Wilbert Anthony Dyce (also know as Tony), 54, of Romford Road, Forest Gate, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of stabbing to death Norma Richards, 27, and her nine-year-old daughter Samantha, and drowning Syretta, aged seven in 1982.
Dyce was caught almost three decades after the brutal murders thanks to advances in DNA technology and the help of the local community who came forward to give evidence even after so many years had passed.
Detective Chief Inspector Steven Lawrence, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: "This was a truly appalling crime, with the lives of a young woman and her two children, aged just nine and seven, tragically taken. It has been the prosecution case that Norma Richards was murdered as part of a sexual attack; her attacker then killed her in her own home and went on to murder the children in cold blood to prevent his identification.
"This has been a disturbing trial for all concerned to hear of the extreme violence in this case and I would like to acknowledge the dignity and resilience shown by the family and friends of the deceased who have attended court throughout. Rhodene Cunningham has lost a mother and two sisters who she was too young at the time to remember. This result cannot bring back Norma, Samantha and Syretta but we hope it can help the family come to terms with these dreadful events.
"Wilbert Dyce is an evil, violent man who preys on the weak and vulnerable. He has never accepted responsibility for these terrible crimes nor at any stage shown remorse. He lied and denigrated the victim’s reputation by giving evidence that he and Norma had sex in the toilets of a club prior to the murder.
"I would like to pay tribute to those members of the local community who came forward to give information about this case. I would also like to thank those who have shown such courage in giving evidence at the trial. It is a tribute to all concerned that members of the community in east
London now have the confidence in police to come forward and assist.
"A total of 28 years on, this has been a difficult investigation, and I would like to compliment the professionalism and determination of the CPS, counsel and the investigative team which resulted in this successful prosecution.
"This case highlights the determination of the Met Police to solve every murder and bring those responsible to justice. A case is never closed."
Dyce was sentenced to life imprisonment with no consideration for parole.
Police were called on the morning of Monday 19 July 1982 to reports that the bodies of the victims had been found at their home on the Kingsgate Estate, N1.
It is believed the three had been murdered during the early hours of Saturday 17 July.
Norma was found naked in the lounge with multiple stab wounds. Samantha and Syretta was both upstairs submerged in the bath. Samantha had been stabbed eight times in the neck, chest, arm, stomach and back while Syretta, who was lying beneath her sister, had drowned. Rhodene, then aged four, was at her grandmother’s at the time.
A number of people were interviewed by detectives at the time of the murders, but no one was charged in connection with the investigation.
Following a review of the case in April 2009 by the Met’s Murder Review Group, new lines of inquiry were identified. The case was passed to the Homicide and Serious Crime Command to investigate further.
On 3 October 2009 Dyce, an acquaintance of Norma’s partner who had previously lived in the area, was arrested in connection with the murders. He was bailed pending further enquiries and then charged with three counts of murder on 23 April.
The court heard that advances in DNA techniques found a match between Dyce and semen found on the body of Norma Richards. Previously unidentified fingerprints found at the scene were then directly compared with Dyce’s, leading to a match with two marks.
The prosecution case was that Dyce had raped Norma, beaten her about the head and then stabbed her twice in the neck and twice in the chest.
In interview he gave differing accounts but eventually claimed he’d had consensual sex with Norma at a nightclub some time prior to her death.
It’s thought he killed her daughters because they knew what he had done to their mother.
At about 05:45hrs on Saturday 17 July 1982 neighbours reported hearing screaming coming from the direction of Norma’s maisonette. Norma’s mother-in-law tried to contact her the following day but with no luck.
She visited Norma’s home on Monday 19 July and found the front door open so went inside where she found Norma’s body. A passing postman came to help and found the girls. He called police.
Officers found doors inside the property daubed with NF (National Front) – the investigation concluded the graffiti was a deliberate attempt to mislead the police as to the motive.
It is believed an antique 19th century bayonet was the weapon used – it had traces of blood on its blade and Dyce’s fingerprints were recovered from the lounge wall close to where it hung.
The following is the victim impact statement from Norma’s surviving daughter Rhodene Cunningham, now aged 32:
"When I was four, I found my mum and my sisters dead in our flat we lived in. I was really scared; my mum was just lying there covered in blood. I ran upstairs and my sisters were in the bath. They were dead too.
"After the funeral, I went to live with my dad’s parents. I had a good upbringing, I enjoyed school, had a lot of friends, but at the back of my mind my mum and sisters were dead. I couldn’t understand who would want to hurt them. It was hard for me to show emotion, no-one in the family would talk about it or talk to me. I would have a cry now and again; I would turn the music up loud in my room so my gran couldn’t hear me.
"It was weird going from being the youngest to the eldest, not being able to talk to my sisters about boys, make-up and secrets. I can remember taking their things and running off with them, having fun and laughing with them. What could it have been like growing up with them? I’ll never know, I never got the chance.
"As I got older it got harder. I knew they weren’t coming back. Every year on my birthday I would cry, it would be tears of happiness as I remembered them all but also of great sadness. As for my other family members, no-one would talk about my mum. I guess it was too much for them, they must have been too horrified to even say her name. I don’t think it was deliberate, just too painful to talk about.
"I fell pregnant at 18. I wanted my mum so bad, to hear her say she was there for me, and to hold her granddaughter for the first time. I told myself I can be a good mother, be the mother my mum would have been.
"It wasn’t just me who lost them, my dad did too. I can see the pain in his eyes whenever my mum and sisters were mentioned; he has lost his way in a nightmare he can’t wake up from.
"My own daughter has lost her aunts and her grandmother. When I told her what happened to my mum she became really scared something would happen to me and even though she never met them I know she misses them.
"I will never have my mum back to hug or see her smile, I will never be able to share a laugh or evening out with my sisters, but I will always have them in my heart and that will never change."