Killer with Hartlepool ties jailed for life for murder of 83-year-old uncle during burglary
A man who strangled his elderly uncle to death after burgling him has been jailed for life.
Leighton Snook, 28, was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 30 years for murdering 83-year-old Donald Ralph at his bungalow in Aldham, Essex, last December.
During a police manhunt to trace Snook in January, investigators said he had links to Hartlepool and County Durham with Cleveland Police supporting the appeal to find him.
Police said Snook had been in contact with Mr Ralph in the days and weeks before his death, asking him for money to pay off a drug debt.
He punched and strangled Mr Ralph to death in a “brutal” attack, and together with a teenage accomplice Tyler Love, 17, stole a rifle, shotgun and a Volvo car.
Sentencing Snook at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Martyn Levett said: “Mr Ralph was a vulnerable old man and the death was in his own home and the burglary was planned and premeditated.
“This was a brutal way to kill another human being. He was an elderly man who lived on his own and who was obviously vulnerable, but in good health and had every prospect of living until he was 100 years old.”
Post-mortem examinations showed Mr Ralph suffered three fractures to his cheekbone and abrasions to his neck, throat and back.
Snook’s DNA was found on the victim’s hands and on clothing around his neck.
He was found guilty of murder after a trial.
The court heard Snook, of no fixed address, and Love later lied to police in claiming they did not know where the guns were.
Judge Levett said that firearms getting into the wrong hands had “very serious results”, like the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016 by a man using a stolen gun.
Mr Ralph’s body was found by his niece Tina Ralph the following day on December 29.
His family said he was “much-loved” and a “very well respected member of the community” who loved fishing.
In a statement read in court, Ms Ralph said: “Learning that a member of the family is responsible for murdering Don was a shock.”
Love, of Darien Way in Braunstone, Leicester, was jailed for eight years after he was convicted of manslaughter and burglary.