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Killed with a walking stick

PUBLISHED: 09:17 30 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:28 03 July 2010

A GRANDFATHER was preyed on and subjected to “unimaginable” violence before finally choking to death when his own walking stick was rammed down his throat, a murder trial jury heard yesterday.

A GRANDFATHER was preyed on and subjected to “unimaginable” violence before finally choking to death when his own walking stick was rammed down his throat, a murder trial jury heard yesterday.

Alan Bowles was found dead in his favourite armchair after lying undiscovered for several days.

The 64-year-old suffered five fractured ribs and numerous bruises and had been smothered - but eventually died when the walking stick was forced more than eight inches into his windpipe by his tormentors.

Norfolk Crown Court heard the three people charged with his killing - Paul Slack, David Comer and Kathleen Johnson - had befriended Mr Bowles.

But he complained to his family that he was scared because they bullied him, saying: “You don't know what they do when you're not there.”

Richard Potts, prosecuting, said the victim, nicknamed “The Old Man”, died in his flat in Yarmouth at some point between May 24 and 29 last year. “The only people who saw the incident were the defendants,” he said.

He added: “This death was not peaceful, nor was it dignified. He was subjected to violence which some of you may find almost unimaginable - the forcing of his walking stick into his mouth, down his throat and into his body cavity.”

Mr Bowles was described as a “jibbering wreck” by a friend who visited his home on the day he is thought to have died. But the visitor decided not to get involved in the argument which is thought to have eventually led to the murder, despite his asking him to “sort things out”.

The court heard the father-of-two, born and bred in Yarmouth, had separated from his wife many years earlier but gone on to form a new long-term relationship.

But his life had been in decline over the past five years and those who knew him were concerned he was associating with “drunks and junkies”. Despite this, loved ones described him as a bubbly character who cared deeply for his family.

Slack moved into Mr Bowles' flat and Comer and Johnson were regular visitors, even though he had complained about the way they treated him.

Mr Potts said: “After Slack moved in, Mr Bowles became more and more frightened and said his money was being taken from him. Slack would hurt him and lock him in his bedroom.”

Earlier in the week his brother Ronald Bowles had seen him with black eyes and marks on his face.

A post-mortem examination by Home Office pathologist Nat Cary found injuries to the ribs which were consistent with kicking or stamping, possibly inflicted when Mr Bowles was already dead.

He stopped breathing after the stick was forced down his throat, tearing into his body and creating a two to three centimetre hole.

The alleged weapon was removed and thrown into the nearby river. Comer, known locally as Biggs or Chinny, has already pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice by trying to hide the evidence. The stick has never been recovered.

After the incident Slack and Johnson were seen drinking in bars in Yarmouth town centre. All three defendants told friends about the killing but denied their part in it, Mr Potts added.

Slack told his sister “I've killed someone” while Johnson told a barmaid “the old man is at peace”.

Mr Potts said: “Comer said Johnson had beaten Mr Bowles and Slack shoved the stick down his throat while he just sitting on the sofa watching. However, the Crown says he was part and parcel to this cowardly and murderous attack.”

In a statement issued shortly after his death, Mr Bowles' family said: “He was a loving dad and granddad to his son daughter and three grandchildren. He was a happy go lucky man and will be sadly missed.”

Comer, 39, of Broad Row, Yarmouth, and Johnson, 57, and Slack, 46, both of no fixed address, all deny murder.

The case continues.

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