Life in jail for Australia's 'bush' fugitive killer who was on the run for 7 years

SYDNEY (AFP) - A man who eluded police for seven years by living in the harsh Australian bush was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the brutal murders which prompted his life on the run.

Malcolm Naden, the nation's most wanted fugitive until his capture in a remote cabin in northern New South Wales (NSW) in early 2012, had pleaded guilty to strangling two young mothers, Kristy Scholes and his cousin Lateesha Nolan, in separate incidents.

"Mr Naden, you have been sentenced to life imprisonment," NSW Supreme Court Justice Derek Price told the 39-year-old.

"You will not be released on parole at any time during your life sentence."

Justice Price said the murder of Scholes, who lived next door to Naden's grandparents, with whom he lived, was a "cold-blooded merciless killing that was sexually motivated" and required a life sentence.

The judge found that the murder of his cousin after she had driven him to a beach to go fishing had not been premeditated, but the woman had suffered a prolonged period of pain and terror before she died.

Mr Price said the former abattoir worker, who the court heard had told a forensic psychiatrist he had dreamed of killing since he was 12, had a high risk of future violent offending.

Naden went on the run in 2005 after Schole's body was found in his grandparents' house.

His ability to evade the authorities evoked comparisons to 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who was seen as a working-class hero despite murdering three police officers.

But Naden expressed relief at his arrest and after the judgment was read on Friday, said "thank you, your honour", the ABC reported.

Outside court, Nolan's father Mick Peet described the last eight years as like "being in a nightmare that you can't wake up from".

"We still haven't found Lateesha's body, we still don't have closure for that part," he told reporters.

Scholes's uncle Tony Scholes spoke of the relief at the sentencing.

"He can never be released and that is what we wanted for our families and for the community," he said.