COUNTY NEWS: Sussex teen found guilty of murder

Ben Bamford has been found guilty of killing 52-year-old Paul Jefferies following a two-week trial.
Ben Bamford has been found guilty of killing 52-year-old Paul Jefferies following a two-week trial.

A Sussex teenager has been found guilty of the murder of 52-year-old civil servant Paul Jefferies.

Ben Bamford, 18, of South Street, Crowborough, was found guilty of killing 52-year-old Mr Jefferies by a jury on November 22 following a two-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.

Victim Paul Jefferies was described as 'a private but diligent and hard working person' by friends and colleagues .

Victim Paul Jefferies was described as 'a private but diligent and hard working person' by friends and colleagues .

Bamford, who was 17 at the time of the offence, admitted to killing Mr Jefferies on February 23 but denied murder saying he was trying to protect himself.

Police officers discovered the body of Mr Jefferies at his home in Coggins Mill Lane, Mayfield on February 25 after colleagues at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) raised concerns for his welfare. Police say he had significant head and neck injuries from a 'prolonged brutal attack' and there were signs of a struggle throughout the property.

Police say the cottage was locked and there were no signs of forced entry but Mr Jefferies’ car keys and grey Audi TT were missing.

As detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team launched a murder investigation, Bamford handed himself him into Eastbourne police station on Saturday, February 27. Bamford, who was then aged 17, attended the police station with his mother and told police that he had been involved in a fight at an address in Mayfield on February 23.

He was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken into custody. He was later charged with murder on March 1.

Investigations carried out by detectives established that Bamford was a drug user who had run up a £400 drug debt, which he was being pressured to pay. Bamford told police he had met Mr Jefferies on the mobile gay dating app Grindr. They had arranged to meet on three occasions – the last being the night of the murder.

On the night, police say, Bamford's mobile phone connected automatically to the internet router at Mr Jefferies home. The connection lasted from 9.34pm to 10.57pm by which time, police say, Bamford had killed Mr Jefferies.

Bamford told the court he had met up with Mr Jefferies that night in the hope he would help him pay off his debt. Beforehand he had taken Valium and smoked cannabis.

He said Mr Jefferies had sex with him but Bamford did not like it and told him to stop. When he tried to leave he found the door locked and a scuffle ensured. Bamford then stabbed Mr Jefferies using three knives and candlesticks, inflicting more than 40 injuries, including slashing his throat.

Police say Bamford left Mr Jefferies lying dead or dying on his kitchen floor and covered him with a towel before fele. He locked a mortice lock on the door and then stole his victim’s Audi TT.

Bamford denied plotting to attack Mr Jefferies and said he had not properly known what he was doing at the time. He said he did not think about calling 999.

After the attack Bamford locked up Mr Jefferies home and took his Audi TT before meeting up with two friends who helped him to Eastbourne DGH as he had suffered a serious injury to his hand during the attack.

Bamford told hospital staff he had self-harmed and was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead for surgery. Police say a few hours later his friend took a photo of Bamford lying in a hospital bed smirking and flicking his middle finger up at the camera.

After receiving treatment at hospital and being discharged, Bamford returned home. He later rowed with his mother saying: "I think the man is dead. I stabbed him."

She then persuaded him to hand himself into police. He admitted killing Mr Jefferies but denied murder claiming he was trying to protect himself from Mr Jefferies.

Detective Chief Inspector Tanya Jones, who led the investigation for Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: "This was a horrific attack by a teenage boy who preyed on his victim with the aim of exploiting him for money.

"The level of violence he inflicted on Paul Jefferies was extreme and then he fled the scene in his victim’s car. He showed no remorse smirking for a selfie photo just hours later.

"However the jury did not believe his story. Although this can never undo what he has done, I hope it will bring some justice for Paul's family, friends and colleagues."

Adrian Cooper, deputy director of specialist personal tax at HMRC who worked with Mr Jefferies, said: "Paul was a highly valued colleague and friend. While he was a private and reserved he was also a warm and humorous man, kind, thoughtful, professional and dedicated to public service.

"He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by all who worked with him."

Bamford will be sentenced on Wednesday (November 23).

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