The family of murdered Sian O’Callaghan, whose body was left in Savernake Forest, wept as her killer, Christopher Halliwell, was jailed for life.

Halliwell, 48, of Ashbury Avenue, Nythe, Swindon, showed no emotion as he pleaded guilty to murder at Bristol Crown Court on Friday.

Prosecutor Ian Lawrie QC told the court that he had abducted Sian, 22, who was working as a PA, outside Suju nightclub in Swindon in the early hours of March 19, 2011.

At around 3am she is seen on CCTV getting into Halliwell’s cab.

She was taken to Savernake Forest where she was beaten, stabbed twice in the head with a six-inch kitchen knife and sexually assaulted.

The court heard Sian’s body was still in the forest as thousands of volunteers helped police search for her. The court also heard that Halliwell had returned to the 4,500-acre woodland to move her body to a site he had found near Uffington days after the killing.

Mr Lawrie said forensic evidence pointed to a sexual element in the murder.

Mr Lawrie read personal statements by members of Sian’s family, including boyfriend Kevin Reape, 24, who said: “My life has been destroyed. Our future together was taken.”

Sian’s mother, Elaine said in her statement: “There never truly is closure, moving on is accepting that my life has changed in every way.”

Halliwell’s defence counsel Richard Latham QC said his client claimed he stabbed Sian O’Callaghan because he lost his temper when she ‘protested’ about being taken in the wrong direction after he picked her up in his taxi.

As he was still driving, Halliwell said he lost his temper and punched Sian in the face. In the melee of bringing the car to a halt he stabbed her in the head and neck.

Mr Latham said: “He took her to Savernake Forest, he dragged her body out of the car, dragged it from the car and abandoned her in the forest at the side of a field.”

The court heard Halliwell returned to the area where the body was first dumped on four occasions, each time intending to move the body.

Mr Latham said: “He reconnoitered a better place for the body where it was subsequently found.”

Mrs Justice Cox did not accept Halliwell’s account and said evidence that the abduction and murder were pre-mediated was compelling. Halliwell had served 571 days in custody, which will count against his sentence.

He cannot be considered for release until his minimum term of 25 years has been served.