A crack cocaine addict murdered a man he claimed was a ‘nonce’ as revenge for him allegedly sexually abusing him as a child.
Lewis Finch battered Geoffrey Pearce’s head with a pickaxe handle, before finishing him off by strangling him with a plastic cable tie, a court heard.
Finch then set fire to the caravan in Newton Poppleford, Devon, with the 47-year-old still inside.
The killer claimed Mr Pearce had sexually abused him from the age of about 12 onwards, although his claims remain unproven, Devon Live reports.
He said he had ‘lost control’ of his actions and killed the scrap dealer because he was haunted by the alleged abuse, however a jury rejected his defence.
Finch went to the caravan near Newton Poppleford to hide away from drug dealers who were pursuing him over debts for crack cocaine and he smoked a huge amount of the drug before carrying out the attack in the early hours.
He broke off the attack after smashing in Mr Pearce’s skull and called his sister Ronnie Smith. She heard the injured man crying for help in the background but her brother told her ‘he’s not dead, but he soon will be’.
He then put the cable tie around his neck and in his words ‘zipped it tight’.
Mr Pearce died from a combination of unsurvivable head injuries and asphyxiation.
His body was badly burned in the fire which gutted the caravan. The only part left untouched by the blaze was a narrow strip around his neck which was protected by the cable tie.
Finch boasted to police that “I’ve done you a favour, I’ve killed a paedophile” and told two psychiatrists that he had been haunted by the abuse throughout his adult life.
It is claimed his mother was an alcoholic drug user who used to leave him at the squalid yard when he was a child. Pearce let him drive cars or motorcycles around the clearing, which is hidden in woodland at Harpford, near Newton Poppleford before sleeping with the boy inside the caravan.
Finch claimed he had lost control of his actions because of memories of the abuse and that his responsibility was diminished by mental illness induced by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A jury at Exeter Crown Court took just over four hours to dismiss his defence and find him guilty of murder by unanimous verdict.
Judge Peter Johnson adjourned sentence until next Wednesday (October 14), when he will be sitting at Plymouth Crown Court.
The only sentence for murder is life imprisonment, but he will set a minimum tariff which Finch must serve before eligible to apply for parole.
Judge Johnson told him: “You know what the inevitable sentence is. It will be a life sentence but the issue of the tariff has to be resolved.”
During an eight-day trial, the jury heard how Finch was on a drugs binge when he went to the caravan on January 8, taking with him a bottle of vodka and a quarter of an ounce of cocaine – enough to keep a normal user going for a month.
He attacked and killed Mr Pearce at about 2am on January 9, calling his sister half way through to ask for a lift. She refused and alerted police after hearing the dying man’s cries for help.
They arrived to find he had fled on foot to Exmouth and that the caravan had been burned to the ground with Mr Pearce’s body cremated inside it.
Finch hid out in a house in Cheshire Road, Exmouth, where he told a friend he had killed Mr Pearce because he was a “nonce”, criminal slang for a child abuser.
While in custody he was asked by an officer if he had been treated okay and replied: “Of course, everyone loves me. I have done them a favour, I’ve killed a paedophile.”
Finch told the jury that he went to the caravan to get away from drug dealers who were pursuing him over a £400 crack cocaine debt and that Mr Pearce gave him more drugs while he was there.
He said he woke up at the foot of Mr Pearce’s bed and “lost it” when he realised that the older man was masturbating. He said it triggered memories of his abuse and he shouted at him that he was a paedophile and a weirdo.
He said Mr Pearce laughed at him and there was then a fight in which Mr Pearce picked up a saucepan and he picked up a pickaxe handle.
He said the cable tie got around his neck during the struggle and somehow got tightened.
He told the jury he killed Mr Pearce by pinning him down by the neck with the pickaxe handle and burned down the caravan because it reminded him of abuse rather than to destroy evidence.