Callous killer jailed for life
A callous killer who stole jewellery from the body of his disabled victim was jailed for life yesterday.Neil Hirrel, of Wensum Way in Fakenham, dramatically changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his retrial, after a previous hearing was postponed in October.
A callous killer who stole jewellery from the body of his disabled victim was jailed for life yesterday.
Neil Hirrel, of Wensum Way in Fakenham, dramatically changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his retrial, after a previous hearing was postponed in October.
The 40-year-old admitted the murder of Anthony Griffiths, 60, who was found dead at his Hall Close flat on March 10 last year with three stab wounds, including the deadly wound which shattered his sternum and pierced his heart.
Norwich Crown Court heard that Hirrel borrowed a 12in kitchen knife from a friend the previous day and went to Mr Griffiths' flat with the intention of recovering �55 which he claimed was owed to him as part of a tobacco deal.
The court heard that Hirrel was later seen on CCTV trying to withdraw money from a cashpoint using his victim's debit card, and he returned to the dead man's flat later to stage a burglary - stealing a bracelet, a watch, rings and a Sky digibox.
At his earlier trial, Hirrel's barrister said Mr Griffiths had started a fight with the knife, but another assailant had delivered the fatal blow after Hirrel left.
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But yesterday, prosecutors said forensic evidence had proved all three wounds were delivered in rapid succession.
Judge Philip Clegg described the crime as 'vile and despicable' as he sentenced Hirrel to life imprisonment with a minimum of 19 years before he could be eligible for parole.
'Perhaps the most unedifying aspect of your behaviour is that having realised you killed Mr Griffiths you stole from his corpse,' said Judge Clegg.
'You have known your victim for some years and you knew full well that he was physically disabled.
'Nevertheless, you seized the knife from his grasp and inflicted three deep stab wounds.
'Although it may well be you did not realise you may have killed him you did not seek help or call an ambulance. Instead you went hotfoot to the nearest cashpoint with his debit card and attempted to draw out �100.'
Anthony Davies QC, for Hirrel, said: 'The defendant has always accepted that he visited that flat with a knife.
'He accepted there was a struggle, during the course of which the knife must have wounded Anthony Griffiths. What he did not accept was that he had killed him.
'He now accepts that he must have stabbed the deceased and by reason of the force required to inflict the fatal stab wound that it was no accident.
'He accepts by his plea that he must have intended at least to cause serious harm, or to kill.'
The court heard Hirrel was on a methadone prescription and had been drinking on the afternoon of the murder.
Christopher Morgan, prosecuting, said that after leaving Mr Griffiths' flat, Hirrel had dumped the knife and the bank card in drains on Holt Road before returning home to his partner Sharon Leeder, where he washed his bloodstained clothes and trainers.
Mr Morgan said the killer went back to his victim's flat twice to steal the jewellery and cover his tracks.
'What the defendant was trying to achieve afterwards was to create the impression there had been some form of burglary, carried out by others,' he said.
Mr Morgan said Mr Griffiths needed a mobility scooter and a mobile commode because of an alcohol-related disability.
But Mr Davies said: 'Although Mr Griffiths may have been someone whose mobility was restricted, he was someone whose behaviour may not be deemed vulnerable, even if his physical state was.
'He was someone who would fight his own corner.'