'Popular' elderly man was allegedly murdered during burglary, court told

Donald Ralph was found dead at his home on Monday 

A man and a teenager have gone on trial for the murder of Donald Ralph, 83, - Credit: Essex Police

A "much-loved and popular" Essex pensioner was beaten and strangled to death in his own home during a burglary, a jury has heard. 

Leighton Snook, 28, and a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named due to his age, have gone on trial charged with murdering 83-year-old Donald Ralph at his home in Halstead Road, Aldham, near Colchester. 

Simon Spence, prosecuting, told Ipswich Crown Court how the pair were seen on CCTV travelling near to Mr Ralph's home by taxi during the afternoon of Monday, December 28 last year. 

Mr Ralph was beaten until he bled and strangled to death, Mr Spence told the jury. 

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

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

Two guns which Mr Ralph had certificates for - a self-loading Ruger Rifle 22 RF and a Browning 12 bore over and under shotgun - were stolen from the property. 

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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, Mr Spence told jurors.  

The car flagged a number of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras on its journey from Essex to Sussex, the court heard. 

The teenager was arrested on December 29 having returned to Colchester while Snook was arrested a few days later on New Year's Day. 

Snook and the teenager wanted to "obtain money or to take items to raise money", Mr Spence told the jury. 

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

Mr Ralph was found at his home in Aldham, near Colchester - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Jurors were told Snook was related to Mr Ralph by step-marriage and 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. 

Mr Spence said Mr Ralph was a "much-loved and popular member of the local community", who lived an active life, doing odd jobs for neighbours and friends. 

In police interview, the teenager gave an account to officers but his story changed during the course of further interviews, Mr Spence told the jury. 

Snook read a short prepared statement to officers in his interview before answering "no comment" to any further questions. 

Snook, of no fixed address, denies murder, burglary and theft of a motor vehicle. 

His 16-year-old co-defendant denies murder and theft of a motor vehicle but has pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary, jurors were told. 

The trial continues. 

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