Pair guilty over savage murder of widower in botched burglary

TWO men who murdered a widowed farmer in a botched burglary at his home are due to be sentenced today.

Gary Smith, 21, originally from Bridlington, and his nephew Frankie Parker, 26, battered Llywelyn Thomas with a crowbar and left him for dead after forcing their way into his house in Chittering, Cambridgeshire.

The body of the 76-year-old was found the next day after neighbours became concerned that his lights had been left on all night.

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The pair denied murder but a jury at Cambridge Crown Court convicted them after deliberating for less than two hours.

During the trial it emerged Smith was jailed for a similar attack on a pensioner in her home in Kilham, East Yorkshire, last February – less than two months after killing Mr Thomas in December 2011.

In that incident he battered a 73-year-old with her own walking stick before stealing her car. He was jailed for five years for burglary and aggravated vehicle taking at Hull Crown Court in June.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil had told the trial in Cambridge that Smith and Parker knocked on Mr Thomas’s door before assaulting him and forcing their way inside.

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They then raided his home before subjecting him to another savage beating and stealing his car, which could not go faster than 20mph, to make their getaway.

Mr Khalil said: “They knocked on the front door, forced their way in and restrained Mr Thomas from impeding them and set about burgling him.

“Mr Thomas was driven back into his own home and assaulted on his doorstep.

“They then set about their primary intended business of committing a burglary.

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“Afterwards, instead of leaving Mr Thomas unhurt, perhaps even bound upstairs, they set about a savage beating – he did not stand a chance.

“The assault was mainly to his head, face and upper back.

“There were signs of stamping, blood on the floor and doorways, and no defence injuries, so it seems that Mr Thomas was unable even to try to defend himself.

“He was left for dead on the upstairs landing.”

The father-of-one, originally from South Wales, had lived alone since his wife died 10 years earlier.

His attackers, who were both living in Cambridgeshire at the time of the murder, had insisted they played no part in the attack.

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Smith, of Fen Road travellers’ site in Chesterton, said he had tried to stop his nephew while Parker, of Nene Road, Ely, claimed he had been searching another room for valuables at the time.

Smith was also convicted of robbery, while Parker admitted that charge.

Smith’s father, John Smith, 67, of Wold Gate, Bridlington, previously admitted assisting an offender by providing a false alibi. He will also be sentenced today.

Speaking after the verdicts, Det Chief Insp George Barr, who led the investigation, said: “This was a savage murder of an elderly man in his own home.

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“Smith and Parker are both career criminals who had committed countless burglaries. They must have seen Llywelyn Thomas as an easy target for a burglary but the level of violence used against him was completely unjustified. He would have posed little threat to them, but they subjected him to a brutal and sustained beating.”

Frank Ferguson, deputy chief crown prosecutor for the East of England, said: “Mr Thomas was described by his family as a smiling and likeable man who was generous, modest, kind and unassuming.

“At the age of 76 he was in good health and still enjoyed an active and full life until it was cruelly cut short. Mr Thomas’s family and friends have had to listen to distressing evidence during this trial and we hope the verdict brings them some comfort.”