A man who repeatedly stabbed his neighbour in a frenzied attack was on parole at the time after serving nearly 30 years for killing a teenager.

Keith Williams attacked Amaris Hatton, 35, with such aggression that the tip of the knife used was left lodged in her skull.

The 48-year-old, who was jailed yesterday for a minimum of 16 years, had been released less than a year earlier after serving nearly 30 years for killing Melinda Croft in 1986.

Her family said yesterday they are “absolutely disgusted” that he was released to kill again and said the parole board should be held accountable.

Her father Peter Croft, from Hastings, said: “As far as I am concerned I hold the parole board responsible for the attack on the lady.”

Yesterday at Hove Crown Court, Williams, of Sackville Road, Hove, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Miss Hattton, who had invited him to her flat, on September 8 last year.

Williams, who has been diagnosed with serious mental health problems including a personality disorder, attacked her with a knife before telling police “I lost it”.

He left her flat, which was above his bedsit, with her lying seriously injured on the floor and screaming for help.

Prosecuting, Philip Bennetts said: “The first people were aware of what was occurring in the flat was when a neighbour heard the sounds of a person in pain shouting, ‘help’.

“Police officers went upstairs to the flat. They heard someone say, ‘help me, please help me’. The police officer kicked the door open and saw Amaris Hatton lying on the floor.”

When police went round to Williams’ house to arrest him, he told them, “yes, I lost the plot,” and then said, “Satan, Satan, Satan”.

He gave his name and told them the knife was behind a drawer next to the bed.

Mr Bennetts said: “It was covered in the blood and the tip was seen to be missing.”

Williams’ was sentenced for the manslaughter of 17-year-old Miss Croft in 1986 rather than murder, because of his mental health problems.

He had become obsessed with the teenager, from Hastings, and repeatedly stabbed her with a kitchen knife. She was five months pregnant at the time.

Mr Bennetts said: “He stamped on her face with a boot, there was an allegation of sexual assault and before leaving the premises he put a duvet over her body and set fire to her body.”

Mitigating at yesterday’s sentencing, Rebecca Trowler QC said his mental health problems reduced his culpability. She added he was suicidal at the time of the attack.

The court heard how Miss Hatton has been psychologically traumatised and has nerve damage to her hand. She needed 147 stitches after the attack.

Mr Bennetts said: “She shuts herself away and does not want to leave her property and describes being too scared to do so.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our sympathies are with the victim following this abhorrent crime.

“The release of life sentence prisoners is a decision for the independent parole board. In all cases of serious further offending, a review is carried out to identify any learning for the management of future cases.”


Not knowing yet what had happened to her younger sister, Paula Croft arrived at Hastings police station at around seven in the morning.

There she bumped into Keith Williams, a 19-year-old she knew her sister disliked immensely due to his growing obsession with her.

“He came and spoke to us and I remember at the time because he did not look shocked,” she recalled, nearly 30 years later. “He said to me, ‘I saw the fire engine’.”

Mr Williams had repeatedly stabbed Melinda and then set fire to her body. It is also alleged he sexually assaulted her, although he was not charged with the offence. She was five months’ pregnant at the time.

Police pieced together what had happened to Melinda and Williams was charged.

Because of his serious mental ill health, prosecutors accepted a plea of manslaughter. For Melinda’s family, that was hard to take.

“He should have been done for murder,” her sister said.

“He should have been done for rape, for murdering her baby and for murdering her.

“She was pregnant with a little boy that she had already named Ashley. We had a funeral for him.”

Williams went to prison for life with a minimum term of 23 years. Ms Croft moved away from the area.

She raised a family and now sees a lot of her “very lovely” sister in her own daughter. Last year her granddaughter was born. The “highlight of my life”. She was named after Melinda.

“She was absolutely lovely,” she recalled of her younger sister.

“She was very sweet, not confrontational, just very lovely with a fantastic sense of humour.”

As Melinda’s family, the Crofts were kept informed of what was happening to her killer. About five years ago, they received a letter saying he had absconded from open prison. He turned himself in and was taken back. Then came the news he was up for parole.

“We wrote to the parole board to say he should not be released,” Ms Croft recalled. “It is clear that he would be very dangerous.”

Nonetheless, in October 2013, Williams was let out of prison. He was not meant to go near the family, and went to live in a bedsit in Sackville Road, Hove. He felt “unsupported” with his mental health problems his lawyer said, and became depressed.

In autumn 2014, he made friends with Amaris Hatton, a 35-year-old living in the flat upstairs. On September 8, she invited him around.

They played computer games. Then, using a knife he had brought from home, he attacked her. The only motivation he could offer when police arrived was that he had “lost it”. He also said the word “Satan” three times.

Ms Croft remembers getting a phonecall at home, to say Williams had been recalled to prison. Authorities would not tell her why. She looked his name up online and found local news reports.

“It was like déjà vu. I just felt devastated. He would have killed her if somebody had not come to help.

“It just came flooding back. I cannot believe he was released.”

Both Ms Croft and her father feel the parole board should be held accountable for letting Williams out. “I think it is absolutely disgusting,” Ms Croft said.

“They let everybody down because they let him out and he is still dangerous and another woman almost got murdered. It is absolutely disgraceful.

“He has never shown any remorse whatsoever for what he did to Melinda. He actually stamped on her head when she was dying.”

Melinda’s father, Peter Croft, who still lives in Hastings, spoke with great anger. “As far as I am concerned I hold the parole board responsible.

“Justice was never done in the first place because he should have been done for murder but at the time they said it meant they could keep him in for longer.

“He can still apply for parole in 16 years, which is just unbelievable.”

Yesterday, Williams was sent to jail for at least 16 years as the court heard about the shadow he has cast on his latest victim. Amaris Hatton is said to be so scared she cannot leave the house.

The Crofts visit Melinda’s grave in Hastings cemetery several times a year.

“I just think, you know, if she was here now her son would be 28 and she would probably be a grandmother,” her sister said. “I think all of these things that she is missing out on.”


Amaris Hatton needed 147 stitches after the vicious attack in September last year.

Yesterday, Hove Crown Court heard how the 35-year-old also needed surgery to remove part of the knife embedded in her skull.

She also has nerve damage affecting her ability to open her hand.

Miss Hatton’s sister, who lives in Australia, told The Argus her sibling had felt frightened ever since the attack and had not received the required support from local agencies.

Her sister, Sophea Lerner, said: “She has spent most of the past nine months since the attack feeling frightened and alone, plagued by flashbacks and other post traumatic symptoms.”