THE prison sentences imposed on sadistic killers who wrongly accused a man of being a pervert and disembowelled him are being challenged as "unduly lenient".

Keith Philpott, 36, who had learning difficulties, was tortured for four hours in his home in Axbridge Court, Billingham, Teesside, by Sean Swindon, 24, and Michael Peart, 22.

The Attorney General has agreed to refer the 20-year maximum sentences to the Court of Appeal after the Crown Prosecution Service protested.

Swindon believed that Mr Philpot had harassed his sister, Gemma, 19, and sent her sexually suggestive text messages, even though he could barely read or write.

Peart told a friend that Mr Philpott was crying when Swindon ordered him to get on his knees where they bound and gagged him, and kicked and stamped on his head, before Swindon stabbed him in the stomach.

Mr Philpot's body was found in the living room of his flat in Billingham, when his concerned family called police after he failed to arrive for tea with his mother, Pauline, at her home nearby.

There was no truth in claims of a sexual relationship with Swindon's sister, who visited Mr Philpott's flat with her friends, Teesside Crown Court was told.

James Sunter, a Home Office pathologist, said that Mr Philpott was alive when he was disembowelled.

Peart, from Norton, Teesside, and Swindon, from Middlesbrough, were jailed for life on October 10 after they pleaded guilty to the March 24 murder.

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Peter Fox, said Swindon must serve 20 before he is considered for parole, and Peart, who had two convictions for attacks on wrongly suspected paedophiles, was jailed for 15 years.