A German office worker obsessed with the virtual world of the internet was found guilty today of murdering a British student after becoming obsessed with his girlfriend whom he first came across on a wargaming website.
David Heiss, 21, stabbed Matthew Pyke 86 times after becoming infatuated with Joanna Witton, also 21, and forcing his way into the flat she shared with Pyke in Nottingham.
In his last moments, Pyke, 20, wrote 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 attacker's identity.
The computer sciences student, of Stowmarket, Suffolk, did not survive the attack on 19 September last year, which prosecutors at Nottingham crown court described as "savage and sustained".
Passing a life sentence yesterday, Mr Justice Keith told Heiss, from Limburg, near Frankfurt, that he would serve at least 18 years. "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. The fact that your motive for murder was so bizarre doesn't make your killing of Matthew any the less serious. The tragedy is that you are unable to cope with rejection."
Heiss became obsessed with Witton after meeting her in 2007 through warscentral.com which she ran with her boyfriend from their flat above the Orange Tree pub in Nottingham. She went under the name JoJo while Pyke called himself Shade.
Heiss, who chose the nickname Eagle the Lightning, would spend up to eight hours a day on the site exchanging tips and strategies for the Nintendo game Advanced Wars. After initial lighthearted chat, Heiss started bombarding Witton with messages and emails declaring his love for her.
In June last year the couple arrived home from a holiday to find Heiss outside their flat. They put him up for three days but when he visited again a month later Witton rejected his advances and blocked him from access to the site.
On the day of the murder, Heiss flew into Birmingham and took a train to Nottingham. With a knife tucked into his waistband and wearing thick gardening gloves, he forced his way into the flat and repeatedly stabbed Pyke. He spent only 16 hours in the UK. Witton returned home from work to find her boyfriend dead. Heiss was extradited in November and charged with the murder.
Pyke's mother, an English teacher, described her son as a "modest and easy-going" man. Kim Pyke, 49, said she did not blame chatrooms and websites for her son's death. "We didn't know anything he did on the computer, we just knew he was good on anything to do with computers. He was obsessed with it, really.
"I don't think internet chatrooms are a bad thing … But people need to be careful about the information they give to other people. Matthew was quite naive. He was quite trusting. He expected people to be like him."
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