Drug addict who murdered Accrington pensioner jailed for 30 years
A crack cocaine addict who murdered a "kind and gentle" pensioner has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.
John Swannack, 59, was given a life sentence at Preston Crown Court for the murder of 79-year-old Bill Howard in Accrington, Lancashire, in August 2021.
Lancashire Police officers were called to Mr Howard's flat on James Street just before 2pm on 28 August 2021 and found him with serious head injuries and a number of stab wounds.
A force spokesman said Mr Howard, who was pronounced dead at the scene, had been subjected to a sustained attack, including having accelerant poured on him.
Police said Mr Howard was last seen alive on 24 August and later that day Swannack was captured on CCTV leaving the pensioner's property with a black bin bag and walking stick.
Swannack used his victim's bank card a number of times up until his arrest on 29 August, police said.
Mr Howard's brother Jack said: "Everyone who knew Bill knew what a kind and gentle man he was. I don't think he had a bad bone in his body.
"Bill would not hurt a fly and I don't think he had ever had a fight in his life.
"Bill has done nothing whatsoever to deserve what happened to him, he was just living a peaceful life and spent his days quietly going about his own business."
Swannack also withdrew money from the accounts of a vulnerable housebound former neighbour and a man with speech and mobility issues, whose wallet he stole, police said.
He pleaded guilty to murder, two thefts and three frauds in January.
DCI Allen Davies said: "Swannack is a callous and manipulative individual who deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable people so he could rip them off to fuel his expensive crack cocaine habit.
"Bill Howard couldn't have been more different. He was a kind, quiet, unassuming man, who lived a simple life without bothering anybody. I cannot and do not want to imagine what he went through in the final hours of his life at the wicked hands of Swannack.
Joanna White for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "John Swannack ruthlessly targeted vulnerable people and was prepared to go to any lengths, including torturing and killing a man for pocket money.
"When faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, John Swannack was left with no other option than to plead guilty to all the offences he faced."