UK man sentenced to 24 years in jail for 'unimaginably wicked' attack in Aberdeen, Scotland

Jill Barclay and Rhys Bennett.
Jill Barclay and Rhys Bennett. Photo credit: Police Scotland

WARNING: Graphic Content 

A UK man has been jailed for attacks labelled "medieval in their barbarity" on a mother before pouring petrol on her and setting her alight. 

Mother-of-two Jill Barclay, 47, was attacked, raped and burned alive before her body was found in a street in Aberdeen, Scotland in September last year. 

Rhys Bennett, 23, admitted sexually assaulting and killing Barclay in Aberdeen on September 17 2022 when he appeared in the High Court of Edinburgh on Wednesday. 

"Your crimes against Ms Barclay were unimaginably wicked and indeed medieval in their barbarity," Lord Arthurson said when sentencing Bennett. 

The High Court heard Bennett did not know his victim before the attack. 

Prosecutor Lorraine Glancy KC told the court Bennett was out drinking with his friends at a local pub in Aberdeen when he met Barclay before following her. 

Bennett then brutally attacked her on the grounds of an empty property at Farburn Gatehouse.

He repeatedly hit and kicked her, stamped on her head and body, and hit her head against a downpipe before raping her.

Bennett left the badly injured but alive Barclay at the grounds before returning shortly after in his van. He poured a can of petrol on her and set her alight. 

"The footage is quite chilling. It shows Jill Barclay is wary of being too close to the accused. Having attempted on several occasions to distance herself from him, she is very clearly anxious, scared even, about the accused's behaviour," Glancy said.

Lord Arthurson said the attack "plainly involved extreme, sustained and frankly feral violence". 

"You took away her future and the hopes and dreams of her wider family," he said.

"Their lives will never be the same. I have read the most moving and articulate impact statements prepared by Ms Barclay's partner, her elder child and by her mother and aunt."

Barclay left behind a partner and two children aged 6 and 8 and her family said she had been “a deeply loved life partner, mother and daughter”.

“We would like to thank family, friends and the community for their comforting support following Jill’s tragic death as we have waited for justice," a statement by the family said, which was released after Bennett’s sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh.

“She didn’t deserve to die that day and especially in the unspeakable, brutal way it happened. This man has taken so much from us and changed our lives forever.”

Bennett appeared in the dock of the High Court wearing a grey tracksuit where he also admitted to attempting to defeat the ends of justice by burning the clothes he wore. 

Bennett was sentenced to a minimum of 24 years in prison before he is eligible for parole and was also placed on the sex offender register indefinitely.

Iain McSporran KC said Bennett had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and had "no recollection" of the attack but wanted to admit his guilt. 

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