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Men jailed after after burning body find

PUBLISHED: 07:23 02 April 2003 | UPDATED: 16:28 24 February 2010

DRUG users were "overtaken by panic" after a man was found dead in a squalid flat in Danbury, a court heard yesterday .

The body was wrapped up in a carpet and taken to a lay-by at West Hanningfield where it was burnt on a funeral pyre, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

DRUG users were “overtaken by panic” after a man was found dead in a squalid flat in Danbury, a court heard yesterday .

The body was wrapped up in a carpet and taken to a lay-by at West Hanningfield where it was burnt on a funeral pyre, Chelmsford Crown Court was told.

Police began an investigation after the remains of Richard Corbett's body were found on June 26, last year. Mr Corbett, 32, ran the Crown Pub at Witham with his mother Eleanor.

Robert Small, 46, and Jason Reason, 29, both of Maldon Road, Danbury, admitted conspiring together and with persons unknown to prevent the lawful and decent burial of a body. They were both sentenced to two years imprisonment.

Judge Alasdair Darroch told them: “I sentence you on the basis that you helped transport the body but were not involved in the subsequent burning of it.

“Nevertheless anyone who dies is entitled to a dignified burial, so are the relatives. The relatives of anyone who dies in curious circumstances are entitled to a full investigation by the coroner. By your activities you made all of that impossible.

“It was, no doubt, because of panic you didn't want the police coming to investigate your drug sources. You put your interests first.”

Martyn Levett, prosecuting, said the badly burnt remains were found at a lay-by at West Hanningfield. The body was found on a funeral pyre of five old tyres and a carpet.

The court heard that on June 25 last year Richard Corbett went to Broomfield Hospital for treatment for an abscess on his right arm. While there he was visited by his mother and that was the last time she saw her son alive.

Mr Corbett left hospital at 11pm and went to visit a flat at Baxters, Danbury, which was rented by Robert Small. Jason Reason and a woman called Ann Moray also lived there.

That night a considerable amount of heroin was in that flat and was used by probably everyone there, said Mr Levett.

Although Mr Corbett ingested “a potentially fatal amount of heroin” that was not the cause of his death. He died from asphyxia due to suffocation. It was believed his head had slumped forward into a dustbin liner which was full and this may have led to asphyxiation.

Mr Levett said the next morning Ann Moray was woken up by Small. He was in a hysterical state and said there was a dead body in the kitchen.

The court heard that Mr Corbett's body was hidden under a bed until later that evening when Reason and Small rolled it into a green carpet and placed two black bin liners over the head and feet.

The body was placed into the back of Small's Ford Fiesta and taken to West Hanningfield.

When Reason and Small later returned to the flat Small was heard to say: “We've burnt the bastard.”

Dafydd Enoch, mitigating, said Reason was a long-term heroin addict.

“Drug taking at this level carries with it the potential of tragedy of this type,” he said.

Panic overtook the people in the case who were in a house of drugs, said Mr Enoch. It started out as a murder enquiry and there had been a detailed and painstaking investigation. “On any view Reason was not the prime mover in any shape or form,” said Mr Enoch.

Ben Maguire, representing Small, said in June last year he was in a constant drug haze. “Not only was his clarity of thought affected by heroin, but he was not in particularly good health.”

Speaking afterwards, senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Win Bernard said: “From the very beginning, we knew this was going to be an extremely difficult case. The exact circumstances of Ricky's tragic death may never be known, but the guilty pleas proffered leads me to say that we, and clearly the court, are satisfied that the normal processes of dealing with such a case was frustrated by the accused.

“The court saw fit to sentence accordingly and we are satisfied that all that can be done has been. This has obviously been very difficult for Ricky's family, particularly his mother Eleanor and sister Natalie.

“However, they understand the difficulties that we faced and will try to get on with their lives as best they can now.”

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