RUTHLESS assassin Graham Gaskin, known as Mad Dog, was today beginning a life sentence for the brutal Christmas Day murder of a nightclub manager from East Lancashire.

Gary Poyser was shot in the head and chest at point-blank range by the sinister gunman as he enjoyed a drink with friends in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, in 1991. The shooting took place after an argument between Rossendale-born Mr Poyser, the manager of the city's Superstar Club, and Gaskin.

Liverpool-born Gaskin, 36, showed no emotion as a jury at Manchester Crown Court branded him a murderer after nearly 11 hours of deliberation. But, before he was led away, he told them: "I am not guilty . . . I didn't do it."

Jailing Gaskin, Mr Justice Maurice Kay said: "It was a very carefully planned murder carried out with utter ruthlessness and I have not seen any sign of remorse in you."

Gaskin fled Manila after the shooting and even confessed to the murder to a Roman Catholic priest.

He was arrested last year in Germany and extradited to Britain. Officers from Lancashire were praised for the painstaking operation to uncover evidence for the case.

Officers took on the investigation because the dead man was a British citizen and because they feared widespread corruption in the Philippines force would prevent the killer being caught.

The judge said the Lancashire force had conducted a "remarkably thorough investigation" and added: "It has my admiration and commendation."

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