The family of a “mild and trusting” great-grandmother who was beheaded in her back garden by a deranged cage fighter yesterday wept as her killer was locked up indefinitely in a secure mental hospital.
Nicholas Salvador carried out the machete attack on 82-year-old Palmira Silva after beheading two cats during a 45-minute rampage through neighbouring back gardens.
Our lives have been torn apart knowing what happenedPalmira Silva’s daughter Celestina
The 6ft tall, heavily built 25-year-old believed he was killing “demons” when he ran amok with a knife and broom handle, tearing down fences and kicking down neighbours’ doors in Edmonton, north London, on the afternoon of 4 September last year, the Old Bailey heard.
CCTV footage taken from a police helicopter showed cafe owner Mrs Silva in a pinny as she approached the bare-chested Salvador over her garden wall.
After a brief exchange, Salvador vaulted into her flowerbed and stabbed her repeatedly before cutting her head off and holding it aloft, the court heard.
Her final moments and the immediate aftermath were edited out of a harrowing 14-minute film clip shown to the jury in front of members of her family.
Afterwards, children playing nearby had to be rushed out of harm’s way as Salvador strode through backyards towards them, brandishing his weapons.
On the CCTV, an officer can be heard to say: “He’s agitated and lethal … he needs taking out.”
An officer climbed on to a flat roof to warn the youngsters of the danger before they were rescued from a front window.
Salvador was eventually cornered in the front room of a neighbour’s house and Tasered six times during a violent and chaotic struggle in which one police officer was injured.
Afterwards, he showed signs of mental illness, repeating phrases such as “red is the colour” and “I am the king”.
In his demented state, he believed Mrs Silva was a supernatural entity – either Adolf Hitler back from the dead or a demon who had taken the form of a little old lady, jurors were told.
The jury took 40 minutes to find him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity after two psychiatrists said he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Mrs Silva’s family wiped away tears and hugged each other as the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC, handed Salvador a hospital order for his continued detention in Broadmoor.
The judge told him: “It is established beyond any doubt that you killed Mrs Silva in an attack of extraordinary brutality and ferocity. You thought you were encountering some demonic force which had taken on a human form. You could not have been more deluded.
“Nobody who saw it could forget the mild and trusting way Mrs Silva approached you over the wall while you were brandishing a knife.”
He added: “This gentle, intelligent 82-year-old lady should have been able to live her life in peace and with security, proud in the achievements of others, but that was not to be.”
The judge also commended all the police officers who captured and restrained Salvador.
In particular, Constable Steven Robertson was praised for climbing on to a roof to help bring two children to safety.
After the verdict, Mrs Silva’s daughter, Celestina Muis, said her mother’s death had devastated the whole family.
She said: “Palmira had a full life, loving her children, grandchildren and great-grandchild. She was very much the glue that held us all together. Our lives have been torn apart knowing what happened to my mother.”
Earlier, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC said there was no dispute Salvador was mentally unwell when he attacked Mrs Silva.
The skunk cannabis smoker had become obsessed with shapeshifters and lost his job in billboard advertising three days before the killing over concern about his behaviour.
At the time he had been staying with friends three doors away from Mrs Silva.