Minimum 18-year term for gardener who stabbed widower to death
Published 11/01/2016 | 12:29
A gardener who murdered an elderly customer in a brutal attack in which he stabbed him more than 40 times has been jailed for life.
David Hall, 48, repeatedly knifed widower Dennis Plater in the kitchen of his home in Stroud, Gloucestershire after losing his temper in November 2014.
Hall will serve at least 18 years' imprisonment but may never be released, Bristol Crown Court heard.
Mr Plater, 82, had hired another gardener because of Hall's unreliability and left an apologetic answerphone message on his mobile phone, informing him of the job loss and thanking him for his work.
Hall visited the model railway enthusiast the following day and stabbed him to death in his kitchen after hearing the news in person.
He then "cleared out" the money in Mr Plater's home, leaving just 20p in the pensioner's wallet.
At a previous hearing Hall had admitted murder but denied it was for financial gain saying he lost his temper after Mr Plater refused to shake his hand.
After lengthy legal argument Judge Neil Ford QC, The Recorder of Bristol, ruled Mr Plater's killing was not financially motivated but said Hall stole all the cash he could find afterwards.
"You went to Mr Plater's home and he invited you in and gave you a drink of water. Only you know what happened thereafter," the judge said.
"You say it was when he refused to take your hand, turned his back on you and asked you to leave that you lost your temper.
"You launched a dreadful attack on Mr Plater in his kitchen stabbing him repeatedly. He suffered over 40 wounds, particularly to his head and face.
"I have no doubt that when you commenced that attack you intended to kill him. You didn't check on him, you didn't call for an ambulance and you didn't call the police.
"Instead you washed your hands and wiped the knife and removed all the money you could find from that man's home as he lay dead or dying on his kitchen floor.
"That was by any judgment an extraordinary callous act."
The judge added: "You gave lengthy evidence and even when you were expressly asked about it you showed not the slightest bit of remorse for your actions.
"At one stage you said you were sorry. It was wholly insincere and what was abundantly clear to me was that you were most concerned about you own predicament.
"You have caused a great deal of suffering and loss to Mr Plater's family. It is deeply distressing for them that a loving family man in his twilight years was brutally murdered in his own home where he was entitled to feel safe."
During the trial of issue, prosecutor Christopher Quinlan QC said the attack was designed "to inflict pain for sadistic reasons and to extract information".
Following the murder, Hall "cleared out" more than £100 in cash from Mr Plater's home, Mr Quinlan said.
In October 2014, Hall stole £557.80 from a Costa Coffee and was accused of burgling customers' homes.
He then secretly moved to Portsmouth - failing to turn up at Mr Plater's home for five weeks.
Mr Plater's family urged him to find a replacement but the pensioner insisted he wished to give Hall a "second chance".
Daughter Susan Barker added: "He was a very fair and trusting man. We feel sick he may have been made to suffer in any way."
Hall caught a train from Portsmouth to Stroud on November 6 and walked straight to Mr Plater's home.
Giving evidence at the trial of issue, he said Mr Plater was "surprised" to see him but invited him inside for a chat.
"He mentioned that he had a new gardener at the end of the conversation," Hall said.
"He also mentioned about the thefts. That's when I lost my temper. He asked me to leave. I put my hand out to shake his hand and he just pushed it away.
"I just snapped. I picked up a knife and I stabbed him."
Hall left the property, using Mr Plater's key to lock the front door, then threw the used knife and key into a nearby canal.
He caught a train back to Portsmouth and was arrested by police in Southsea, Hampshire, two days later. Officers found £107.99 in his rucksack.
Mr Plater's body was discovered on November 7 by his neighbour and new gardener, who used a spare key to gain entry.