Man and boy convicted of killing 83-year-old who was strangled in his home

Donald Ralph was found dead at his home on Monday 

Donald Ralph was beaten and strangled in his own home in Aldham, near Colchester - Credit: Essex Police

A 28-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy have been convicted of killing an 83-year-old Essex pensioner who was beaten and strangled to death in his home.

Leighton Snook, of no fixed address, was unanimously found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court of murdering Donald Ralph.

A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named because of his age, was found guilty of manslaughter.

They had both denied murder.

Snook was also found guilty of burglary and, following the jury’s verdicts, he admitted stealing a Mercedes from Colchester on December 9 last year and stealing an Audi from Kesgrave Cars on December 11 last year.

The teenager admitted burglary.

A house remains cordoned off by police ion Halstead Road in Aldham

Police at the scene of the murder of Donald Ralph - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Judge Martyn Levett adjourned sentence until October 1.

Most Read

During their trial, which started in June, the court heard that the pair were seen on CCTV travelling near Mr Ralph's home in Halstead Road, Aldham, by taxi on December 28 last year.

Simon Spence QC, prosecuting, said that Mr Ralph was beaten until he bled and strangled to death and his landline telephone ripped out of its socket.

Two of his guns were stolen as well as his Volvo, which was used by Snook and the teenager to travel to Hastings, in Sussex, the following day.

Mr Spence alleged that Snook and the teenager wanted to "obtain money or to take items to raise money".

The court heard that prior to his death, Mr Ralph received a call from a man - believed to be Snook - saying he needed £6,000 to £8,000, which was owed to a drug-dealer. 

Giving evidence, Snook said he had gone to Mr Ralph’s home on December 28 last year with the 16-year-old boy to ask if he could borrow Mr Ralph’s car.

He said he had been hoping to steal 90 ounces of cannabis from an outbuilding in the Colchester area and needed to borrow a car to do the job.

He said Mr Ralph was a family friend and he had decided to see if he could borrow his car.

He said Mr Ralph had let him into his house and had agreed to let him borrow his car “for a day or so” and that he was physically fine when he left him.

The 16-year-old chose not to give evidence during the trial.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter