Life sentences for ‘evil’ teenage killer

Shawn Tyson enters the courtroom at the Sarasota County Courthouse, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Sarasota, Fla.. Shawn Tyson faces two counts of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25. The two men were vacationing in Sarasota and ended up dead in a housing project early one morning after a night of drinking. Tyson faces life in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Elaine Litherland, Pool)
Shawn Tyson enters the courtroom at the Sarasota County Courthouse, Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Sarasota, Fla.. Shawn Tyson faces two counts of first degree murder in the shooting deaths of James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25. The two men were vacationing in Sarasota and ended up dead in a housing project early one morning after a night of drinking. Tyson faces life in prison if convicted. (AP Photo/Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Elaine Litherland, Pool)
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HEARTBROKEN relatives of two former Sheffield University graduates gunned down on a holiday in Florida branded the killer ‘evil’ as he was jailed for life.

Shawn Tyson, aged 17, was told he will spend the rest of his years behind bars without parole, for shooting friends James Kouzaris, 24 and James Cooper, 25, after they wandered into a rundown housing estate in Sarasota in the early hours of April 16 last year.

The killer, who sports a tattoo of the word ‘savage’ on his chest, shot the men after initially attempting to rob them but realising they had little money.

He had only been released from juvenile detention a day before the gun attack after being arrested for shooting at a car a few days earlier.

Because of an administrative error he was released on April 15 - less than 24 hours before he shot Mr Cooper, a tennis coach from near Warwick, and Mr Kouzaris, a town planner from Northampton.

In a statement, the victims’ families said: “It is a fact that we were given a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us. Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul.

“The agonising and searing pain we have experienced will continue until our sentence is at an end. The evil of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been passed from one judge to another.”

Prosecutor Karen Fraivillig read a statement from Mr Cooper’s parents Stan and Sandy which said: “Anyone who has lost a child will know there are no words which can express the despair, disbelief and desolation. We will miss him every minute of every day in a home that now feels empty.”

And in a video played to the court, Mr Kouzaris’s father Pete, alongside wife Hazel, said their son had been ‘needlessly taken’ in ‘a moment of madness’.

Joe Hallett and Paul Davies, friends of the Sheffield graduates, described the murders as ‘the most cowardly and perverse act of inhumanity imaginable’.