A former Georgian police officer has been jailed for at least 35 years for the “savage” and “premeditated” murder of two friends during a drunken celebration of the Russian New Year in Goodmayes.

Vepkhvia Laliashvili, 53, of Prince Regent Lane, Plaistow, fatally stabbed Dainius Kulboka, 44, and Jonas Semenas, 45 in January last year.

Ilford Recorder: Murder victim Dainius KulbokaMurder victim Dainius Kulboka (Image: Met Police)

Ilford Recorder: Murder victim Jonas SemenasMurder victim Jonas Semenas (Image: Met Police)

Laliashvili, formerly known as Vytautas Garmus, was found guilty at the Old Bailey on Monday (July 18).

Jurors deliberated for less than a day to reach the verdict, after the defendant had previously denied two counts of murder.

The Lithuanian victims were found dead shortly after midnight on January 10 in Mr Kulboka’s home in Tavistock Gardens, where the three men had spent the night drinking.

Laliashvili - who worked for the Georgian ministry of internal affairs before moving to the UK in 2005 - attacked the pair for reasons that are not known, though it was claimed he owed the victims some £30,000.

Prosecutor James Dawes QC told the Old Bailey the evidence indicated that Laliashvili killed or incapacitated one man and then killed the other.

He used knives he found at the house to inflict eight stab wounds to Mr Kulboka, and 52 to Mr Semenas - some of which were very deep.

The prosecution asserted that sounds of the attack could be heard on a doorbell camera opposite the house, with one victim pleading for it to stop.

Laliashvili claimed he had no memory of events.

Sentencing today - Thursday, July 21 - Mr Justice Wall said it was “pre-meditated” and “not an incident that arose out of a spontaneous fight”.

Jailing the defendant for life - with a minimum term of 35 years - the senior judge said it was an “appalling act of violence”.

He said the defendant had summed it up himself while attempting to cast the blame onto someone else, telling jurors: “Whoever did this is not human – how is a human capable of doing this.

“A normal human being would not have done this.”

The judge said it was a “planned offence”, even though the evidence was not strong enough to sentence on the basis of murder for “gain”.

He highlighted the “brutal nature” of the attack, the defendant’s “determined” attempts to evade capture, and “the mental anguish that each man must have suffered" over the course of the incident.

Earlier, victim impact statements were read out in court as loved ones watched the sentencing by video link.

Mr Kulboka’s former wife Agnes Kulbokiene described him as a caring “family man”.

She said: “Our family lost Dainius and our hearts are completely broken.

“Not only ours, friends and close family going through this with us.

“He was the most caring person on this earth.

“He never turned his back on anyone, always there for anyone who needed a hand or support.”

Describing the effect on their teenage daughter, she said: “She talks about dad every day and still believes she will see him, waits for his call and will not delete any messages.”

Mr Semenas’ family said in their statement: “It takes only one second for fate to change one’s life.

“Our lives completely changed on January 10, 2021.

“We learned about the death of a son, brother, uncle and a friend.

“We can’t believe that someone decided to take his life so cruelly.

“It seems we are not people from the same planet.”

The court heard Mr Semenas supported a project in Lithuania to fulfil the dreams of poor children at Christmas.

In mitigation, Mathew Sherratt QC, said: “This was an all-day drinking session that started at 11am and escalated into what was at the end of everything a savage, frenzied, double murder with all the hallmarks of rage and complete lack of any inhibition.”

However, he added that the defendant did not have a history of violence and, given his age, was likely to die in jail.