Killer of popular West Hampstead barmaid has ‘lenient’ sentence doubled

Natalia Czekaj was popular at the Alliance Pub where she worked

Natalia Czekaj was popular at the Alliance Pub where she worked - Credit: Archant

A man who was sentenced to just six years in jail for virtually decapitating a popular West Hampstead barmaid in a frenzied knife attack has today had his jail sentence doubled.

James Richardson has had his sentenced doubled on appeal

James Richardson has had his sentenced doubled on appeal - Credit: Archant

Judges at the Court of Appeal in London overturned the “unduly lenient” six-year prison term imposed on James Richardson and increased it to 12 years.

As reported in the Ham&High Richardson, 35, almost decapitated girlfriend Natalia Czekaj when he launched into a drunken rage with a kitchen knife after a drinking session to celebrate New Year at their home.

The Old Bailey had heard that Ms Czekaj, 34, had been considering ending their turbulent relationship.

On the evening of the killing on January 6 2015, they had both been drinking and jobless plumber Richardson took three knives from the kitchen and stabbed his girlfriend repeatedly almost cutting her head off while she tried to defend herself.

Richardson of Berridge Green, Edgware, north London, who was four times the drink-drive limit, avoided standing trial for murder when his defence successfully argued his alcoholism meant he had diminished responsibility.

Instead he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and last October was sentenced at the Old Bailey to six years in prison, of which he would have served just four.

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Friends and family of the barmaid had said after the hearing that they were disgusted by the lenient sentence.

Lucas Leczycki, a close friend of Miss Czekaj, had said from his hometown in Poland: “I’m shocked by the sentence. Natalia was my first love and she had a special place in my heart.

“It’s terrible. Not just for us, her friends and family, but for British society as well. The judge has sent a message that if you want to kill someone, then drink a lot before you do it.”

But the case went to the Court of Appeal on Fridayand Richardson’s sentenced was increased to 12 years by Lord Justice Davis, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave and Mrs Justice Whipple.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland said after the ruling: “I referred the original sentence as I felt that it did not properly reflect the severity of the case.

“This was a sustained and violent knife attack on the deceased which involved her being stabbed in the back deeply enough to penetrate her heart and the offender sawing at her throat so severely that all the structures of her neck were severed.

“I hope this increased sentence gives some comfort to the victim’s family.”