Judge sentences 83-year-old's killer to life in jail

Donald Ralph was found dead at his home on Monday 

Leighton Snook was jailed for life for the murder of Donald Ralph - Credit: Essex Police

A 28-year-old man who “brutally” murdered an Essex pensioner who was beaten and strangled to death in his home has been jailed for life.

Ordering Leighton Snook, of Albrighton Croft, Colchester, to serve a minimum of at least years 30 years Judge Martyn Levett described the murder of 83-year-old Donald Ralph as “ a brutal way to kill another human being”.

Police are looking to speak to Leighton Snook, 28, in connection with the murder of Donald Ralph

Leighton Snook, 28, was jailed for life at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday - Credit: Essex Police

“He was an elderly man in his 80s, who lived on his own and was obviously vulnerable but in good health and had every prospect of living until he was 100 yrs old. 

“Worse still it is clear to me that he was targeted by you because you thought he had valuable assets which you could sell to make money.”

Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Leighton Snook and Tyler Love appeared for sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Judge Levett said that as Snook was known to Mr Ralph he was sure that he killed him to avoid any possibility that he would identify him.

Snook was found guilty by a jury at Ipswich Crown Court of murdering Mr Ralph, who was a distant relative, in August after a trial.

Also before the court was 17-year-old Tyler Love of Darien Way, Leicester, was found guilty of manslaughter and was today sentenced to eight years detention. He will have to serve half the sentence. 

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Love can be named for the first time after Judge Levett agreed to lift a court order banning publication of his name because of his age following an application by the EADT.

Both Snook and Love had denied murder.

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

Love admitted burglary at Mr Ralph’s home and stealing a rifle and a shotgun.

Judge Levett said he had given Snook and Love the opportunity to provide information about the  current whereabouts of those stolen firearms but he had “received nothing but silence”.

“All firearms represent a danger to public safety when they fall into the hands of those who are not authorised to possess them,” he said.

“The fact that you, Leighton Snook, are not prepared to say where either of these two firearms went, means that I ask myself why you are not prepared to assist in the recovery of the guns. I do not think it’s because you do not know, nor that you are scared or in fear of any retribution, but rather I suspect you want to protect the criminals in whose hands these firearms now remain in their possession.,” said the judge.

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

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

The court heard the pair were seen on CCTV near Mr Ralph's home in Halstead Road, Aldham, on December 28 last year.

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

Two guns were stolen as well as his Volvo which was used by Snook and Love to travel to Sussex.

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 Ralph’s niece Tina discovered his body the next 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. 

Snook claimed he’d gone to Mr Ralph’s home with the teenager to ask if he could borrow his car.

He said he’d been hoping to steal cannabis from an outbuilding in the Colchester area and wanted to borrow Mr Ralph’s car.

He said Mr Ralph had agreed to let him borrow his car and was fine when he left him.

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

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

Love chose not to give evidence during the trial.

Mr Spence told the court the guns stolen from Mr Ralph were still missing.

Christopher Paxton QC for Love said he was “immature, impressionable and easily led” and his role in what happened was minor.

In a letter to the judge Love described Mr Ralph’s death as “ totally unacceptable” and apologised to the pensioner’s family for getting involved in the burglary at his home.

“It was never my intentions (sic) for someone to be really seriously injured or that someone be killed,” he said.

Isabella Forshall QC for Snook said he had a difficult childhood and had used cocaine from a young age.