Saturday 22 October 2016

Man who murdered landlord with hammer over unpaid rent was arrested in Galway after a month on the run

Benjamin Wright

Published 22/06/2016 | 15:13

Swansea Crown Court
Swansea Crown Court

A man who attacked his landlord with a hammer before dumping his body in a quarry and then going on the run abroad has been found guilty of murder.

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Swansea Crown Court heard that David Craig Ellis, 41, smashed the skull of Alec Warburton following a row over unpaid rent.

Weeks before the killing, Ellis had sent a note to his fellow housemates pretending to be the 59-year-old bachelor saying that he was "going away for a while".

After bludgeoning Mr Warburton to death in his own home in Sketty, Swansea, Ellis drove his landlord's lifeless body 200 miles to north Wales before throwing it almost 100ft down the side of a disused slate mine.

Ellis later jumped on a ferry from Birkenhead to Belfast before going on the run.

He was eventually arrested at a guest house in Galway, Ireland, more than a month later.

Ellis had admitted manslaughter and claimed he had "lost control" after his landlord made unwanted sexual advances towards him.

However, on the third day of deliberations a jury convicted Ellis of murder.

Following the jury's verdict, senior prosecutor Felicity Galvin described Ellis as a cold-blooded killer.

She said: "Ellis went to great lengths to plan the attack and then attempt to cover his tracks. Prior to the attack, he devised a note that he used later to deceive Mr Warburton's tenants into believing he was still alive. He made concerted efforts to clean the murder scene and used Mr Warburton's phone to facilitate further deception of his victim's family and tenants.

"He then drove to North Wales to dispose of Mr Warburton's body, before fleeing the country in a bid to evade justice. However, thanks to the diligence and persistence of the investigating and prosecuting teams, he was brought back to Wales to face up to his actions in a criminal court."

Ms Galvin said the Crown was able to build a strong case against Ellis thanks to witnesses who provided statements to police and gave evidence in court.

She added: "While today's criminal case outcome cannot take away the hurt and loss felt by Mr Warburton's family and friends, we hope that Ellis' conviction may at least be of some comfort to them as they move forward with their lives."

Jurors heard that Ellis moved into Mr Warburton's home in Vivian Road in May 2015 following a break-up with his girlfriend.

Within weeks, the jobless North Walian had fallen behind with his rent.

In the prosecution's opening of the case, the Crown told jurors about a letter Ellis had typed up on July 28 pretending to be from Mr Warburton.

The fake letter, which was sent to the four other tenants in the three-storey property, read: "Unfortunately I'm having to go away for a while to give palliative care to an old friend.

"I've spoken to Dave, he'll cover my chores and will also be responsible for collecting rent which is due on August 1.

"Please pay promptly so Dave can pay it into my bank account. Any problems, don't hesitate to contact me ... Alec."

Ellis later claimed his landlord had barged into his room demanding sex to make up for the missed rent payments and he had "lost control", hitting Mr Warburton five or six times.

However, forensic Home Office pathologist Brian Rodgers later told the trial he found no sign of any defensive injuries on Mr Warburton.

Dr Rogers said he believed that three serious skull defects inflicted on the deceased had been caused by blows from a hammer to the back of the head.

On August 1, Ellis then used Mr Warburton's green Peugeot to transport his landlord's dead body up to secluded and disused Prince Llewelyn slate quarry in Dolwyddelan - which he knew about from his childhood days in north Wales.

He later drove back to Swansea before using the vehicle to get to Birkenhead port - where it was found abandoned.

Detectives later discovered Ellis had boarded a ferry to Belfast before sneaking across the border to Ireland.

He was arrested at the Abbey Lodge guest house in Galway, more than 230 miles south of Belfast, on September 18.

Garda Sergeant Adrian O'Neill later said Ellis had asked him to get "Google Maps" on his phone "so he could show where he had dumped a body".

Ellis will be sentenced by High Court judge Mr Justice Knowles on Thursday.

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