Three people have been jailed over the murder of a rough sleeper on Hove seafront.
Two unemployed men and a woman were given prison sentences totalling 47 years at Lewes Crown Court today (Monday 4 November). The trio were found guilty on Friday (1 November) after a five-week trial.
Michael Clark, 51, of Trafalgar Street, Brighton, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 16 years for murdering homeless Lea Williams in February.
Edward Phillips, 49, who has links to Brighton, received the same sentence for murdering the 45-year-old victim.
Lauren Bishop, 36, a nurse and mother of four of Eastbourne Road, Seaford, was jailed for 15 years for conspiring to murder Mr Williams.
He came from Hastings and moved to Brighton and Hove about a year before he died.
He spent the final year of his life sleeping in an archway, also known as the bat caves, under the promenade by the pitch and putt course in Kingsway, Hove.
Post-mortem tests found that Mr Williams died from injuries to his face and head caused by a heavy object. Other injuries to his body included several broken ribs.
The jury trying Clark, Phillips and Bishop was told that Bishop had confronted Mr Williams, who was an alcoholic, after he had sworn at another person.
The incident happened while they were 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 carried out the murder “at the behest or request” of Bishop.
Williams was beaten 20 to 30 times, possibly with a metal railing that he kept for protection.
After the case Detective Chief Inspector Ian Pollard, of Sussex Police, said: “It is clear from evidence that Lauren Bishop instigated the attack on Lea Williams and sent Clark 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 Clark.
“Clark claimed he had suffered blackouts and had no memory of what had happened but, so compelling was the evidence, he was also found guilty of murder.”
The court was told that all three met up afterwards and celebrated by buying and drinking alcohol on the seafront.
CCTV from the Londis store near by showed Phillips and Clark laughing and joking shortly after carrying what the court heard was a brutal, vicious and horrific attack.
DCI Pollard said: “The loss of a family member is always tragic, especially in these circumstances, so we are pleased with the verdicts and sentences.
“This was a brutal, vicious attack which 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 the help and support they gave to my officers who worked on this inquiry.
“It was a challenging case but the determination of those who worked on the inquiry made sure those responsible were brought to justice.”