Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Convicted rapist with a history of violence against women - The first person to be convicted of a crime for which a jury had cleared him
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 26, 2001
Date of arrest: December 2007
Date of birth: 1978
Victim profile: Cassandra McDermott, 19 (his ex-girlfriend)
Method of murder: Beating (choked on her own vomit)
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Acquitted in November 2002. Sentenced to a minimum of 23 years in prison on July 3, 2009

photo gallery


Mario Celaire of Sydenham brutally killed his girlfriend and attempted to murder a second woman from Walthamstow.

He was the first person in the UK to be tried for the same serious crime twice under the double jeopardy law and was jailed for life in 2009.

Celaire admitted punching Cassandra McDermott of Norbury unconscious following an argument and leaving her to choke on her own vomit.

His former girlfriend Kara Hotye of Green Pond Close, Walthamstow, was found unconscious at a flat in February 2007 after being repeatedly smashed in the head with a hammer by Celaire.


'Double jeopardy' thug jailed for life after confessing murder of girlfriend to new lover... who he then tried to kill

ByRebecca Camber -

July 4, 2009

A callous and calculating killer was jailed for life yesterday for a murder that he had been acquitted of seven years earlier in a landmark double jeopardy case.

Mario Celaire, 31, thought he had cheated justice when he was cleared by a jury in 2002 of killing his ex-girlfriend Cassandra McDermott.

But yesterday he was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years behind bars at the Old Bailey for battering her to death and for a second attack on another girlfriend who he bludgeoned with a hammer, leaving her severely brain damaged and disabled.

The former professional footballer and builder beat 19-year-old Cassandra McDermott to death in an explosion of violence in November 2001.

But he was cleared of murder and manslaughter the following year after claiming he left her 'alive and well' minutes before her death.

In 2007 he struck again, attacking his 19-year-old former lover Kara Hoyte with a hammer in her home.

The 19-year-old aspiring model was found barely conscious lying in a pool of blood with her skull fractured in three places.

Celaire was only brought to justice through the heroic efforts of Miss Hoyte who identified him as her attacker from her hospital bed days after coming out of a coma.

Unable to speak, she repeatedly hit her fist on a white board bearing his name after her mother Eunice Lander wrote out a name of suspects.

Suffering from speech difficulties, it took almost a year before she was able to speak to detectives, telling them Celaire had previously confessed to her that he killed Miss McDermott.

In a landmark case lawyers for the Crown applied to the Director of Public Prosecutions to re-open the inquiry into Miss McDermott's killing.

Celaire's acquittal was quashed in the Court of Appeal after the 800-year-old 'double jeopardy' law was scrapped in 2005 by then home secretary David Blunkett.

Previously anyone acquitted by a jury could not be retried for the same offence, but suspects acquitted by a jury can now be retried if 'new and compelling' evidence is produced.

Celaire became the first person to be convicted of a crime for which a jury had cleared him in May this year.

Yesterday the families of his two victims cheered, screaming 'liar' and 'dead man walking' as he was given double life sentences.

Miss Hoyte, who was present in court, sobbed uncontrollably, clutching her mum, Mrs Lander for support.

Yesterday she issued a moving statement as she faced the man who tried to kill her.

Prosecuting, Simon Denison, QC, read out a letter to Celaire on her behalf as Miss Hoyte, now 21, suffers from the language disorder aphasia.

She said: 'Why did you do this to me, why could you not just leave me alone?

'I stand here today for you to see what you did to me.

'I don't hate you, I pity you.

'I will get better and better with each day and stronger, you have only damaged my shell.

'I am still the same determined and strong person I always was.

'I leave here today free with the whole world at my feet and a new life and to be whatever I choose to be.

'You on the other hand have a long time to reflect and to understand you cannot control another person.'

The court heard Celaire was a narcissistic control freak with a history of violence against young women. At the age of 15 he was jailed for four years for raping a young schoolgirl.

On his release the Maidstone United player went on to form a relationship with 15-year-old Miss McDermott whom he regularly punched.

On November 26, 2001 the 24-year-old beat Miss McDermott unconscious at her mother's house in Granville Gardens, Norbury, south London, before fleeing.

She was later found dead by her sister having choked on her own vomit.

In November 2002 an Old Bailey jury acquitted Celaire of both murder and manslaughter after less than three hours deliberation.

The case remained unsolved until December 2007 when Celaire was charged with the attempted murder of Miss Hoyte at a flat in Walthamstow.

Detectives believe that Celaire may have attempted to kill Miss Hoyte to stop her telling police about his first victim after Celaire confessed when he was confronted by Miss Hoyte who found court papers relating to his acquittal.

Judge Paul Worsley QC told Celaire said: 'Your delay in admitting these charges so long after the offences had been committed was callous and calculating.

'In the case of Cassandra's family, they no longer have the joy of seeing her progress through life.

'In the case of Kara, her family have the heartache of a life forever changed.

'Both girls were vulnerable. They were alone, they trusted you, they let you into their homes where they thought they were safe and you showed them no mercy.

'In my judgement you present a very real and continuing danger to young women with whom you enter into a relationship.'


Double jeopardy killer Mario Celaire jailed for life

Mario Celaire, a footballer with a history of violence against women, has been given two life sentences after admitting killing his ex-girlfriend seven years after being cleared of the crime.

By Stephen Adams

July 3, 2009

Celaire is the first person previously cleared by a jury to be convicted under new double jeopardy rules.

Celaire, now 31, was cleared by a jury of killing Cassandra McDermott, 19, whom he had beaten unconscious and left under a duvet to choke to death.

Due to the change in the law – which means a defendant can be tried for the same crime twice – and the "remarkable" courage of his second victim Kara Hoyte he has now been sentenced.

The law was changed in 2005 to enable suspects to be tried for the same crime again in cases where "new and compelling evidence" could be produced.

Celaire, a former Maidstone United player, attacked Miss Hoyte with a hammer in February 2007. She too was 19.

Despite being left paralysed and severely mentally disabled, she was able to give an account of the attack using "writing, drawing and gestures", the Old Bailey heard.

The police subsequently decided to re-open the case on Miss McDermott's death due to the similarities between the attacks.

In May Celaire, who had changed his name to McNish after his 2002 acquittal, finally admitted the manslaughter of Miss McDermott at the start of his second trial over her death.

Yesterday, there was loud applause and a shout of "rot in hell" as Celaire was given two life sentences.

He was told he must serve a minimum of eight years for the manslaughter of Miss McDermott and was given a concurrent life term with at least 23 years for the attempted murder of Miss Hoyte.

Judge Paul Worsley told Celaire, of Sydenham, south east London: "You present a very real and continuing danger to young women with whom you enter into a close relationship."

Simon Dennison QC, prosecuting, had told how Celaire had smashed Miss McDermott's head three or four times against a door's hard edge during the first attack in October 2001.

He covered her with a duvet before abandoning her. Miss McDermott, described as "a feisty girl who would stand up for herself", choked to death after a mouthful of Chinese takeaway became lodged in her airway.

Mr Dennison had said: "He did nothing to call for help, had he done so Cassandra may well not have died. Instead, as he always seems to do, he only thought of himself.

"That was the start of seven-and-a-half years of lying to protect himself for taking responsibility for what he had done."

Five years later, in February 2007, he smashed hairdressing salon manager Miss Hoyte in the head with a hammer because she had started a relationship with another man.

Mr Dennison also said that Celaire had a history of violence towards women, which started aged 15 with the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities.

Miss McDermott's mother Jennifer said outside court: "Only now can the truth come out of the viscious assaults that he inflicted on Cassandra, of his history of violence to her during their relationship.

"All I have are my memories of Cassandra they are good memories but they remain memories.

"Nothing will bring her back, nothing will bring back the moments that we had together, I will never see her grow up, get married or start a family."

In 2006 William Dunlop became the first person to be convicted of a crime under the new double jeopardy laws after a prior acquittal.

He was jailed for life at the Old Bailey after he admitted strangling Julie Hogg, 22.

Dunlop had stood trial twice before but on both occasions the juries failed to reach verdicts and he was formally cleared. However, he later told police that he had lied in court.


Bravery of frenzied hammer attack victim

By David Cohen -

September 1, 2009

Kara Hoyte had just emerged from a three-day coma when the man who had attempted to murder her walked brazenly into her intensive care unit at the Royal London Hospital. As Kara caught sight of her six-foot attacker striding towards her bed, she recoiled in horror and began to scream: "It's him who tried to kill me! Get him away from me!"

But no sound came out. Although 19-year-old Kara had miraculously survived the frenzied hammer attack that had cracked open her skull like an egg, the damage to her brain was so severe that she would be unable to speak for the next nine months.

She was helpless. Like a scene in a horror movie, she was forced to watch in mute terror as her unsuspecting mother, Eunice Lander, turned to greet Mario Celaire, Kara's former boyfriend and a professional footballer for Maidstone United. Unbeknown to Kara, Celaire had visited while she was still in a coma, and after hearing that doctors had given her 24 hours to live, had promised Eunice: "We'll find out who did this to her."

Now her would-be killer was back, and as Kara painfully tried to turn her battered face away from the man who had left her for dead in her Leytonstone bedsit, he took her hand and whispered: "You know everything's going to be all right, don't you?"

But Celaire, 32, of Jamaican descent and from south London, had not counted on Kara's courage and determination in bringing her assailant to justice. Her mother had the idea of writing down questions with "yes" or "no" answers that Kara, partially paralysed by the assault, could point to. "Do you know who attacked you?" she asked. Kara pointed to "yes". One by one, Eunice listed every person Kara knew, but Kara kept indicating "no" with mounting frustration. Then Eunice wrote down Mario Celaire, a man she regarded as a "perfect gentleman" and least suspected, and Kara started frantically hitting the board.

Kara's testimony led to Celaire being jailed for life at the High Court this summer. But it was not only for her attempted murder in 2007 that he was convicted. When she was finally well enough to talk painstakingly to detectives a full nine months after her attack, she had a surprise in store: Celaire, she said, had not only tried to kill her, but had also admitted to "mistakenly" killing a previous girlfriend, Cassandra McDermott, 19, in 2001, a case for which he'd since been acquitted. It would lead to his retrial under new "double jeopardy" legislation that, since 2003, allows someone to be prosecuted again where "compelling new evidence" exists.

The police hailed Kara as a hero. "Her bravery and determination to give evidence against Celaire, despite receiving near-fatal head injuries, was astonishing," said Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola, who led the investigation. "It is her strength that has helped bring justice to Cassandra's family."

But beyond the steps of the High Court, Kara, an attractive, spirited young woman, has been fighting a valiant personal battle to recover from her horrific injuries. Speaking to the Evening Standard at her mother's terraced house in east London in her first interview since the court case, Kara, now 21 and the eldest of five children, says: "Some days are better than others. I get frustrated because I understand people perfectly, but the damage to my brain means I can't always express myself. The doctors told my mother that I would not talk or walk properly again, but in the last two years I have made such progress that I've surprised everyone."

Kara has moments of perfect lucidity but she also becomes easily exhausted and she spends much of our meeting curled up on the sofa alongside her mother who frequently speaks on her behalf. "The damage to Kara's head has left her with aphasia, a language disorder which means that what leaves her brain is not always what comes out of her mouth and she often says things back to front," Eunice says. "She also suffers semi-paralysis to the right side of her body which means she can't use her right arm and her right leg is dead so she walks by throwing her hip and with the aid of a walking stick."

The ordeal has changed mother and daughter's life irrevocably. Before the attack, Eunice, 46, worked as a finance officer for Waltham Forest council and Kara was an aspiring model who managed a hair salon. Now Eunice has given up her job to become Kara's full-time carer. "It's a privilege to look after her," says Eunice. "I think she is amazing. I am very proud of her."

Kara gives her mum an affectionate squeeze and adds: "The hardest part is that I can't go to work and then out clubbing with my friends. I was a normal teenager." She looks wistful. "It seems such a long time ago."

Kara was attacked on a Saturday night when she returned to her housing-association ground-floor flat after a long day in the salon. It was around 11pm, she would later recall, when her boyfriend, Junior Clarke, 20, phoned to say he'd be over in 20 minutes. When her buzzer went, she thought it was Junior, but instead it was Mario Celaire, her first boyfriend, whom she'd dated at 15, standing in the doorway. Kara had long since ended their relationship but he'd refused to accept it, constantly calling and asking her out, and now he vociferously demanded she join him for a night on the town.

When Kara declined, he made to let himself out, but as she turned her back, he suddenly grabbed a hammer she kept by the door and smashed her over the head. Medical reports would show that as she lay there, he continued to beat her head with such ferocity that her skull split open and bits of bone became embedded in her brain.

Minutes later Junior arrived and started knocking on the door. The light was on but Kara was not opening. Through the letterbox, he could make out her feet and hear her moaning, so he sprinted round the back to let himself in through the open window. Oddly, this time the light was out. A neighbour would later say they saw Celaire, who must have been hiding in the corner of the room, running to his Mercedes and driving off. When Junior turned on the light, he saw Kara covered in blood and frantically called 999.

"I will always consider Junior to be my hero for saving my life," says Kara. "If he hadn't arrived, I would have bled to death." They are still in regular phone contact, she adds, but they are no longer a couple. "It's not realistic," she smiles. "I accept that. Junior is away at college and I am still convalescing."

It was six months before Kara could leave hospital and nine months before she was able to recount what happened to the police. She would tell them how she had one day stumbled across court papers relating to Celaire's original trial for Cassandra McDermott's death, and that he'd admitted that he'd killed her. But he had said he had not meant to do it, and she had believed him.

It would later emerge in court that Celaire had punched Cassandra, knocking her out and callously leaving her to choke to death on her own vomit. What Kara also did not know was that as a 15-year-old, Celaire had raped an under-age girl with special needs, an offence for which he'd served four years in prison and had been placed on the sex offenders' register. Celaire would maintain his innocence until just before his trial was due to begin, certain that Kara would be too cowed to face him in court, and he only changed his plea to guilty when it became clear that she was not going to back down.

At the July trial, Kara faced Celaire for the first time since the attack. Was it difficult? "I was very, very angry," Kara says. "But I felt like a lioness. I was determined to bring him to justice. I stood three feet away and stared straight at him, but he didn't flinch or make eye contact and just looked straight ahead."

A letter from Kara to Celaire was read out in court. "I don't hate you, I pity you," it said. "I will get better and better with each day and stronger. You have only damaged my shell. I am still the same determined and strong person I always was. I leave here today free with the whole world at my feet. You, on the other hand, have a long time to reflect and to understand you cannot control another person."

Two and a half years after the attack, Kara is determined to lead a normal life again. "There are still loads of things I can't do that make me feel intensely frustrated," she says. "But I am no longer on medication and with the help of regular physiotherapy and acupuncture, I am able to walk now, although not great distances. I am also hoping to retrain by doing an IT course, and my speech is improving month by month."

As Kara talks, Eunice tenderly strokes her feet causing her to giggle and protest that it tickles. "A few months ago, Kara had no feeling in her right foot, so it shows how things are improving. Kara has also developed a relationship with Cassandra's mother, Jennifer, who bought Kara a silver Tiffany necklace when they met after the trial. Jennifer said that they could never thank her enough for bringing their daughter's killer to justice."

"I have paid a heavy price," says Kara, smiling ruefully. "But life has taught me that I'm a survivor. The hardest lesson is patience. I am learning to take each day as it comes."


Our long battle to bring Cassie’s killer to justice

By Peter Dominiczak -

May 22, 2009

The family of a woman killed by her ex-boyfriend told today of their long fight for justice after he admitted taking the teenager's life, years after being cleared of her murder.

Mario Celaire, 31, became the first person to be convicted of a crime that a jury had already acquitted him of. The former professional footballer admitted beating 19-year-old Cassandra McDermott to death, seven years after he was originally found not guilty.

A jury cleared him in 2002 after he claimed to have left her "alive and well" minutes before her death. But in 2007, Celaire attacked another ex-girlfriend, Kara Hoyte, then 19, with a hammer, inflicting life-threatening injuries.

She was left partially paralysed and with speech difficulties that meant it took a year before she was able to speak to police, telling them Celaire had confessed to Ms McDermott's killing.

At the Old Bailey yesterday he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempted murder. The double jeopardy rule preventing people being tried again for the same crime was overturned in 2005.

The Standard has also learned that Celaire was convicted of a sexual offence before he killed Cassandra in November 2001 after years of domestic violence, raising questions over why he was not stopped.

Ms McDermott's family today described their struggle for justice and welcomed the conviction, but said their family had almost been destroyed.

Speaking to the Standard in the house in Streatham where her sister was murdered, Andrea McDermott, 38, said: "We lost all faith in the justice system. We battled for seven long years to bring someone who we knew was guilty to justice."

She also spoke of the moment she discovered her sister's body. She said: "My mum was in Jamaica and Cassie was looking after the house. I walked in and saw Cassie covered up by a quilt. As soon as I pulled back the cover I knew she was dead. Finding her body was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I gave my own sister CPR knowing she was dead."

Ms McDermott's mother Jennifer, 58, works as a probation officer and has set up a domestic abuse charity in memory of her daughter.

She said: "In that first trial, Cassandra was the one who was on trial and she wasn't there to defend herself. The defence wanted to discredit her and the CPS never did enough to bring Mario to justice.

"We always knew he killed her. After he was acquitted I did everything in my power to help bring him to justice."

Ms McDermott's family said that if Celaire had been found guilty in 2001, Kara Hoyte would never have been attacked and had her life destroyed.

Ms McDermott's other sister, Sophia Springer, 38, said: "That poor girl had to go through the same thing as my sister. She survived but her life will never be the same. If he had not been acquitted all those years ago, he would not have been able to destroy her life."

Ms Hoyte's mother, Eunice Lander, said: "I have only got half the girl I had but I still have Kara. She wanted him to be found and she wanted him to go to prison for what he did. Now she hopes he never gets out."

Celaire, who changed his name to Mario McNish, played for Maidstone United and for League One club Brentford.

He will be sentenced in July.



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