A “brutal, merciless and wicked” heroin addict who tied up and murdered a vulnerable man in his home has been jailed for life.
Phillip Haslam, 36, must now serve a minimum of 32 years in prison after a jury at Northampton Crown Court unanimously convicted him of the murder of John Kiernan, 62.
His decomposing body was discovered when police officers forced their way into his flat in Havelock Street, Kettering, on October 1 last year, almost two weeks after he was murdered.
His decomposing body was found with feet and hands ‘hog-tied’ behind his back, he had been gagged with a pair of socks and then hit up to five times with a brick to the head.
Haslam, of Gloucester Close, Kettering, had targeted the vulnerable alcoholic in the weeks leading up to his death, stealing money, bank cards and personal items to fund his spiralling addiction.
Mr Kiernan, who lived alone since the death of his mother, was tied up and forced to sign a £90 cheque as Haslam had stolen his bank cards and cash during the previous burglaries.
He denied murder but admitted burgling Mr Kiernan’s house twice in the weeks leading up to the murder, as well as the robbery of another 62-year-old alcoholic in September 2011.
Raymond Heaviside, who was friends with Haslam’s partner Christine Windle, 37, was attacked with a hammer and robbed at her Duke Street address, prior to Mr Kiernan’s murder.
Mr Kiernan, who had worked as an electrician, took to drinking heavily after his mother’s death.
Passing sentence on Haslam, Mr Justice Henriques said: “You have committed hundreds of crimes and the motivation is all too obvious.
“You have had an addiction to class A drugs for a long time and your criminality escalated to satisfy your needs and those of your partner at the time.
“Your behaviour was brutal, merciless and wicked.
“This was exploitation from the outset and thereafter, when the golden goose stopped laying, you resorted to extreme violence.
“The robbery of Mr Heaviside was set up by your partner Christine Windle when he contacted her by phone. He rescued her from begging on the streets of Kettering and showed her kindness.
“He was lured and attacked, two fingers fractured, protecting his skull from the claw hammer.”
The High Court judge said that while Mr Heaviside spent three weeks in hospital recovering, CCTV footage from a cash point in Kettering showed the pair celebrating as they raided his bank account.
Mr Justice Henriques added: “And you continued to steal from John Kiernan. By September 12, he had had enough of you and complained to the police. I have seen the DVD, as have the jury.
“In my judgement, it was compelling. It allowed me to see how frail and vulnerable John Kiernan had become.
“On the night of September 19 and 20, you forced him to sign a cheque. Only you know how that was achieved and what order you smashed his skull, tied him up and gagged him.
“Knowing John Kiernan was seriously injured and possibly dead, you left him, just left him.
“Ten days later his body was found in a quite awful condition for which you are entirely responsible.
“Thereafter, you lied through your police interview, stupidly pleading not guilty, foregoing any credit and setting your counsel the impossible task of defending you.”
Haslam was sentenced to 12 years for the robbery of Mr Heaviside and 40 months for each burglary of Mr Kiernan’s home, committed prior to his murder.
The sentences will be served concurrent to the term of life imprisonment.
The judge added: “There are aggravating factors to the robbery, in particular the vulnerability of the victim. This was an elderly man deliberately targeted and there was also the abuse of trust.
“You knew Mr Heaviside trusted Christine Windle, who lured him into the premises.
“It was extreme force on a vulnerable victim with the use of a weapon.”
Sentencing Haslam to life, the judge added: “I have concluded in your favour that when you delivered the blows, bound and gagged Mr Kiernan, your intention was to incapacitate him while you and Christine Windle removed money from his bank account.
“You left him to die or he was dead.
“I have concluded you did visit his premises post the attack.
“You did nothing at all to cause anybody to go to Mr Kiernan’s rescue.
“You left him there for a period of time when he must have been dead. You will be an elderly man before you are able to apply for parole and you only have yourself to blame for that.”
Mr Justice Henriques, who said the guilty verdict was inevitable, said the murder was also “unanswerable” as Haslam chose not to give evidence in his defence.
He added: “Whether you are ever granted parole or not, I cannot say.”
Christine Windle, now of Birmingham, pleaded guilty to organising the robbery of Mr Heaviside and handling stolen cash and cheques taken by Haslam, who she was said to be besotted with.
Mr Justice Henriques said: “Mr Heaviside showed you a great deal of kindness and you rewarded him by arranging to have him robbed. I accept Phillip Haslam went further than you anticipated but that’s the risk you take when setting up a robbery that’s going to be executed by another.
“You knew he was a vulnerable, elderly man who showed you much kindness.
“I have regard for the terrible effect this has had upon him and when you bid farewell to this court, I suggest you read his daughter’s account of the terrible effect this has had on his life.”
Sentencing her to six year for the robbery with two years consecutive for handling stolen goods, Mr Justice Henriques added: “It was no secret Phillip Haslam was burgling Mr Kiernan’s flat and you knew perfectly well he was burgling a vulnerable alcoholic.”