A TILBURY man whose disappearance last year sparked an international manhunt has been convicted of two murders.
Ali Qazimaj – who is believed to be either 43 or 44 – was convicted, after a trial at Ipswich Crown Court, of murdering Peter and Sylvia Stuart.
Mr Stuart, 75, and his wife, 69, were reported missing from their home in Mill Lane, Weybread, on June 3 last year.
Mr Stuart’s body was found later that day in woodland close to their home. He had been stabbed to death and wrapped in a piece of ’garden material’.
Mrs Stuart’s body has never been found.
The couple’s family described Qazimaj as ’wicked’ and ’twisted’.
In a statement issued after the verdicts, they said: “We hope you spend the rest of your miserable existence reflecting on the utter senselessness and brutality of what you did to two innocent people and that one day you will find the moral courage to tell us where Sylvia is, so that we may give her and our family some final peace.”
The court heard Qazimaj – also known as Vital Dapi and Marco Costa – had been suggested to police as a suspect within two days of the disappearance. The tip-off said he had been a carer for the father of the couple’s son-in-law.
Police discovered Mrs Stuart’s bank card had been used in Grays, not far from Qazimaj’s home, and learned he had disappeared within hours of the couple’s disappearance hitting headlines.
On the night of June 5 police discovered his car close to the port at Dover. Inside they found both Peter and Sylvia Stuart’s DNA, plus Qazimaj’s fingerprints.
Data from his car showed he had travelled from Tilbury to Weybread several times in the months before the Stuarts went missing and he had also looked up their address on a work computer.
Police found Qazimaj had boarded a ferry at Dover and fled to Europe.
On June 16, police in Luxembourg City were contacted with reports that a man who looked like Qazimaj was staying in a hostel.
Officers detained Qazimaj but he claimed it was a cause of mistaken identity but Essex Police had his fingerprints on file from a prior arrest, which proved his identity.
DCI Andy Guy, one of the officers who went to Luxembourg to collect Qazimaj, said: “Throughout the case he insisted he was not Qazimaj but an innocent asylum seeker from Albania – Vital Dapi.
“The investigation team and I are pleased that the jury saw through the bizarre and unbelievable claims Qazimah made in the court.
“The assertion that there was another man who looked identical to him, shared the same DNA and handwriting styles and disappeared at the same time he appeared in Luxembourg is beyond belief, as is the claim that somehow his fingerprints were taken in Luxembourg and switched to implicate him.
“I have promised the family, who have shown a quiet dignity throughout, that I will continue to follow up any information that assists in locating Sylvia. I would ask anyone who may have information to call us.”
Qazimaj was jailed for life this afternoon and told he must serve a minimum of 35 years.