A KILLER brutally murdered a man before torching his home in a bid to cover up the crime.

Gary Meikle, 43, inflicted at least 54 stab wounds on Charles Wilson in an attack branded "grotesque" by a judge.

The 40-year-old's injuries were so bad that his grieving family were stopped from seeing his body to say their final farewell.

The High Court in Glasgow heard today how Meikle did not remember and had no explanation for the killing at the flat in Tontine Park, Renton, in West Dunbartonshire on March 25 this year.

The serial criminal has now been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum 19 and a half years behind bars.

He pleaded guilty to charges of murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Prosecutor Paul Kearney KC described Charles - known as Chic - as a "vulnerable individual".

He had a number of health issues including with his mobility. He weighed just eight stone at the time of his death.

Charles had known Meikle for around three years. The killer lived just a short distance away.

Charles was last seen by a friend who visited him the afternoon before the killing.

Meikle meantime had been at another man's home where he had taken alcohol, valium and smoked crack cocaine.

Around 1.30am on March 25, he was then captured on CCTV walking down a garden path towards Charles' front door before disappearing.

The court heard "movement" was soon seen in the property.

Mr Kearney said: "The next visible activity within was at 4.22am when Meikle pulls the curtain over.

"At 4.40am, the fire can be seen to develop before a dark figure - now known to be Meikle - appears outside, strikes two windows before walking away."

The thug headed towards his own home before a passer-by spotted the blaze, smoke belching and started banging on doors to alert other residents of the block.

Firefighters arrived and had to force their way into the flat as the front door had been locked and barricaded.

Charles' badly injured, semi-naked body was found lying face down on a bed.

Mr Kearney told the court he had suffered 54 stab wounds to his head, neck and body.

He also had other "chopping type injuries" most likely caused with a weapon such as an axe and had been strangled. His private parts had also been mutilated.

DNA and blood swabs helped link Meikle to the crime. This included from a kitchen knife found at the flat.

His home was raided on March 31 and police found the keys to Charles' home.

Meikle initially denied being involved and claimed he had only "briefly" visited the victim the day before leaving him "alive and well".

But, on later getting his fingerprints taken, he suddenly confessed: "Poor Chic. I do not know why you are bothering with this. I am going to plead guilty anyway."

Gary Allan KC, defending, today said the "connection" between the men had "always been amicable".

The advocate added: "He has no recollection or any reason as to why this terrible event occurred at his hands.

"He carried out an assault where there is simply no explanation at all. There appears to have been a loss of control.

"The nature of the assault, in some respect, is highly unusual and horrible, but no explanation can be provided."

Lord Young said the minimum sentence would have been 23 years, but for the guilty pleas.

The judge said Charles' relatives had provided a moving victim impact statement which gave an "insight" into a "much loved" man.

Lord Young said: "The level of violence you inflicted was grotesque. His injuries were such that his family were prevented seeing his body and saying their goodbyes."

He said Meikle had a large number of previous convictions - including for violence and fire-raising - but none pointed to him "committing a crime of this savagery".

The judge also stated had the passer-by not raised the alarm to the blaze then the thug "may have been facing charges for the death or injuries of many others".