A man who smoked crack cocaine with a friend hours after he battered and strangled a loner from Newton Poppleford told police he had done them a favour ‘killing a paedophile’, a jury has heard.
Lewis Finch is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of murdering ‘unsavoury character’ 47-year-old Geoffrey Pearce in the early hours of January 9, 2020, believing he was a child abuser.
Finch, aged 31, of of Briseham Close, Brixham, has admitted killing Mr Pearce – leaving him for dead and setting fire to his caravan while the man was still inside – but denies murder.
The defendant says his responsibility was diminished by a personality disorder, that he suffered a sudden loss of control and killed in self-defence.
Mr Sean Brunton, QC, prosecuting, told the court Finch was ‘sufficiently in control’ to set fire to the caravan to hide the evidence, and to make a phone call to his sister to ask for a lift immediately after killing Mr Pearce.
Mr Brunton said Finch’s accounts of what happened that night were ‘far from true’ and created to fit the facts of the case.
The jury heard how in the hours leading up to killing Mr Pearce, Finch paid a friend to drive him from Exmouth to Torquay to buy drugs.
They arrived back in Exmouth at around 11pm, then Finch spent time at his girlfriend’s home.
From there, Finch took a taxi in the early hours of the morning to the Newton Poppleford scrapyard to where Mr Pearce was living in his ‘pretty grim’ caravan on family land.
The court heard that Finch and the victim took drugs together, the defendant ‘passed out’ and woke to hear or see Mr Pearce masturbating.
The jury heard Finch said he ‘lost control’ when Mr Pearce began laughing at him.
He battered Mr Pearce three times over the head, with what was thought to be a clawhammer, causing fractures to the skull and eye socket, then strangled him with a thick piece of plastic cable tie. It was pulled so tight it fractured the cartilage in the victim’s larynx.
Finch used the dying man’s phone make a call to his half-sister Ronnie Smith, in Torquay, at 2.15am, asking her to pick him up from Newton Poppleford.
The court was told Mr Pearce was heard ‘begging for help in the background’, screaming ‘help me, help me’, and Finch tell his sister ‘he’s not dead yet but he’s going to be’.
When Finch ended the call, his sister called the police.
To cover his tracks, Finch set fire to the caravan and ‘incinerated the body’ of Mr Pearce, who was still inside.
Finch walked back through fields to Exmouth, arriving at his friend Lee Jones’s Cheshire Road home in the early hours, telling him ‘I’ve messed up. I’ve f***ed up.’
The court heard witness Mr Jones say Finch was a ‘bit stressed’, wet and muddy, and asked to wash his clothes.
Mr Jones gave the defendant a change of clothes and told him how to use the washing machine.
Police found the defendant’s blood-stained tee-shirt and damp clothes still in the machine where Finch had failed to turn on the wash.
The jury was told Finch went upstairs to Mr Jones’s bedroom and the pair spent several hours smoking crack cocaine.
Mr Jones told the court he was unable to remember much of the night, saying he was ‘off his nut’.
The court heard Finch had known the victim as his childhood babysitter and claimed he was a child abuser.
Finch told police ‘I’ve done you a favour. I’ve killed a paedophile’.
The jury was told Finch had seen Mr Pearce sometime during the day of January 9 and warned him not to talk to him or he would kill him.
His victim ignored the threat and tried to approach him, the court heard.
Mr Brunton, prosecuting, said: “Just getting angry or drunk or stoned and ending up killing someone out of rage or revenge or retribution is not loss of control or diminished responsibility.
“We say he attacked Mr Pearce deliberately, whether as punishment or in a temper or perhaps in an argument over drugs or money. He knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong.
“He persisted in the killing over a period of time and when he had Mr Pearce at his mercy, he just tightened the cable tie around his throat.
“He was sufficiently in control to lit fire to the caravan to hide the evidence and to phone his sister to ask for a lift and then finish him off after the call.
Mr Brunton told the court both men were drug users and traces of amphetamines were found in Mr Pearce’s body.
He suggested drugs could have been the real reason Finch went to the caravan, and the late-night killing.
The trial continues.[asp_product id=”17531”]
Brixham man, 31, denies murder at Newton Poppleford scrapyard as court hears accused beat and strangled victim