Murder accused believed to have asked victim for cash, court hears

A house remains cordoned off by police ion Halstead Road in Aldham following an incident.

A house remains cordoned off by police on Halstead Road in Aldham - Credit: Sonya Duncan

An Essex pensioner who was beaten and strangled to death in his home during a burglary had been asked for £6,000 to £8,000 by a man who owed money to a drug dealer, a court has heard.

The telephone conversation was overheard by a friend of 83-year-old Donald Ralph, who was found dead in his bungalow in Aldham, who told him not to give the man any money, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Before the court are Leighton Snook, 28, and a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named because of his age.

They have denied murdering Mr Ralph at his home in Halstead Road, Aldham, near Colchester in December last year.

Snook, of no fixed address, also denies burglary and theft of a car while the 16-year-old also denies theft of a car but has pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary.

Simon Spence QC, prosecuting, has alleged the pair were seen on CCTV travelling near to Mr Ralph's home by taxi during the afternoon of Monday, December 28 last year. 

The court has heard that Mr Ralph, whose body was found by his niece Tina Ralph on December 29, was beaten until he bled and was strangled to death. 

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"His landline telephone was ripped out of its socket to prevent any calls being made", Mr Spence said. 

A post-mortem examination found five areas of blunt force trauma to Mr Ralph's face and head and concluded that he died from strangulation. 

Two guns belonging to Mr Ralph - a self-loading Ruger Rifle 22 RF and a Browning 12 bore over and under shotgun - were stolen from the property

Mr Ralph's blue Volvo was also taken from his driveway and was driven to Sussex, the court heard. 

Snook and the teenager spent the night at a friend's home before travelling to Hastings, Sussex, in the Volvo the following day,  said Mr Spence.

He claimed that Snook and the teenager wanted to "obtain money or to take items to raise money".

Mr Spence said Snook was "related by step-marriage" to Mr Ralph and had been "desperate for money".

He said that prior to his death, Mr Ralph had received a call from a man, believed to be Snook, saying he needed £6,000 to £8,000 which he owed to a drug dealer.

The trial continues. 

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