A FORMER soldier who slaughtered his mother and her partner using a crossbow has had his sentence tariff reduced.

David Nicholson was just 17 when he executed his mother, Ann, and her partner of 11 years, Billy Kent, in 1990.

Nicholson admitted his guilt, saying he had snapped, and at Newcastle Crown Court he was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Yesterday, England's most senior judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, heard that Nicholson was showing some signs of progress after 12 years in custody.

In 1991, the Home Secretary ordered him to serve 18 years before being considered for parole, but yesterday Lord Woolf cut the tariff by 12 months.

In the summer of 1990, Nicholson had deserted his regiment following a car crash and returned to his home in Fatfield, near Washington, Wearside.

While his mother was out shopping, the teenager shot Mr Kent through the head with a crossbow bolt.

He pulled the bolt from his victim's head, reloaded the weapon and waited for his mother to return, shooting her through the head as she opened the door.

He then reloaded once more and finished off Mr Kent with a bolt through the chest.

Nicholson then hid their bodies under garden furniture and continued to live in the house, telling neighbours the couple had gone on holiday.

The truth was discovered when he was arrested by military police for being absent without leave, and his brother discovered the corpses.

The case provoked outrage across the North-East and calls for changes to the law after it emerged that Nicholson had bought the crossbow across the counter in Newcastle, the day before the killings.

Lord Woolf said: "Nicholson is reported to talk of the offence in a very calm, measured and cold way, which report writers see as consistent with evidence indicating that he carried out the murders in a cold and detached manner."

However, he said Nicholson had completed an alcohol awareness course and his behaviour in prison had been described by officers as mostly acceptable.