A MURDERER who burned his love rival alive while he was unconscious in a pre-meditated attack has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Mark Chilman was told he must serve a minimum of 22 years of the life sentence before he is considered for release by the Parole Board following the brutal killing of Neil Parkinson.

The 52-year-old remained impassive, his head lowered, when he learned his sentence at Worcester Crown Court today following the killing of the 66-year-old father and grandfather whose body was found in his burnt out BMW in a lay-by in Ankerdine Road, Cotheridge, near Worcester on December 12 last year.

Chilman first struck Mr Parkinson from behind over the head with an object which has never been recovered but which would have had a straight edge, causing a depressed fracture at the base of the skull.

The blow, struck with a 'weighty force' by the handyman, would have rendered him unconscious. Blood identified as that of Mr Parkinson was found on the gatepost at Giltedge Farm, Broadwas as were traces of a struggle including a broken plant pot.

By the jury's verdict they found that Chilman then drove the unconscious Mr Parkinson, a carer for his elderly mother who suffers from dementia, to the lay-by and set him on fire using petrol from two stolen jerry cans taken from the farm. Despite the intensity of the fire, the burning of the car failed to obscure evidence of the earlier assault.

At 10.17pm, before fire crews had arrived, it was said by the prosecution that Chilman sent a 'suicide' text message on an unregistered mobile phone to his former partner, Juliet Adcock.

However, she recognised that the message, purporting to be from Mr Parkinson, could only have come from Chilman of Old Post Office, Pencombe, because of the 'appalling' grammar and spelling and the type of phrases he used which she told a jury 'a gentleman' like Mr Parkinson would not have used.