A hammer attacker has been jailed for at least 28 years for realising his “depraved fantasy” to kill a random stranger in a Gothic graveyard.

Erik Feld, 37, had a long-standing obsession with extreme violence before he killed Ranjith Kankanamalage in a premediated attack, the Old Bailey heard.

Beforehand, Feld fed his fixation by buying a kitten in order to kill it and watching “snuff films” online of men and women being bludgeoned with hammers, the court heard.

In the early hours of August 16 2021, Feld hid in the shadows behind a monument in Tower Hamlets Cemetery before hitting Ranjith 12 times in the face and head with a claw hammer.

The 50-year-old victim was found with catastrophic injuries by a member of the public on a path in the cemetery park later the same morning.

Romford Recorder: Mr Kankanamalage was hit 12 times in the face and head with the hammer, causing “catastrophic” injuriesMr Kankanamalage was hit 12 times in the face and head with the hammer, causing “catastrophic” injuries (Image: Metropolitan Police)

In his trial, Feld concocted what the judge described as a preposterous “cock-and-bull” story and launched a homophobic rant at the victim, who had an ex-wife and two children in Sri Lanka and an ex-civil partner in the UK.

Feld, of Tredegar Road, Bow, was found guilty of murder in March and, on Wednesday (June 14), Mr Justice Bryan jailed him for life with a minimum term of 28 years.

The judge said it was an “horrific and abhorrent” murder.

He said that Feld had picked a “creepy and Gothic” setting because it fitted in with his long-standing desire to kill a stranger with a hammer and Ranjith had the “severe misfortune” to encounter him.

Mr Justice Bryan told Feld his “selfish, callous, abhorrent actions carried out to fulfil your depraved fantasy” had a devastating impact on Ranjith’s loved ones.

The judge agreed with barristers in the case that the starting point for sentencing was 25 years – rather than 30 years if murder was aggravated by hostility to his victim’s sexual orientation.

Feld had 10 previous convictions for 18 offences between 2002 and August 19 2021 including criminal damage, sex assault, battery and possession of an offensive weapon.

The offences included brandishing an axe at passengers on the London Underground and spraying black paint on his face and the word “kill” on a Tube window, the court was told.

Feld was arrested on August 20 2021 as he was awaiting sentence for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the killing.

A search of his home in Tower Hamlets uncovered two mallets and a sledge hammer in a hallway cupboard, and a third mallet in a living-room cupboard.

He was re-arrested in January 2022 after his DNA was found on bloodstained nail clippings from the left hand of his victim and he was spotted on CCTV footage in the area of the cemetery.

In a fresh search of his flat, police found another hammer and a cut-throat razor by Feld’s pillow.

Prosecutor Paul Cavin KC read a series of victim impact statements, including one from the victim’s daughter, Hiruni, on behalf of herself, her mother and younger brother who watched the sentencing by video link from Sri Lanka.

She described Ranjith as a kind and friendly person with a lifelong love of learning and an ambition to qualify in accountancy.

She said: “He was a senior bank manager in Sri Lanka, a very accomplished athlete who won gold medals and completed two degrees in Sri Lanka as well as academic courses in the UK.”

He was hoping to apply to become a British citizen and resume his career in banking but she added: “Before his dream came true, he was brutally murdered.”

Former civil partner John Kennedy told how he met Ranjith at the Hilton Hotel in Heathrow where the victim was working at the time.

He said the realisation of what happened to him “hit me like a ton of bricks” and he was consumed by grief, depression and deep sadness.

He also felt sad for Ranjith’s family in Sri Lanka, saying: “This was such a cruel and cowardly attack on a gentle and kind man who was just chilling in the park.”

In mitigation, Andrew Morris highlighted Feld’s “severe personality disorder”.

The defendant’s mother died when he was a child, he had no relationship with his father and grew up in an “abusive household”, Mr Morris said.

Feld stood with his arms crossed in the dock and made no reaction as he was sent down.

Reporting by PA.