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Failed asylum seeker detained in hospital following ‘dreadful’ village murder

A failed asylum seeker who killed an elderly woman in a picturesque North Yorkshire village has been detained indefinitely at a secure hospital by a judge who said it was an act of “appalling brutality”.

Shahin Darvish-Narenjbon, 34, was befriended by 87-year-old Brenda Blainey when she met him in a Leeds restaurant and he went to live with her in the tourist village of Thornton-le-Dale, where she treated him like a grandson, Judge Rodney Jameson KC said on Wednesday.

But on January 5 last year, the Iranian national strangled Mrs Blainey before smashing her head on the kitchen floor, stabbing her in the chest and cutting her throat.

Judge Jameson said: “You killed Brenda Blainey in her own home in circumstances of appalling brutality”.

He said Mrs Blainey was likely placing a grocery order on the phone to the village shop when Darvish-Narenjbon launched his attack.

But the judge said: “You have never given, and have never been capable of giving, a full account of what you did.”

Sentencing the defendant at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Jameson said three consultant forensic psychiatrists agreed Darvish-Narenjbon has schizophrenia and his “retained responsibility” for the killing is “low”.

The judge told him: “I want to make it clear both to you and to the family of Brenda Blainey that this is not to say that your responsibility is extinguished. It is not.

“You remain, albeit to a low degree, responsible for the dreadful death of Mrs Blainey and for the grief and suffering that this has caused to her friends and family.”

The judge said he is satisfied the defendant poses a “risk to members of the public of serious harm” and is capable of “homicidal violence” while in psychosis.

Darvish-Narenjbon admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at a previous hearing.

The court was told he was born in Tehran but has mainly lived in the UK since he was 15 although he stayed for a period in the US, where he spent time in a psychiatric unit.

The PA news agency understands Darvish-Narenjbon arrived in the UK in 2005 as a student, but claimed asylum in 2013 after his visa expired.
This claim was refused and subsequent appeals were unsuccessful. He had exhausted all appeal options by 2017, but submitted another asylum claim in 2020 – which was outstanding at the time of the killing.

According to a Government source, he could not be removed from the UK between 2017 and 2020 – when he lodged the second claim – because there was not a returns agreement in place with Iran.

The judge said on Wednesday: “Given the situation in Iran, however, you will not presently be considered for deportation.”

Earlier this week, prosecutors said Darvish-Narenjbon, who was a student in Leeds, met Mrs Blainey at a Carluccio’s restaurant in 2013 and she offered him a room in her home, also letting him use a study and car.

Their friendship was characterised as a “grandma-grandson relationship” and they spoke regularly while he was away studying in Leeds, the court heard.

Mrs Blainey even attended his masters degree graduation.

Darvish-Narenjbon, formerly of Tinshill Lane, Cookridge, Leeds, appeared in court by video-link from Rampton high security special hospital wearing a grey sweatshirt as members of Mrs Blainey’s family watched in the courtroom.

The judge ordered him to be detained at Rampton “without limit of time”.

Acting Detective Superintendent Graeme Wright said: “This is an incredibly tragic incident in which Brenda lost her life after showing immense kindness to a young man who she identified was in need of support.

“Brenda was well-known in the local community for her compassion in helping people and had taken Darvish-Narenjbon into her home, giving him a place to live and treating him as a member of her family.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Brenda’s family and I hope that the conclusion of this case today can give them some closure.”

A source close to Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “We are working on bringing forward reforms to the immigration system which will allow for the swift removal of those who come here illegally and also reforms to stop people making spurious asylum claims.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Foreign national offenders who exploit our system and commit crimes here in the UK will face the full force of the law, including deportation at the earliest opportunity for those eligible.

“The Government is committed to stopping abuse of the immigration system, taking decisive action against those who try to play the system.”