A judge has warned a murderer he faces a life-sentence in prison for the brutal death of his ‘friend and role model’ from Newton Poppleford.
Lewis Finch, aged 31, of Briseham Close, Brixham, was on Thursday (October 8) found guilty of the murder of Geoffrey Pearce, who he battered and strangled to death, before torching his caravan to destroy the evidence.
After the Exeter Crown Court jury delivered the guilty verdict, Judge Peter Johnson told Finch he faced an ‘inevitable’ life term when he is sentenced next Wednesday (October 14) at Plymouth Crown Court.
Finch had admitted killing Mr Pearce on January 9, 2020, but denied murder. He claimed he acted with diminished responsibility and in self-defence because the victim goaded him, having allegedly been his secret abuser since childhood.
The jury was told by Judge Peter Johnson that Finch thought of 47-year-old Mr Pearce as a ‘friend and role model’, who grew possessive, told him he loved him, and gave him gifts, which he sent from ‘dad’.
Finch murdered Mr Pearce on January 9, 2020, after an argument. He smashed him over the head with a heavy weapon, fracturing his skull, strangled him with a cable tie, fracturing his larynx, and set fire to his victim’s caravan home to destroy the evidence.
Mr Pearce’s family, who were at the trial, said they were pleased Finch had been found guilty, and thanked the police and prosecution for their help.
Speaking after the trial, they said: “We are pleased with the outcome and justice has prevailed.
“We would like to thank prosecution QC Mr Brunton and the investigation team with special thanks to the family liaison officer.
“We feel this verdict is the right outcome and this now represents closure for us and it means we can now move on.”
Detective Inspector Robert Back, senior investigating officer, said: “We welcome today’s outcome. This was a brutal attack on Mr Pearce by someone he knew and had allowed into his home.
“I hope this result provides some sense of closure for his family who have conducted themselves throughout the trial with dignity and restraint.
“I would like to thank the jury and highlight the dedication of the team of major crime investigators who painstakingly gathered the evidence and the prosecuting team who expertly presented.”
Throughout the trial at Exeter Crown Court, Finch maintained he had acted in self-defence and was not in a fit state of mind when he killed, claiming Mr Pearce had been sexually abusing him for at least ten years.
Prosecutor Sean Brunton, QC, said Finch’s twisted versions of events of what happened that night were ‘far from true’.
The court heard how Finch had earlier warned his victim he would kill him if he spoke to him, which Mr Pearce ignored.
Finch turned up in a taxi at Geoffrey Pearce’s Newton Poppleford scrapyard in the early hours of the morning, drank a bottle of vodka, smoked crack cocaine, took veterinary Oramorph – morphine prescribed for a dog – slept next to his friend, then woke to hear Mr Pearce masturbating, which sparked an argument.
Finch murdered Mr Pearce, shattering his skull by hitting him over the head, zipping tight a plastic cable tie around his friend’s neck, strangling him, when he tried to get up.
In a bid to destroy evidence of the murder, he torched Mr Pearce’s caravan, with the dead man still inside, telling friends he hoped he had done the job properly.
Using the dying man’s phone, Finch called his sister in Torquay, expecting her to come and pick him up, telling her when she heard Mr Pearce’s screams for help in the background: “He’s not dead yet, but he’s going to be.”
When his sister refused to help and called the police, Finch walked eight miles across countryside to a friend’s house in Exmouth and asked to shower and wash his clothes.
He told police he spent the next few hours after the murder ‘just chilling’, smoking crack cocaine and eating McDonald’s.
The trailhead that when he was arrested Finch, told police: “I have done you a favour, I’ve killed a paedophile.”
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