TWO street drinkers who battered a homeless man to death with a metal bar have been sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison.
Edward Phillips, 49, and Michael Clark, 51, were found guilty of murdering Lea Williams, 45, at Hove Pitch and Putt on February 11. Lauren Bishop was found guilty of conspiracy to murder after ordering them to carry out the killing and received a 15 year sentence.
Mr Williams, who grew up in near Bowry Place, had been bludgeoned to death and struck between 20 to 30 times. The pathologist who examined his body said it was one of the worst cases he had ever dealt with.
Passing sentence on Phillips and Clark, Judge Anthony Scott-Gall said: “This was a most dreadful crime carried out with a most brutal and chilling callousness. There’s no mitigation that can be realistically offered to the court. You were both operating in a grave breach of trust.”
None of the defendants showed any emotion as they were lead down from the dock at Lewes Crown Court on Monday.
During a four week long trial, the court heard how the murder was carried out in the alcove known locally as the ‘Bat Caves’ where Mr Williams had been sleeping rough. He had a bar alongside him for protection. The court heard that Bishop, 36, had confronted Mr Williams after he swore at another person while drinking with a number of homeless friends, including Clark and Phillips. She then threatened him that it wasn’t over yet.
Clark and Phillips then went to the Bat Caves and carried out the brutal murder striking him up to 30 times. Dr Olaf Biedrzycki who carried out the post mortem said it was the the worst head injury case he had ever seen.
After convicting the trio, the jury heard how Clarke and Phillips were career criminals with convictions for violence, kidnap and racial aggravation stretching back 30 years.
In 1994 Phillips was convicted of theft. Two years later he was found guilty of false imprisonment and wounding and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
In 2000 he was found guilty of possessing a bladed article in a public place.
He was also convicted of racially aggravated assaults in 2008, 2011 and 2012.
Clark had a criminal history dating back to 1982 when he was found guilty of burglary and criminal damage. He also has previous convictions for using violence to enter a premises, conspiracy to obtain by deception and theft.
Sentencing mother-of-four Bishop, Judge Scott-Gall said: “If it had not been for your powers of pursuasion I believe neither of them would have gone on to kill Lea Williams. You have a heavy burden to carry for this crime. You were revealed as a callous individual.”