By Calvin Palmer
A German computer game fanatic who became infatuated with the girlfriend of a British student and stabbed him to death was found guilty of murder at Nottingham Crown Court today and sentenced to life in prison.
David Heiss, 21, became obsessed with 21-year-old redhead Joanna Witton after meeting her through the war gaming Web site she ran with Matthew Pyke from their flat above the Orange Tree pub in Nottingham city center.
He forced his way into the flat and stabbed Pyke 86 times. In his dying moments, the 20-year-old managed to write DAV, the first three letters of Heiss’s first name, in his own blood on the side of his computer to alert police to his killer’s identity.
Heiss travelled to England twice to see Witton before returning for the fatal visit in September last year. In June, the couple had confronted Heiss, telling him that he “crept them out” and blocking him from their Warscentral Web site.
Mr Justice Keith said that Heiss had remained in denial about the murder.
“I have no doubt that at some stage you decided that Matthew had to die, and that your killing of him involved a substantial degree of both planning and premeditation, which is a significant aggravating factor.
“You may not have had a clear idea in your own mind by the time you bought your return ticket on September 11, but I’m sure you thought that Matthew had to be removed following the chatroom conversation that you had with him on September 14.
“I don’t believe you brought the knife with you because you decided to kill yourself with it, but you brought it with you to kill Matthew and then make it look as if he had killed himself.”
The judge added: “For your premeditated and carefully-planned murder, as well as its ferocity, I consider that you should not be released by the parole board until you have served 18 years in prison.”
After flying into Birmingham International on September 18, Heiss took a train to Nottingham, arriving shortly before 1am and slept behind the air-conditioning unit on the roof of the flat Pyke and Witton shared
The next morning Witton left for work shortly before 7:00 a.m. Heiss then forced his way into the flat and launched the ferocious attack on Pyke.
Grisly pictures seen by the jury showed the trail of blood from the doorway and splattered walls, as well as on shoes and trainers and finally on the bedroom floor.
It is thought the fatal wound was to Mr Pyke’s left lung but his injuries also included damage to his chest and liver.
Heiss told the court he only meant to give Pyke a “beating” but used the knife in self-defense when the pair started scuffling.
After the attack, Heiss changed into another set of clothes and tried to make it look like a robbery. He removed several items from the flat and then flew straight back to Germany, arriving back at his home in Limburg near Frankfurt just 16 hours after he had left. Police found his blood stained clothes in a suitcase under his bed, along with a suicide note he had penned as if written by Pyke.
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Heydon said the brutality of the attack and the clinical planning involved had made it the most harrowing case he had investigated.
“In my view, David Heiss is the most callous, cold-hearted individual I have dealt with. Throughout the trial he has failed to display any emotion about what he has done, despite the clear effect it has had on everyone else involved, and has lied continuously in an effort to escape justice.
“It is chilling that even at the end of his evidence, he agreed that he still had not given up hope of being with Joanna. I’m delighted the jury saw through these lies and found him guilty of Matthew’s murder.
“While this is an extremely unusual case, one thing is clear and that is that Heiss used the internet to harass and stalk Joanna and Matthew.
“He eventually found out where they lived and other information about them that enabled him to carry out his plans, and we should all consider the amount of personal information we share on web systems like MSN and on internet forums.”