Aldham: Pair convicted of pensioner's death
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A man has been convicted of murdering an elderly relative after a vicious assault in his home.
Leighton Snook (pictured above) had contacted Donald Ralph in the weeks and days before his death and asked for money as he owed a debt to drug dealers.
Snook returned on 28 December last year with a teenage accomplice and Snook beat and strangled the 83-year-old to death at his home in Halstead Road, Aldham.
They then stole his car and two guns and drove to Hastings in Sussex. Mr Ralph’s niece, Tina Ralph, found his body the following day and alerted police.
Officers tracked down and arrested Snook and the 16-year-old boy within three days and they were both charged in connection with his death.
Snook, 28, of Albrighton Croft, Colchester, had denied murder and burglary.
The boy, who is from Leicester and cannot be identified for legal reasons, also denied murder.
They stood trial at Ipswich Crown Court, which started on 14 June, and a jury returned verdicts today, Thursday 12 August.
Snook was convicted of murder and burglary.
The boy was convicted of manslaughter and found not guilty of murder. He had previously admitted a charge of burglary.
Both are due to be sentenced on 1 October at Ipswich Crown Court.
The jury heard the pair had taken a taxi from Mersea Road in Colchester to Aldham.
CCTV footage captured them walking towards Mr Ralph’s address, and subsequently showed his car driving back towards Colchester after the murder.
Snook’s DNA was found on both Mr Ralph’s hands and on clothing around his neck.
A knife was later found inside the stolen car and DNA from both Snook and the teenage boy were found on the handle.
Speaking after the verdicts were announced, Detective Chief Inspector Scott Egerton, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said:
“This was a horrific attack on an elderly man in his own home by a distant family member and his accomplice.
“Leighton Snook and his 16-year-old friend went to Donald’s home with the intention of stealing his property for their own gain.
“We will never know exactly what happened inside his home that day, but Donald’s death was completely needless and these offenders will receive the punishment this violent act deserves.
“Our thoughts remain with Donald’s family and friends, who have lost a much loved relative and friend.
“Despite extensive enquiries, we have yet to recover the stolen firearms and we ask anyone with information on their whereabouts to contact us or Crimestoppers.”
Mr Ralph's niece Tina said:
“Learning that a member of the family is responsible for murdering Don was a shock.
“The injuries he suffered and how he was killed are incomprehensible to me. He was loved and respected by the family.
“It is so hard to understand why anyone would have wanted to hurt him.
“His extended family all live locally and this has really had an impact on us all.
“Don was also an incredibly well-liked and respected member of the community.
“He would get his newspaper each day from the local petrol station, he went to the bookmakers frequently too, and he belonged to about four local fishing clubs.
“So many people have offered their condolences.
“I know our family and the community are keen to see justice for Don. He was very much loved by everyone and will be greatly missed.”
The missing guns are a self-loading Ruger rifle 22 RF, serial number 354-66591, and a Browning shot gun 12 bore over/under, serial number 419 13 MW.
Below are images of the Leupold scope on the missing Ruger rifle, and the Browning shotgun.
Anyone with information about the missing guns is asked to contact us via [email protected] or online at https://www.essex.police.uk
Information can also be given to independent charity Crimestoppers 100% anonymously on 0800 555 111 or https://crimestoppers-uk.org