A couple who beat a man to death in his own home and then set it on fire to try to cover it up have been convicted of murder.
Paul Gillett, 54, was found dead in the bath of his flat in Station Road, Clacton by firefighters who’d been called to a fire there at around 7am on Boxing Day last year.
He had sustained multiple injuries, including defensive wounds, and a post-mortem examination found he died from head trauma.
Freya Parker-McGowan, 43, had been living with Mr Gillett at the time of his death. She had moved in with him a week before Christmas having split from her partner, 48 year-old Seth Stollery.
However, the pair had reconciled and in the early hours of Boxing Day they’d both been at Mr Gillett’s home to pick up Parker-McGowan’s belongings.
The pair arrived at the flat at around midnight on Christmas Day and stayed for several hours.
During that time Mr Gillett was subjected to an assault which led to his death and his body dumped in the bath.
Fire investigators found five fires had then been started in the flat in an attempt to cover up the murder.
When uniformed officers first attended the scene they quickly located a key witness which led to important evidence being secured and both Stollery and Parker-McGowan being identified, found and arrested.
Through their investigations detectives established that, earlier in the evening, Stollery had been told that Mr Gillett and Parker-McGowan had engaged in a sexual relationship while she was staying the flat.
Both Stollery and Parker-McGowan were picked out during an identity procedure as having been seen going into the block of flats around midnight on the night of Christmas Day.
The pair, both of no fixed address, were charged with murder and arson with intent to endanger life. At their trial they both confirmed they were the only other people in the flat at the time Mr Gillett was murdered but each said the other was responsible.
They claimed the assault had taken place in a dispute over an iPad they claim Mr Gillett had stolen and then sold.
Parker-Magowan denied both charges while Stollery admitted arson but denied murder.
Following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court a jury took less than two hours to find them both guilty of all the charges against them.
They are due to be sentenced at the same court next month.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Truss, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Seth Stollery and Freya Parker-McGowan acted together to kill Paul Gillett in his own home.
“The attack he suffered was brutal and the pair tried to cover their tracks by setting fire to his home.
“I want to praise the police and fire officers who first attended the scene for their fantastic work which set the foundations for this conviction.
“In a short amount of time, through speaking to people at the scene and excellent local knowledge, they were able to identify Stollery and Parker-McGowan, locate them and secure them, and secure vital evidence. It is this which led to today’s conviction.
“Mr Gillett was a quiet man, who was liked within the flats at which he lived. Stollery and Parker-Magowan took advantage of his nature. They brutally and needlessly murdered him before trying to callously cover their tracks. They had noi regard for the safety of other residents when they started the fire in Mr Gillett’s home.
“I am pleased with the result today, and hope it brings some closure for Mr Gillett’s family”.