16 June 2021

Pensioner was strangled in his village home during burglary, court told

16 June 2021

A pensioner was strangled in his own home during a burglary by a man who owed money to a drug dealer, and a teenage associate, a court heard.

Donald Ralph, 83, was murdered in his bungalow in the village of Aldham, Essex on December 28 last year by the two defendants who stole two guns and Mr Ralph’s Volvo car, prosecutors allege.

Leighton Snook, 28, and a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified, deny Mr Ralph’s murder.

Simon Spence QC, prosecuting, told Ipswich Crown Court that the two defendants, acting together, murdered Mr Ralph then stole a shotgun, a rifle and a Volvo that belonged to him.

He said that Snook was “related by step-marriage” to Mr Ralph and was “desperate for money” in the weeks leading to the killing.

Snook said in a phone call that he owed between £6,000 and £8,000 to a drug dealer, Mr Spence said.

Mr Ralph was found dead by his niece, Tina Ralph, on December 29, who noticed the previous day that his car was not parked in its usual place and later went to check on him.

Mr Spence said that Mr Ralph had previously told his niece about “a visit he had, to use his words, from a young lad who wanted to borrow money”.

Prosecutors allege that the “young lad” was Snook.

Mr Spence said that the two defendants travelled to Mr Ralph’s home, by taxi and then on foot for the final part of the journey, “in order either to obtain money directly from him or to take items they could sell in order to raise money”.

Mr Ralph was “beaten until he bled”, Mr Spence said.

“He was then strangled to death.

“His landline telephone was ripped out of the socket in the wall to prevent any calls being made.”

He said that the following day, on December 29, the pair travelled in the Volvo to Hastings in Sussex, with Snook driving and the teenager as his passenger.

Mr Spence said that a person known to the teenager lived in Hastings.

He said the pair left the car there, with the teenager travelling to Colchester by train where he was arrested later on December 29 and Snook arrested “a few days later”.

“Mr Ralph lived alone at his home but, despite his advanced years and the fact he was hard of hearing, he lived a busy and active life,” said Mr Spence.

“You will hear he enjoyed country pursuits such as shooting and fishing and he did odd jobs in the locality for his neighbours and friends.

“He was, it seemed, a much-liked and popular member of the local community.”

He said Mr Ralph held a certificate allowing him to possess shotguns and rifles, which he kept in a locked gun safe, with the keys on the fireplace mantle shelf.

The teenager, from Leicester, admits burglary.

Snook, of no fixed address, denies burglary.

Both defendants deny the theft of the Volvo.

The trial continues.

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