Sussex

Hove homeless Lea Williams murder: Three found guilty

Three found guilty over the murder of Lea Williams
Image caption Michael Clark, Edward Philips and Lauren Bishop were found guilty over the murder of Lea Williams

Three people have been found guilty over the murder of a homeless man who was battered to death where he slept near Hove seafront.

Michael Clark, 51, and Edward Philips, 49, were found guilty of murdering 45-year-old Lea Williams.

Lauren Bishop, 36, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder. Police said she offered "sexual favours" to Philips if he attacked Mr Williams.

His body was found near the pitch-and-putt at Western Esplanade in February.

All three will be sentenced on Monday.

Lewes Crown Court had been told Mr Williams was struck 20-30 times, possibly with the metal bar he kept for protection.

Dianne Chan, prosecuting, said Clark and Phillips committed the murder "at the behest or request" of Bishop after a row.

The jury heard Bishop 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.

Ms Chan told the court: "She kicked and slapped and screamed at him, and when he walked away she said, 'It isn't over yet'."

The court heard a woman at a bus stop had seen two men approach the alcove at Western Esplanade where Mr Williams slept and one was bringing his arm down in what appeared to be a chopping motion.

The homeless man's body was found three days later by volunteers who had brought him food.

'Blackouts'

Sussex Police said Mr Williams was an alcoholic who had made his home under the archway in Hove.

Image caption Lea Williams was sleeping in an archway near the pitch-and-putt course on Hove seafront

Det Ch Insp 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."

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