Langwith Junction murder: Accused carried out 'reconnaissance' trips to scene of killing, trial told

Ken and Freda Walker were found dead at their home in Langwith Junction in January. Credit: Handout / Derbyshire Police

A 34-year-old robber carried out "reconnaissance missions" on the home of an elderly Derbyshire couple he later gagged, bound and attacked, a murder trial has been told.

CCTV footage shown at the trial of killer Vasile Culea, tracked the movements from when he left his address, to the last sighting of him walking close to the Derbyshire address of Ken and Freda Walker.

Mrs Walker was found dead at their home on Station Road, in Langwith Junction, Shirebrook, Derbyshire, on 15 January.

Mr Walker, 88, was taken to hospital. He died seven months later from unrelated causes.

The couple, who had been married for more than 60 years, were found by a neighbour tied up separately at the address early the following morning.

Mrs Walker, 86, was dead and Mr Walker, 88, was fighting for his life. The prosecution say Culea targeted them knowing they had £30,000 in cash at their home.

Flowers laid the the scene where Ken and Freda were attacked

Culea has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mrs Walker and the attempted murder of her husband. He also denies assaulting Mr Walker with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm with intent.

But the jury has already been told how he has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter and to a lesser charge of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm on her husband.

Prosecutor Michael Auty KC, and witness Detective Staff Investigator Tom O'Connor, took the jury through the CCTV tracking Culea's movement on the day of the alleged murder.

It began with him leaving his home in Grove Road, Church Warsop, at 8.05am and heading into Shirebrook and Mansfield to visit different bookmakers.

Following that, the clips and stills showed him travelling to and from the Station Road area, where the Walkers lived and where they were attacked, by car and by foot. He is last seen walking down an alleyway next to the address shortly before 9pm that day.

Ken and Freda Walker were attacked in their home Credit: Bolsover District Council

Opening the case on day one of the trial, Mr Auty said: "They were attacked in their own home. Freda was killed, Kenneth survived.

"Mr Culea accepts Freda Walker has died as a consequence of some act of his.

"The issue in this case is what the defendant's intention was. In essence he will say 'yes I am responsible for causing those injuries but, despite those injuries, I did not intend to cause them really serious harm'. The prosecution say 'no, you intended to kill'."

A jury of 11 men and one woman heard how three months before the attack, Mr Walker withdrew £30,000 in cash from the couple's bank to pay for home improvements and had hidden it in £5,000 bundles around the house.

Mr Auty said: "It is not entirely clear how the defendant came to learn about the presence of the £30,000 but it is plain - and it is not in dispute - that he did become aware. What this case is really about is that he decided he was going to have it. It began as a robbery, that was his intention, he was going to have that £30,000."

Mr Auty said: "What happened is that the defendant undertakes a number of reconnaissance missions to the area (of Langwith Junction). We say he knows about the £30,000 and he's plotting and planning a way to get hold of that. The first four missions were done in his car and the next three on foot."

He said it was possible Culea had got into the Walkers' home when the couple may have opened their back door to let their cat out. He said he was next seen leaving down an alleyway but had left a baseball cap at the address which carried his DNA.

The prosecutor said a neighbour, concerned they had not heard from them, called round the next morning and contacted the emergency services.

Mr Auty said: "What they discovered was what this case is all about. Freda was on the floor. She was dead. She had a number of physical injuries including an injury to her brain.

"She was hog-tied, she was gagged and she had at least two coverings over her head - a pillowcase and a black plastic bag. Her wrists were bound together and her lower limbs were tied together.

"Ken too was inside the house. He was lying in a foetal position beneath the dining room table. He was bleeding from recently inflicted facial injuries. There was a gag in his mouth and something similar tied around his neck, again giving the appearance of ribbon but with a series of knots tied in it.

"Ken also had something apart from the gag in his mouth that appeared to have been stuffed in, no doubt to prevent him crying out either for help or in agony."

The prosecutor said: "The most likely explanation for what occurred is that Culea plainly had failed to locate the vast bulk of the £30,000, became increasingly frustrated, and believing he was being lied to, he sought to extract the money’s location with violence."

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.