- November 2, 2013
A jury has convicted two men and a woman over the murder of a rough sleeper by the pitch and putt greens on Hove seafront.
Michael Clark, 51, of Trafalgar Street, Brighton, and Edward Phillips, 49, who has links to Brighton, were found guilty of murdering Lea Williams.
Lauren Bishop, 36, of Eastbourne Road, Seaford, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder 45-year-old Mr Williams.
The jury’s verdicts came yesterday (Friday 1 November) at the end of a five-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.
The two convicted men, who are both unemployed, and Bishop, a nurse and mother of four, will be sentenced by Judge Anthony Scott-Gall on Monday (4 November).
The men are expected to receive life sentences and Bishop will also be jailed.
The court was told that the body of Mr Williams was found by local homeless project workers in an seafront archway known as the bat caves on Monday 11 February.
Post-mortem tests found that he died from severe injuries to his face and head caused by a heavy object. He also had several broken ribs.
Mr Williams was an alcoholic from Hastings who came to Brighton a year before he died. He spent his final year living in an archway under the promenade in Hove beside the pitch and putt course.
The court was told that Bishop had confronted Mr Williams after he swore at another person while drinking with a number of homeless friends, including Clark and Phillips.
They were near Portland Road, in Hove, at the time, in February. Bishop threatened Mr Williams, saying that it wasn’t over yet.
Clark and Phillips then murdered Mr Williams “at the behest or request” of Bishop, the prosecution said.
Mr Williams was struck 20 to 30 times, possibly with a metal railing which he kept for protection.
After the case Detective Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, of Sussex Police, said: “It is clear from evidence that Lauren Bishop instigated the attack on Lea Williams and sent Clark and Phillips to carry it out.
“The reward for Phillips for carrying out her instructions was sexual favours, which he received later that evening.
“Phillips claimed to be a good friend to Lea. However, the offer of sexual favours from Bishop meant more to him than that friendship as he took part in this brutal attack and tried to blame Clark.
“Clark claimed he had suffered blackouts and had no memory of what had happened but, so compelling was the evidence, he has also been found guilty of murder.”
The court was told how all three met up after and celebrated by buying and drinking alcohol on the seafront.
CCTV from the Londis store nearby showed Phillips and Clark laughing and joking shortly after carrying what the court heard was a brutal, vicious and horrific attack.
Detective Chief Inspector Pollard said: “The loss of a family member is always tragic, especially in these circumstances, so we are pleased with the verdicts today.
“This was a brutal, vicious attack with resulted in horrific injuries being inflicted on Lea Williams.
“I would like pass on my thanks to those members of the public who came forward and to the services who provide support to the homeless community across Brighton and Hove City for the help and support they gave to my officers who worked on this inquiry.
“It was a challenging case but the determination of those who worked on the inquiry made sure those responsible were brought to justice.”