Man found guilty of killing 83-year-old relative with teenage accomplice

Leighton Snook, 28, was said to have been ‘desperate for money’ when he attacked Donald Ralph at his home in Essex.

Donald Ralph
Donald Ralph

A man and a teenager have been found guilty of killing a pensioner, who was strangled in his home, and then stealing his car and two guns.

A trial at Ipswich Crown Court was told 28-year-old Leighton Snook was in debt to a drug dealer and was “desperate for money”.

Simon Spence QC, prosecuting, said Snook and a 16-year-old boy went to the home of 83-year-old Donald Ralph, a distant relative of Snook’s, “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” in his bungalow in Aldham, Essex, on December 28, Mr Spence said.

Leighton Snook, 28, was found guilty at Ipswich Crown Court of the murder of his distant relative, 83-year-old Donald Ralph. (Essex Police/ PA)
Leighton Snook, 28, was found guilty at Ipswich Crown Court of the murder of his distant relative Donald Ralph, 83 (Essex Police/PA)

“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 Snook and the teenager travelled to Hastings in East Sussex in Mr Ralph’s Volvo.

Essex Police said Mr Ralph’s niece, Tina Ralph, found his body on December 29 and alerted police.

The force said Snook was found guilty of Mr Ralph’s murder on Thursday, with the 16-year-old convicted of manslaughter.

Donald Ralph was described as 'loved and respected' by his niece. (Family handout/ PA)
Donald Ralph was described as ‘loved and respected’ by his niece (family handout/ PA)

Snook, of Albrighton Croft, Colchester, was also convicted of burglary, police said, while the teenager, from Leicester, admitted burglary.

The boy was cleared of murder.

Mr Spence said Snook was “related by step-marriage” to Mr Ralph.

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Egerton, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said afterwards: “This was a horrific attack on an elderly man in his own home by a distant family member and his accomplice.

“Leighton Snook and his 16-year-old friend went to Donald’s home with the intention of stealing his property for their own gain.

“We will never know exactly what happened inside his home that day, but Donald’s death was completely needless and these offenders will receive the punishment this violent act deserves.”

Donald Ralph death
A Browning shotgun was stolen from Donald Ralph’s home (Essex Police/ PA)

He said the stolen firearms have yet to be recovered.

In a statement released through police, Tina Ralph said: “Learning that a member of the family is responsible for murdering Don was a shock.

“The injuries he suffered and how he was killed are incomprehensible to me.

“He was loved and respected by the family.

“It is so hard to understand why anyone would have wanted to hurt him.”

Both defendants are due to be sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court on October 1.

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