Murder accused drank dog methadone and took drugs in the hours before he killed his secret ‘abuser’ and torched caravan in Newton Poppleford, court hears

A murder-accused man, who battered and strangled a loner in his Newton Poppleford caravan, drank methadone belonging to the victim’s dead dog in the hours before the attack, a court heard.

Exeter Crown Court was told Lewis Finch killed Geoffrey Pearce claiming he was ‘a nonce’ – alleging he had been his secret childhood abuser and that he ‘lost his mind’ when he heard him pleasuring himself.

Mr Pearce, 47, died from serious head injuries and being strangled when Finch, aged 31, of Briseham Close, Brixham, battered at him least twice over the head then garrotted him with a plastic cable tie.

Finch, on trial at Exeter Crown Court, has admitting killing Mr Pearce, but denies murder.

The court heard yesterday (Monday) how Mr Pearce spent the last 24 hours of his life with Finch when the defendant turned up, uninvited, to hide out at his Newton Poppleford scrapyard caravan.

The jury was told Finch arrived in a taxi with a bottle of vodka, drank the booze, smoked a ‘huge amount’ of crack cocaine, and took methadone painkiller Oramorph – prescribed for the deceased’s dog when it had bowel cancer.

Finch passed out on a mattress on Mr Pearce’s caravan floor then beat and strangled him after waking and hearing the victim masturbating.

Finch told the court Mr Pearce had secretly abused him since he was around 11-years-old.

He said he killed him in self-defence during a fight sparked by the victim laughing at the defendant’s discomfort at hearing him touching himself.

Mr Sean Brunton, QC, prosecuting, said Finch struck Mr Pearce three times over the head with a weapon, fracturing his skull and leaving him screaming and begging for help.

Finch strangled him with a cable tie, fracturing his larynx, then torched the caravan with the dead man inside to destroy the evidence, the court heard.

Mr Brunton said the defendant used a heavy weapon, such as a clawhammer, to beat Mr Pearce, then went outside to a nearby shed to get a cable tie, carefully threading it through and ‘zipping’ it tightly around the victim’s neck.

As Mr Pearce lay screaming for help, Finch used the dying man’s phone to twice call his sister, Ronnie Smith, in Torquay to ask for a lift to Exmouth.

With the dying man’s screams in the background, Finch told his sister: “He’s not dead yet but he’s going to be.”

When his sister refused to help and called the police, Finch walked the eight miles back from Newton Poppleford to Exmouth through the countryside.

He arrived at friend Lee Jones’s Cheshire Road home in a ‘distressed state’ at around 4am, asking to shower and wash his bloodstained clothes.

The court heard Finch told pals he had ‘caved’ Mr Pearce’s head in, claiming he had been a ‘nonce’, but hid from friends the allegation he had been abused by his victim, saying he had been ‘ashamed’ to admit it.

Friend Blake Longbottom told police how Finch admitted hitting Mr Pearce repeatedly over the head ‘until claret started pouring out of his head’ and, because the victim would not stay down, he put a cable tie around his neck and ‘zipped it tight’.

In the hours after the killing, Finch smoked crack cocaine with a friend, appeared ‘calm as a whistle’, met up with his girlfriend, then asked her to lie to police about his whereabouts, the court heard.

Before his arrest, he ate at a McDonald’s breakfast and spent time ‘just chilling’, the jury was told.

Mr Brunton said Finch’s earlier versions of what happened in the early hours of January 9, 2020, given to police were ‘quite inventive and totally made up’.

The prosecutor said Finch told officers he had gone to the scrapyard to get a recorded confession from his alleged abuser, but had no means of a device to record a conversation.

When asked by Mr Brunton why the defendant failed to tell police what really happened that night, Finch said: “I can’t remember what happened and how it happened.

“All I kept thinking about was what happened since I was a child. I just didn’t want to talk about it.”

Finch said the victim died when he pressed a wooden pickaxe handle against Mr Pearce’s throat.

The defendant said Mr Pearce came at him with a saucepan, so he hit him three times over the head with an old wooden pickaxe handle found inside the caravan.

Finch told the court he placed an already-threaded cable tie over the victim’s head, which automatically tightened in the ensuing struggle.

The jury heard how Finch set fire to Mr Pearce’s caravan using an aerosol and lighter – with the victim’s body still inside – to erase the memories of ‘abuse’.

He denied setting the fire to destroy evidence of the cable tie left around Mr Pearce’s neck.

Finch said: “For years and years he’s taken advantage of me so I just lost it. I wasn’t in control. I just lost it and hit him with a pickaxe handle.”

He added: “It wasn’t me, what was going through my head. I don’t think I was in a fit state to control what I was doing.”

Mr Brunton said Finch’s version was a ‘totally made up account’.

Finch told the jury how he ‘couldn’t remember’ what happened when he first spoke to police, but could recall it now.

He said he initially ‘panicked’ when questioned, adding: “At the time I was in a state of shock. At the police station I felt under pressure to come up with something.

“All I kept thinking about was what happened since I was a child. I just didn’t want to talk about it.”

The jury heard Finch also say he felt ‘put on the spot’ by friends in the hours after the attack, and ‘just made up some stuff’ about why he had gone to the scrapyard.

Blake Longbottom said Finch told him he saw Mr Pearce earlier on January 9 and the defendant had warned him not to talk to him or he would kill him, but was still approached by the victim.

Finch told police he acted in self-defence when Mr Pearce came at him with a pan.

At his arrest he held back from telling officers his claim that he had been abused by Mr Pearce.

Chatting and joking with officers at the police station, he was heard to say ‘I have done you a favour, I’ve killed a paedophile’.

The court heard Finch say he had been abused by Mr Pearce since the age of around 11, which continued into adulthood, but maintained occasional contact with him.

He admitted he took a taxi from Nelson Drive, Exmouth, to Mr Pearce’s Newton Poppleford caravan home on January 8, staying for around 24 hours.

He said he went to Mr Pearce’s scrapyard because he owed money for drugs, wanted to hide out and scour the local area for scrap metal to sell to pay off his debt.

The court heard Finch drank a bottle of vodka, smoked crack cocaine, was given Oramorph methadone by Mr Pearce, fell asleep, then woke to hear the victim masturbating.

Finch said he lost control, saying the sex act was ‘the final straw’.

He said Mr Pearce laughed at his reaction, which made him ‘angry’.

Finch admitted attacking and killing the victim, who fought back with a pan.

The defendant, who denies murder, told the jury he put an already-threaded cable tie he found in the caravan around Mr Pearce’s neck.

Finch said he hit his victim over the head with a stick, pushed it against his neck, then, believing Mr Pearce to be dead, set fire to his caravan because of the memories it held.

The trial continues.

[asp_product id=”17531″]

Loner killed at Newton Poppleford survived for half an hour after attack for being a ‘paedophile’, court hears

About Author