Kettering murder victim ‘not found for two weeks’

Murder victim John Kiernan
Murder victim John Kiernan

The body of a 62-year-old alcoholic may have laid undiscovered in his Kettering home for two weeks after he was tied up, gagged and killed with a blunt object, a jury heard.

Phillip Haslam, 36 is accused of murdering John Kiernan, a vulnerable alcoholic who lived alone, after breaking into his home in Havelock Street, Kettering, in September last year.

Mr Kiernan’s decomposing body was found by police when they forced their way into his flat on October 1, almost two weeks after he is thought to have been trussed up, gagged and killed.

A jury at Northampton Crown Court has heard his hands and feet were “hog-tied” with electrical wire, he was gagged with a pair of socks and then killed with a brick.

Professor Peter Vanezis, who conducted the post-mortem examination at Leicester Royal Infirmary on October 2, said the cause of death had been severe head injuries, contributed to by asphyxia.

He said Mr Kiernan’s body was in an advanced state of decomposition when he examined the scene, 13 days after Haslam is alleged to have murdered him.

He said: “It was quite clear that he had a gag around his mouth and a sock inside his mouth had caused some obstruction to his airways and with the way he was tied, it would have resulted with some difficulty in breathing.”

David Herbert, prosecuting, asked how may blows had been delivered to Mr Kiernan’s head.

Prof Vanezis said: “There were three separate wounds. But when bodies decompose like this, it is not an easy matter to determine the number of blows.

“I would say it was severe or substantial force with a heavy blunt implement.

“It definitely was not a punch.”

Haslam, of Gloucester Close, Kettering, denies murder but has admitted twice burgling Mr Kiernan in the weeks leading up to his death, to fund his addiction to heroin.

He is on trial with Christine Windle, 37, who denies burglary of the Havelock Street flat.

The couple had been staying with Louise Wall, 32, and husband Levoy Berry, 31, in Gloucester Close, Kettering, where police found a pair of trainers and gloves with traces of Mr Kiernan’s blood.

Ms Wall, her husband and his brother Shane Berry, 29, have told the jury Haslam allegedly came back on September 21 with blood on the sleeve of his jacket and confessed to the killing.

Nicholas Syfret QC, for Haslam, said it was Levoy Berry who was responsible for the murder and accused Louise Wall of lying in order to protect him.

He said: “Is this an invention by you because the coat is Phillip Haslam’s and links him to the death of John Kiernan? What you are doing is protecting the true killer, who is your husband.”

She said: “For one, I did not know the man was dead, I just knew a man was hurt somewhere and two, I would not cover for my husband and three, I really like Phil and I’m gutted I have to be here to give evidence but he’s done wrong.”

Levoy Berry, 31, told the jury how Haslam confessed to him and his brother Shane.

Mr Herbert said: “How did he seem to you when he got home?”

He said: “Not the same, just different. It was just the way he was acting. It was strange.

“He told me he had just been round to someone’s house in Havelock Street and tied someone up and hit him with a brick. There was blood on his white jacket, the sleeve and lower part of it.

“I did not believe it to begin with that he had done what he said he’d done.

“He seemed like he was laughing, to begin with.”

Mr Syfret said: “What I’m going to say to you is that it was you who was wearing the gloves at the time they were soaked in John Kiernan’s blood and it was you who is, in effect, the murderer.”

Levoy Berry, who said he has has been a heroin addict for 13 years, denied taking part in the fatal burglary or responsibility for Mr Kiernan’s death.

Mr Syfret added: “We suggest this is not the first lie you have told the jury because because you have been an active burglar for a long time.

“You have told the jury a massive lie and that there is only one purpose for you to lie and that is to hide the fact you are the man who killed John Kiernan.”

Mr Berry said: “No.”

Haslam denies murder and Windle, formerly of Duke Street, Kettering, denies burglary.

The trial continues.