A man has been found guilty of murdering two women 21 years apart.
Gary Allen strangled Samantha Class, 29, whose body was found by three schoolchildren on the banks of the Humber Estuary in 1997.
He was tried and cleared of her murder in 2000 but the acquittal was quashed last year after he was charged with murdering Alena Grlakova, 38, in 2018.
Jurors at Sheffield Crown Court convicted him of both killings after a seven-week trial.
Speaking after the verdict, Ms Class’s daughter, Sophia Class, said her family had been “broken into pieces” by the loss of her “caring, gentle and strong” mother.
“Because of Gary Allen, my mum violently and brutally lost her whole life and our lives were turned upside down,” she said. “So many memories as a family taken away in one night.”
But, she said, they had finally received justice after 24 years.
“I can never have my mother back, I have got to live with that and there will always be a break in my heart, but at least for us all there are no more questions.”
In a statement, Ms Grlakova’s husband Viliam Grlak said: “The verdict will not reduce the pain and suffering that we have had to endure since Alena was so cruelly taken from us but it does give us the justice that we hoped to achieve.”
Police described Allen as a “despicable, violent man” and a “danger to women”.
Prosecutors said Ms Class had been stamped on, strangled with a ligature and run over by a car before being dragged to the water on the night of 25 October 1997. Her body was discovered the following day.
Ms Grlakova’s body was found in a stream in Rotherham in April 2019, four months after she was reported missing.
Both women were sex workers at the time of their deaths, and jurors heard Allen had spoken to probation officers of his “hatred” of prostitutes, whom he branded “scum”.
Just weeks after he was acquitted of murdering Ms Class in February 2000, Allen assaulted two sex workers in separate attacks in Plymouth, for which he was convicted and jailed.
During his latest trial, the court was told a year-long Humberside Police sting, involving seven officers, was launched in 2010 to monitor Allen and gather further evidence on Ms Class’s murder.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said the defendant had made admissions to an undercover officer – known as Ian – about his encounter with a sex worker whom he had strangled and “dumped in the Humber”.
Mr MacDonald QC told the jury of seven men and five women that Ms Grlakova had been planning to return to her home country of Slovakia before she was killed, describing it as “one of the tragic ironies of the case”.
After Allen was charged with Ms Grlakova’s murder, Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC personally applied to the Court of Appeal in 2019 for his original acquittal to be quashed, arguing that substantial and “compelling” new evidence had been gathered.
Humberside Police said its long-running investigation was “extremely significant” and a landmark case, while South Yorkshire Police said its inquiries into Allen continued and it would write to other police forces around the UK to check whether any unsolved murder cases and attacks could be linked to him.
How the law caught up with a double killer
Two murders, 21 years apart, and a simple change in the law that allowed prosecutors to right the most extraordinary of injustices.
When Gary Allen left Sheffield Crown Court in February 2000, he thought he had got away with the murder of Samantha Class.
DNA linked him to the young mother’s strangulation and prosecutors had shown he was a liar – yet a jury could not be sure of his guilt. And so he walked free.
It would take two decades of focus on Allen – and pushing at the boundaries of one of England’s most important criminal laws – for him to be finally convicted.
One of Allen’s surviving victims, who he assaulted in Plymouth, appealed for other women who may have been attacked by him to come forward.
The English Collective of Prostitutes said: “Gary Allen took two precious lives and attacked many others. Our hearts go out to the victims and to the family and friends of the women he killed.”
Speaking of Humberside Police’s undercover probe, Operation Misty, Det Ch Insp Christine Calvert, who led the recent inquiry for the force, said officer Ian had done “a fantastic job and deserves every commendation going”.
“Gary Allen was a loner. We obviously had highly-trained officers, but they had to be really dedicated over a long period of time to keep that relationship going. It’s a fantastic result.”
Allen, of no fixed address, is due to be sentenced on Wednesday. Judge Mr Justice Goose told him to “prepare yourself inevitably for a life sentence”.