Two men and a woman have today (Friday, November 1) been found guilty of the murder of homeless man Lea Williams in Hove in February this year.
After a five-week trial at Lewes Crown Court, a jury found jobless Michael John Clark, 51, of Trafalgar Street, Brighton, and Edward Phillips, 49, also unemployed with links to Brighton, guilty of murdering Lea Williams.
Lauren Bishop, 36, of Eastbourne Road, Seaford, was also found guilty of conspiracy to murder Lea Williams.
They will be sentenced on Monday, November 4.
The trial heard that the body of Lea Williams, aged 45, was discovered by local project workers in an archway, also known as the ‘bat caves’, that overlooked Hove pitch and putt green, on Monday, February 11.
A post mortem revealed he died from severe injuries to his face and head caused by a heavy object.
Other injuries to his body included multiple fractures to his ribs.
Mr Williams, formerly from Hastings, was an alcoholic and his home for the last year was an archway under the promenade that looked onto the pitch and putt course.
The court heard that Bishop had confronted Mr Williams after he swore at another person while drinking with a number of homeless friends, including Clark and Phillips, near Portland Road, Hove, in February. She then threatened him that it wasn’t over yet.
Clark and Phillips then committed the murder “at the behest or request” of Bishop. Williams was struck 20 to 30 times possibly with a metal railing he kept for protection.
After the case detective chief inspector Ian Pollard said: “It is clear from evidence that Lauren Bishop instigated the attack on Lea Williams and sent Clarke and Phillips to carry it out.
“The reward for Phillips for carrying out her instructions was sexual favours, which he received later that evening.
“Phillips claimed to be a good friend to Lea, however the offer of sexual favours from Bishop meant more to him than that friendship as he took part in this brutal attack and tried to blame Clarke.
“Clarke claimed he had suffered blackouts and had no memory of what had happened but so compelling was the evidence, he has also been found guilty of murder.”
The court heard how all three met up after and celebrated by buying and drinking alcohol on the seafront.
CCTV from the Londis store nearby showed Phillips and Clarke laughing and joking shortly after carrying what the court heard was a brutal, vicious and horrific attack.
DCI Pollard added: “The loss of a family member is always tragic, especially in these circumstances so we are pleased with the verdicts today.
“This was a brutal, vicious attack with resulted in horrific injuries being inflicted on Lea Williams.
“I would like pass on my thanks to those members of the public who came forward and to the services who provide support to the homeless community across Brighton and Hove City for their help, and support they gave to my officers who worked on this enquiry.
“It was a challenging case but the determination of those who worked on the enquiry made sure those responsible were brought to justice.”