A woman has been found guilty of the manslaughter of a 54-year-old man in his Northampton home.
Mary Cash, aged 39, of no fixed abode, has been on trial for the past two weeks at Northampton Crown Court charged with the murder of Robert Chester.
After four-and-a-half hours of deliberations, a jury today returned a not guilty verdict for murder but found Cash guilty of manslaughter.
Mr Chester’s body was found in his home in Rothersthorpe Road, Northampton, on October 8 last year after emergency services were called out to a fire at the property
James House, prosecuting, said Mr Chester was killed after he was stabbed eight times and a fire was then deliberately started to destroy any evidence of his murder.
Karl Pound, aged 51, of Hunsbarrow Road, Northampton, who had been jointly charged with Cash, pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr Chester on the second day of the trial.
The court heard analysis of Pound’s clothes revealed blood that matched Mr Chester’s DNA on his trainer, jumper and jacket.
A top that had been worn by Cash and found at Mr Chester’s house, also had blood matching his DNA.
The jury was told Cash and Pound were arrested at about 6pm after they were found with their “trousers pulled down and legs entwined” in a garden in Towcester Road.
They were initially arrested for a public order offence but were later charged with murder.
The court heard a blue plastic bag Pound had been carrying when he was arrested contained a knife and a towel with blood on it.
The jury was told DNA from the blood matched that of Mr Chester. Officers also found another knife in St Mary’s churchyard which had blood that matched Mr Chester’s DNA.
In police interview, Cash claimed that Pound had stabbed Mr Chester following an argument over a £10 note. Pound said that Cash had killed him as she had a bad temper when she was drunk.
Mr House said: “The prosecution’s case, and what both defendants also accept, is that they were both present when Mr Chester was stabbed.
“The defendants both accept Mr Chester was murdered.”
The jury was shown CCTV footage of Mr Chester, accompanied by Cash and Pound, buying alcohol from the Co-Op store opposite his house at 9.15am on the day of his alleged murder.
Mr House said Mr Chester’s neighbour went outside the back of his property at about 11.15am to smoke a cigarette and saw Pound nd Cash through a rear window.
He said the neighbour made eye contact with Pound and formed the impression he looked startled to have been seen.
The court heard the neighbour then left his property at 11.40am and said there was no sign of a fire.
A fire crew were called out to Rothersthorpe at midday after a member of staff at Delapre Primary School saw smoke billowing out of an upstairs window of Mr Chester’s house.
Mr House said Cash and Pound were captured on CCTV cameras buying alcohol in the Costcutters store in St Leonards Road and then in another store in Delapre Crescent.
He said the pair stopped at St Mary’s Church in Abbey Road and Pound knocked on the door of the vicarage as he knew the parish priest.
The court heard Pound asked the priest if Cash could use his shower. The priest refused but did give Pound some money and made some cheese sandwiches for the pair of them.
The jury was told Cash was described by witnesses as “ very drunk” and was seen urinating in an alleyway.
Detective Inspector Louise Hemingway, who led the investigation, said Pound and Cash had repaid Mr Chester’s act of kindness in letting them stay in his house by killing him.
She said: “Robert was known by his neighbours to be a quiet man who never caused any issues or harmed anyone. He kept himself to himself and lived a simple life with a fixed routine. It was this fixed routine that led his neighbours to notice that he had visitors on the 8th of October.
“It appears that an act of kindness by Robert was a fatal mistake. He offered to take in two people who might otherwise have had to spend a night out on the streets on a cold October night.
“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Robert’s family and friends and hope that the conviction will help bring some comfort to them.”
Pound and Cash will be sentenced later this year.