A Sussex man has been found guilty of murdering a Lancing man who he claimed owed him £40 for gardening work.
Duncan Hearsey, 44, unemployed, of Harbour Way in Shoreham, West Sussex, was found guilty of the murder of Alan Creasey by a majority verdict of 10-2 following a two-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.
He was sentenced to a minimum of 21 years’ imprisonment today (Wednesday, November 22).
On the evening of Monday, May 29, this year, police attended the address of Mr Creasey in Ingleside Crescent, Lancing, where he was discovered seriously injured, police said.
His injuries were consistent with being repeatedly punched and stamped on, and the 52-year-old was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, where he sadly died the following morning.
Hearsey admitted inflicting the injuries, but claimed he acted in self-defence after Mr Creasey threatened him with a paint stripping knife, police said.
Senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Till Sanderson, said: “While Hearsey may not have set out that day with the intention of killing Mr Creasey, it is undeniable that the brutal injuries he inflicted led to his death.
“He now faces the consequences of his actions.
“Hearsey claims he acted in self-defence, however the relentlessness of his attack suggests otherwise; Mr Creasey sustained multiple injuries which were consistent with being repeatedly kicked or stamped on.
“Hearsey denied murdering Mr Creasey throughout, however he was found guilty following a majority verdict from the jury and justice has been served.
“What happened to Mr Creasey was tragic, and our thoughts remain with his family and friends.”
Detectives carried out extensive enquiries and were able to piece together Hearsey’s movements on the day of the murder.
His journey was captured on CCTV camera including the moments he hung his blood-stained jeans in a tree and shadow boxed in the street before he was arrested and taken into custody.
The jury heard how police received reports of a drunk and disorderly man on a white mountain bike, matching the description of Hearsey, at three separate premises in Lancing earlier that evening – The Railway pub in North Road, and The Farmers pub and Andreas Kebabs in South Street.
While on route to respond, officers were diverted to a medical emergency, where a man had suffered a cardiac arrest at Lancing Railway Station, police said. They travelled via South Street, where there was no sign of the Hearsey.
During this time, at 8.15pm, Mr Creasey dialled 999 and stated that an unknown man, again matching Hearsey’s description, had turned up at his address and demanded £40 for a gardening job he claimed to have previously carried out there.
While one crew stayed to assist with the medical emergency, another crew attended Mr Creasey’s house.
He informed them he had sought medical treatment for a pain in his arm which occurred as a result of the altercation.
The officers advised Mr Creasey to lock his doors, and left to respond to the earlier reports at the kebab shop and the two pubs, and to go in search of Hearsey. However, there was still no sign of him.
Following this, officers returned to Mr Creasey’s bungalow at 9.10pm to carry out a welfare check and take a full statement in relation to his earlier call, and discovered the rear patio doors were wide open.
He was lying face down on the floor and was unresponsive, and paramedics were called.
Police enquiries identified Hearsey as the key suspect.
Police visited his flat in Shoreham later that evening, but there was no answer.
However, they returned shortly before 6am on Tuesday 30 May, at which point he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
While Hearsey was waiting to be booked into custody, Mr Creasey was sadly pronounced dead at 6.34am.
Hearsey was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder.
As officers had visited Mr Creasey earlier in the evening, the incident was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which referred it back to Sussex Police for local investigation.
Inspector Sanderson said: “Through his movements captured on CCTV, we believe Hearsey carried out the attack between approximately 8.30pm and 9.10pm – this is between the time we left Mr Creasey’s address to continue enquiries in the town and search for Hearsey, and the time we returned to Mr Creasey’s address to carry out a welfare check.
“It is tragically unfortunate that we were unable to trace Hearsey before he killed his victim, however we cannot be certain that we would have caught him had we responded immediately to the earlier reports of disturbance in the town.
“Our officers’ attention was diverted to a medical emergency, which was considered a higher priority given the circumstances and information made available to us at the time.”