A man who brutally attacked a recluse and left him for dead inside his burning home is facing life behind bars after being found guilty of murder.
Lewis Finch, 31, beat Geoffrey Pearce, 47, with a claw hammer and garrotted him with a cable tie before setting his caravan alight and leaving him there.
Afterwards Finch told friends he had killed Pearce because he was a “nonce”.
Finch, formerly of Montpelier Road, Exmouth, had denied murder but admitted killing Pearce in the early hours of 9 January, claiming diminished responsibility or loss of control.
He was found guilty of murder at Exeter Crown Court following a 10-day trial and now faces life imprisonment when he appears in court next week.
During the trial, jurors were told that Pearce was a loner who lived in a caravan at a scrapyard in Newton Poppleford, Devon, where he was attacked by Finch.
The court heard after the attack, Finch set Pearce’s caravan alight and walked the eight miles across fields back to Exmouth after failing to persuade his sister to come and pick him up.
During a phone call to her, he told her: “I think I’ve killed him”, then in a second call she could hear Pearce screaming.
“She could hear him screaming words like, ‘Help me, help me’. To her it sounded like he was dying,” prosecutor Sean Brunton QC told the court.
“Shortly after that, her brother terminated the call and she could tell that something dreadful was happening.”
Finch’s sister dialled 999 and told the police of her conversation with her brother. He was arrested hours later at a friend’s house in Exmouth.
He had told a friend that he had seen Pearce earlier in the day in a shop and told him not to speak to him —and if he did he would kill him.
He told the friend that he had done it because Pearce was a “nonce”, the court heard.
“In other words, he had deliberately killed Geoff Pearce because he knew, claimed or believed Geoff Pearce to be some sort of child abuser” he said.
Speaking after the verdict, Mr Pearce’s family said: “We are pleased with the outcome and justice has prevailed.
“We feel this verdict is the right outcome and tis now represents closure for us and it means we can now move on.”
Detective Inspector Robert Back, who led the investigation, said: “This was a brutal attack on Mr Pearce by someone he knew and had allowed into his home.
“I hope this result provides some sense of closure for his family who have conducted themselves throughout the trial with dignity and restraint.”
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