Murder trial to resume next week

A murder investigation has been launched after a man was found dead in Aldham

The bungalow in Aldham where Donald Ralph died - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The trial of a 28-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy accused of murdering an Essex pensioner who was beaten and strangled to death in his home during a burglary has been adjourned until Monday (June 18).

The prosecution had planned to read a number of statements to the jury today (Friday, June 18) before calling witnesses to give evidence on  Monday.

However, Judge Martyn Levett sent the jury home this afternoon without hearing any evidence after a member of the jury was unable to attend court.

Donald Ralph was found dead at his home on Monday 

Donald Ralph - Credit: Essex Police

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

They have have denied murdering Donald 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.

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. 

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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. 

"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 concluded 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

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.

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