Duo convicted over killing pensioner to appear for sentencing

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

The pair have been convicted of killing Donald Ralph, 83, in Colchester - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A 28-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy who killed an 83-year-old Essex pensioner who was beaten and strangled to death in his home are due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court today.

Leighton Snook, of Albrighton Croft, Colchester was unanimously found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court of murdering Donald Ralph, who was a distant relative, in August after a trial.

The 16-year-old boy from Leicester, 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.

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.

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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 Ralph’s niece Tina discovered his body the next day.

Donald Ralph was murdered at his home in Aldham in December last year

Donald Ralph was murdered at his home in Aldham in December last year - Credit: Essex Police

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’d 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.

Speaking following Snook’s conviction, Tina said it was a "shock" to learn the "loved and respected" family man was killed by a relative.

She said: “The injuries he suffered and how he was killed are incomprehensible to me. He was loved and respected by the family.

It is so hard to understand why anyone would have wanted to hurt him.

His extended family all live locally and this has really had an impact on us all.

“Don was also an incredibly well-liked and respected member of the community.

“He would get his newspaper each day from the local petrol station, he went to the bookmakers frequently too, and he belonged to about four local fishing clubs."

She added the family is "keen to see justice" for her uncle, who will be "greatly missed".

Police are continuing to appeal for information on the location of the stolen firearms, a self-loading Ruger Rifle 22 RF, serial number 354-66591 and a Browning shot gun with the serial number 419 13 MW.

Following the trial Detective Chief Inspector Scott Egerton, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, described the attack as "horrific”.

He said: “We will never know exactly what happened inside his home that day, but Donald’s death was completely needless and these offenders will receive the punishment this violent act deserves.