Lodger told police of Hatfield murder

POLICE discovered a body buried in a garden after a woman arrested for shoplifting blurted out: “Why don’t you tell them about Peter’s murder?”, a jury heard yesterday (Tuesday).

Anthony Stillwell, 53, promised killer Richard Clare that he would tell nobody what had happened.

But he had told his then girlfriend Hayley Curra that he had seen the bloodied body of 43-year-old Peter McConnell, whose throat had been cut by Clare.

Giving evidence at St Albans Crown Court, Mr Stillwell said Hayley had told him to go to the police, but he was too scared and felt loyal to Clare.

It was only when they were in custody at Hatfield police station that she revealed his secret and he told officers what he knew.

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He said: “She was very angry with me about something and said: ‘Why don’t you tell them about Peter’s murder?’”

Mr Stillwell said he did not know Mr McConnell had been buried in the back garden of the house in Fern Dells, Hatfield.

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Clare, 38, of Fern Dells, denies murdering Mr McConnell on March 21 this year. He claims he acted in self defence.

Mr Stillwell said both he and Mr McConnell were staying at the house which Clare was renovating.

He said Clare and Mr McConnell had been friendly and at one stage had operated as drug dealers together.

But the relationship soured when Mr McConnell became aware that Clare was seeing his former girlfriend Charlotte Whitcombe.

The prosecution allege that on March 21, Clare took Mr McConnell back to the house after he attacked Charlotte and used a knife to cut his throat so deeply that he sliced his voice box in half.

He wrapped the body in brown parcel tape and buried it in the garden.

Mr Stillwell told the jury that at the time of the killing he was in his bedroom, having taken heroin and drunk a couple of beers.

He said: “Richard flung the door open and said: ‘I have killed Peter.’”

Mr Stillwell said he followed a trail of blood into the kitchen and saw Mr McConnell’s body slumped on a tool box.

“He was slouched forward and his eyes were closed,” he said. “There was quite a lot of blood by the box.

“He was not breathing. There was a scarf around his neck and it was covered in blood.”

He said Clare was crying and told him that he had an argument with Mr McConnell.

Mr Stillwell said: “Richard asked me not to mention it to anyone. I was shaken and confused and I told Hayley. Hayley thought I should go to the police. I didn’t want to. Maybe I felt allegiance to Richard. I didn’t want to be a grass. I was confused and scared.”

He said when he returned to the house in Hatfield after two nights away it had been cleared up.

Clare was arrested on April 8 and told detectives Mr McConnell was buried in the garden.

“The body was so well covered the police did not initially see the grave. The top soil had been removed and then replaced,” said the prosecutor Miranda Moore.

The trial continues.

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