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Mum who stabbed paedohpile to death after confronting him cleared of murder

Manslaughter: Sarah Sands was found not guilty of murder
Manslaughter: Sarah Sands was found not guilty of murder
The Old Bailey heard that Pleasted had previously been convicted and served time for other child sex offences
The Old Bailey heard that Pleasted had previously been convicted and served time for other child sex offences

A mother who stabbed a convicted paedophile to death in Canning Town when she confronted him about child abuse has been cleared of murder - but found guilty of manslaughter.

Sarah Sands, 32, took the law into her own hands within weeks of hearing that her neighbour 77-year-old Michael Pleasted had sexually touched three young boys.

On the evening of November 28 last year, she armed herself with a knife and stabbed Pleasted eight times at his flat.

After the "determined and sustained attack", the victim crawled from his living room and collapsed in his hallway where he bled to death.

Within hours, Sands handed herself into police, telling an officer: "Who houses a f****** paedophile on an estate, like, seriously? He was, like, asking for trouble."

At the time, Pleasted was on bail awaiting trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court on two charges of sexual assault on two children aged under 13. Police were investigating a further allegation he had abused a third boy.

The Old Bailey heard that before the allegations emerged, Pleasted had previously been convicted and served time for other child sex offences.

Sands sobbed in the witness box as she insisted that she did not mean to hurt Pleasted when she went to his flat armed with a knife. She told jurors she had gone there to plead with him to admit his crimes and spare his young accusers from having to go to court.

But when he answered the door, he ignored her request and just "smirked" as he told her the boys were all liars who had ruined his life.

Sands said: "I was frightened. It was not how it was meant to go. He was meant to listen to me."

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for three days before clearing her of murder and convicting her of manslaughter. Sentencing was adjourned for reports and will take place on a date to be fixed in September.

Trial Judge Nicholas Cooke QC told the jury that an inquiry was under way into the decision to bail Pleasted, adding that the jurors were clearly "troubled by the background" of the case.

Pleasted, who also went by the name of Robin Moult, had 24 previous convictions for sexual offences spanning three decades before he met the children he was accused of sexually molesting last year.

He served sentences of between nine months and six years for sex crimes which included indecent assault on a male over 16; indecent assault on a male under 16; indecent assault on a male under 14; and buggery.

The first offence occurred in 1970 and the last offence for which he was convicted was in 1991, the court heard.

During the trial, Sands sobbed as he told jurors she did not mean to cause Pleasted serious harm when she armed herself with a knife and went to confront him after drinking wine and brandy. She had gone there to plead with her neighbour to accept his guilt and spare his accusers the trauma of a trial.

But Pleasted, she said, had refused to take her seriously and instead branded the boys liars who had ruined his life.

Describing the killing, she said: "He was in front of me. We were staring at each other. I was poking him. He was looking dead into my face and he was just standing there and I don't think either of us realised what had happened. Neither of us moved.

"I just had it (the knife) in my hand and I poked him with it in the front and that's when we both realised at the same time what had happened and he grabbed me.

"He was frightening me and I pushed him away and I left. That was it."

After handing herself in, Sands told a police officer that the victim had touched some children "so I took care of it - I stabbed him".

During a police interview, a distraught Sands said she had tried to help him, taking him food while all the time he was sexually abusing children.

She told an officer: "That's the devil, that's who that is. So we stopped that, I had to stop that."

She explained she had thought Mr Pleasted was just a nice old man, adding: "He's f****** harmless now, ain't he?"

The jury found Sands guilty of manslaughter by reason of loss of control, rejecting the alternative verdicts of either murder or manslaughter by diminished responsibility.