Man suffocated wife and drowned his two children in former home of John Lennon

A "controlling" husband who murdered his wife and two children in the former home of John Lennon has been jailed for a minimum of 31 years.

Sami Salem, 30, had claimed diminished responsibility for the killings but was found guilty of murdering wife Arena Saeed, 30, daughter Shadia, seven, and son Rami, four, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The court heard he suffocated his wife and drowned his two children in the bath at their flat on Falkner Street in Liverpool - which is a regular stop for Beatles fans on sightseeing tours of the city.

Residents were forced to evacuate their homes on May 30 last year after engineers were called following reports of the smell of petrol and gas.

When relatives gained access to the family's home they found the three victims lying on the bed, with Salem almost unconscious at the foot of the bed.

The property was home to a flat owned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein in the 1960s, where Lennon and his first wife Cynthia lived shortly after they married.

At his sentencing hearing today, the court heard Salem, who was surrounded in the dock by four workers from high security psychiatric hospital Ashworth, was a paranoid schizophrenic.

Mr Justice Holgate said there was evidence he was controlling and possessive towards his wife, who he married in Yemen in 2009.

Mrs Saeed was said to have asked for a divorce earlier in May last year.

The judge said: "He sought to control her movements outside the flat and whom she met.

"He controlled her access to the internet and use of a mobile phone. This affected her ability to communicate with her family in Yemen.

"She spoke little or no English, the family were not part of the Yemeni community in Liverpool and she must have felt isolated."

The court heard Salem began to experience hallucinations and paranoid beliefs towards the end of 2016.

He saw a doctor in the week before the murders but was thought to have responded to medication.

Benjamin Myers QC, defending, said: "This is not a murder, or murders, that takes place against a background of someone who had conventional clarity of view."

Salem, wearing a black suit and tie with a white shirt, showed no reaction as he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He told doctors he ate food and watched television after killing his wife and children before going to a petrol station and buying 25 litres of petrol, which he spread around the flat and over the legs of the children.

He took an overdose of medication he had been prescribed and when emergency services arrived at the property at 7.30pm they found the switches on the gas cooker had been taped so they remained open.

After the killings, Salem said he had not heard voices or experienced hallucinations at the time but described feeling "something weird".

The court heard the family of Mrs Saeed said she was "known for her kindness".

Mr Justice Holgate said: "She is described as 'a pioneer in doing good for all' and an ideal mother.

Her two children were loved by everyone who knew them.

The family is heartbroken and has suffered enormously."

- PA

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