Lodger who decapitated pub landlord Scott Gilhooly is jailed for life

Lawrence Bourke of Lister Road, Braintree and pub landlord Scott Gilhooly

Lawrence Bourke of Lister Road, Braintree has been sentenced at Basildon Crown Court for the murder of Swiss Bell pub landlord Scott Gilhooly - Credit: Essex Police

A lodger who stabbed to death and decapitated an Essex pub landlord who was "a joy to everyone" has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Father-of-one Scott Gilhooly was discovered at the Swiss Bell pub in Mountbatten Road on May 17 last year.

His friend and "heavy drinker" Lawrence Bourke, of Lister Road, Braintree, was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court today (Friday, May 21) after previously pleading guilty to the murder.

Senior investigating officer, detective inspector Andy Clarkson, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “His tragic death leaves an enormous void in the lives of all his family and friends. Scott’s close, loving family are forever broken by his sad, unnecessary death and have been living with the devastating consequences ever since.

“There is no doubt that this was a most heinous, senseless and unprovoked murder and while no sentence will ever bring Scott back, I hope today’s hearing will help his family move forward.”

Scott Gilhooly owned the Swiss Bell Pub in Mountbatten Road, Braintree

Scott Gilhooly owned the Swiss Bell Pub in Mountbatten Road, Braintree - Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

In a statement, Mr Gilhooly's family added: “The family express their greatest admiration for the challenging circumstances all emergency services face each and every day

“They also praise both Essex Police and prosecuting team led by Mr Andrew Jackson for their thorough investigation, diligent case handling and empathy during a very sensitive and most distressing time”

Sentencing, judge Mr Justice Griffiths, said Bourke, 24, had taken "sadistic pleasure" in the gruesome murder.

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He said Mr Gilhooly, 44, was a "joy to everyone" and the "life and soul the party" who was "a constant source of support to his family and others".

Addressing Bourke, who he described him a "terrible lodger", he added that the landlord was "generous to a fault, and you were one of those who benefited from his generosity and his kindness".

"There was much more to him than his last day," the judge said, adding: "The happiness that he brought into the world. The good deeds he did."

Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told the court that Bourke attacked Mr Gilhooly with a knife and axe, and dismembered his body to "humiliate" him

In February 2019, Bourke, who was a frequent customer of the pub, moved in and despite Bourke's heaving drinking the pub landlord "put up with his behaviour". 

On May 15, Mr Gilhooly told a friend he was "angry" at Bourke for buying the wrong paint for the pub, which they were revamping ahead of reopening, and because he was not paying his rent.

"He had become fed up with the defendant and wanted him to either pay the rent or leave," Mr Jackson said.

Lawrence Bourke has been sentenced at Basildon Crown Court for the murder of Scott Gilhooly

Lawrence Bourke has been sentenced at Basildon Crown Court for the murder of Scott Gilhooly - Credit: Essex Police

"It's plain that hours before the murder relations between the two men were at a very low ebb."

Shortly after 8am on May 17, Bourke sent a series of Facebook messages to his sister boasting of what he had done to Mr Gilhooly.

One read: "I just stabbed Scott to death ha ha ha ha," while another said: "I loved killing him."

He asked his sister to keep this "a secret", but she drove with their father to the pub where they called 999.

Mr Jackson described the "very grim" scene police officers found upstairs.

"Mr Gilhooly's headless body was lying on his front on the floor of his bathroom," he said.

"Mr Gilhooly was naked, there were clearly a number of large open wounds to his back.

"Mr Gilhooly's head was on a bed in the defendant's bedroom and embedded in it was the axe."

While being arrested, Bourke, who had blood on his hands and clothing, "tried to engage officers in jokes and laughter", the court was told.

The trial heard he later claimed to a prison governor that a naked Mr Gilhooly had entered his room and "come for him".

Bourke said he had grabbed a knife to "scare" the landlord and admitted decapitating him.

Scott Gilhooly died at Swiss Bell in Mountbatten Road, Braintree 

Scott Gilhooly died at Swiss Bell in Mountbatten Road, Braintree - Credit: Essex Police

But Mr Jackson said the forensic evidence did not match Bourke's account, as it indicated the landlord was attacked in the flat hallway.

Citing the findings of medical experts, Mr Jackson said there was "no evidence" the defendant suffered from a mental illness.

The prosecutor submitted that the sexual orientation of Mr Gilhooly, who was gay, may have provoked some "hostility" from Bourke.

But Bourke's lawyer Barry Gilbert said he denied the killing had anything to do with homophobia.

Mr Gilbert said Bourke "says that he's very sorry for what he did", describing the murder as "inexplicable".

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