into the flat by her terrified grandson, screaming that his mummy was dead.

Paramedics were called and Miss Johnson's life was saved.

A pathologist later said it was the closest to death he had ever seen anyone taken, and yet survived.

Following her miraculous recovery, Zelder made a series of attempts to bring the investigation to an end, sending threatening messages to Miss Johnson and offering her £6,000 to drop the allegations.

But the case proceeded to trial and he was convicted by the jury and handed the life sentence in April.

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