A “DANGEROUS” killer who imprisoned and raped an underage schoolboy has been given a life sentence.

Ben Murphy must serve a minimum of eight years in prison for the attack on the boy who was bound and blindfolded before he was raped at the defendant’s flat in December 2016. The 31-year-old was convicted of the manslaughter of Adrian Palmer in Tenbury Wells a decade ago.

The 21-year-old victim, who had autism, claimed Murphy had raped him, which Murphy denied.

Mr Palmer was strangled by Murphy on May 19, 2006, his body found dumped in an alleyway by a postal worker.

Murphy did not attend the hearing at Worcester Crown Court yesterday, claiming he was ill although the nurse who examined him could find nothing wrong with him. The judge said Murphy had sought to avoid ‘the day of judgement’ and had expressed his displeasure by not turning up.

In contrast, the victim’s mother, who attended court, bravely read out her son’s personal statement, describing the devastating impact on him and the family.

The rape and false imprisonment took place on December 14, 2016 after Murphy forced the boy to meet him at a Worcester pub and they then got a taxi to the defendant’s flat in Kidderminster.

Murphy had previously groomed him after meeting him on a bus and buying him cigarettes. At the time Murphy’s bail conditions stipulated he must have no unsupervised contact with any child under 16.

Murphy told the boy to take off his coat in an alleyway and bound his arms behind his back with duct tape.

Mr Burrows said: “He put a black mask on his head so he was blindfolded. The mask was made from a square of thin black fabric which he wrapped around his head so all of his face was covered.”

From there Murphy walked the boy to his home and claimed he was saving him from someone called ‘Connor’. The court heard there was no such person and that ‘Connor’ was in reality the defendant.

Murphy told the boy: “You want to see how violent I can get? Things can get nasty - big problems.”

The boy knew about Murphy’s conviction for manslaughter which had ‘a massive impact on the fears he had’.

The victim was in a closet during the two-hour ordeal and the attack left him with numerous scratches and cuts.

The boy’s mother broke down as she read out his statement, describing how her son’s education had suffered. 

His mum described how the damage done to her son ‘breaks her heart’.

Police found indecent images when they searched Murphy’s address in Mill Street, Kidderminster on July 2, 2014, seizing a computer and a Blackberry mobile phone.

Steven Masih, for Murphy, asked that he be given credit for his guilty pleas, some of which were entered on the day of trial but which he argued still spared the victim from having to give evidence.

Murphy admitted rape, false imprisonment, two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and seven counts of making indecent images of children, some at the most serious level (category A).

Michael Burrows QC, prosecuting, said Murphy, when told he was fit to attend court, ‘became angry and starting banging his fists on the table and refused to travel in the prison van’.

He said he did not believe the boy was ‘particularly vulnerable’. He argued against a finding of dangerousness which allows the judge to impose an extended sentence.

Mr Masih said: “This is not a situation where the defendant is dangerous.”

Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC said Murphy’s actions had caused severe psychological harm and involved the humiliation and degradation of the victim.

He found the defendant was ‘dangerous’, posing a significant risk of serious harm to the public, particularly to children and young boys.

The judge jailed him for life and Murphy must serve a minimum term of eight years before he is considered for release.

Not guilty pleas were returned on three counts of making indecent images and three further counts (inciting a child, assault and sexual assault) will lie on file.

After the hearing, the victim's family said they would like to thank the police, Crown Prosecution Service and witness protection for their support.

The judge expressed the hope they could ‘start rebuilding your life again’.

The grandparents of Adrian Palmer, Andrew and Margaret Palmer, also attended the hearing.

Mrs Palmer said: “We feel Adrian has been vindicated. Murphy is a danger to young people. Parents, watch out for young boys and vulnerable young men. We feel for that family. We feel really, really bad for them.”

Detective Inspector John Cashion said: "Murphy is a dangerous sexual offender. He groomed his victim, befriending him and plying him with cigarettes, all in order to satisfy his twisted sexual desires. It's a pattern we regularly see with predatory sexual offenders.

"I would like to pay tribute to the bravery of the victim in this case. What he went through was unimaginable, especially for someone so young. He and his family have acted with dignity throughout this investigation and their support has helped to ensure this conviction. I hope today provides them with some form of closure and they can start to rebuild their lives.

"Hopefully, today's sentence will send a strong message to other sex offenders that they will not get away with it and give other victims the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that they will be listened to and supported."

Superintendent Richard Long, safeguarding lead for West Mercia Police, said: "Murphy demonstrated the typical behaviour associated with the grooming and sexual exploitation of children. Sadly, sexual exploitation affects many children and young people, but we can all help by looking out for telltale signs. If you are concerned something isn't right then report it; your call might help us to stop another dangerous sexual offender.

"If you have been or think you have been a victim of sexual exploitation then please contact police. We will investigate and we will support you; you are not alone."

The signs to look out for:

Unexplained gifts

Changes in mood

Going missing

Staying out late

Children being secretive about where they are going

A lack of interest in activities or hobbies

Missing school

Anyone with information about potential offences can call police on 101 (always call 999 in an emergency) or contact a support agency.

For more information and details of the support and advice available in the West Mercia policing area go to www.tell-someone.org