Man accused of murder took labradoodle as victim lay decomposing on stairs in Bolton home

Donald Patience's body was discovered at the bottom of his stairs in his home in Radcliffe.

A man accused of strangling a dog owner to death later returned to the home of his victim and stole his labradoodle, a court has heard.

The body of Donald Patience was found by police under a duvet cover at the end of his stairs after reports of a burglary at house in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.

A postman phone emergency services on the morning of 22 August 2023 when he saw a man climbing through the back window of the property and heard a noise like someone trying to force entry on Ashworth Road.

Manchester Crown Court heard how the male later emerged from the back garden with a “medium-sized, fluffy” white dog on a lead.

The Crown says Ian Connell, 39, was the man who had entered the address and that some time from 19 August onwards had murdered 45-year-old Mr Patience, commonly known by his middle name Prentice.

Opening the prosecution case on Tuesday 20 February, Michael Hayton KC told jurors that Mr Patience was an “educated man” who had roots in Scotland.

He said: “He was a man who had access to money. He previously worked, had businesses, and had family money from property.

“It is right that because of his access to money there were people who wished to prey upon his good nature, borrow money from him – maybe some of those loans would be paid with interest – but the Crown say his financial position is of significance.

“The Crown say it is the reason, in all probability, that he was found deceased and decomposing at the foot of his own stairs by a police officer following a report of a burglary at the property.

“The only possible explanation for Mr Patience’s death is that pressure was applied to his neck until he was dead. He was strangled to death.

“The most likely explanation is that it followed an argument of some sort about money.

“Mr Patience’s access to money and also perhaps his good nature led to others taking advantage of him, abusing his generosity and using his access to funds.

“The Crown say one such person who sought to take advantage in this way was Ian Connell, and money was central to many of the communications between the two men in the lead up to Mr Patience’s death.

“The Crown does not have to prove a motive, but we say a reasonable conclusion from the evidence is that money was part of what happened in Ashworth Road last year.”

Manchester Crown Court Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Connell, of Duke Street, Bolton, denies the murder of Mr Patience who he later told police he loved “like a brother”.

He has also pleaded not guilty to an alternative count of manslaughter.

Jurors also heard how the defendant also approached two strangers in the street before police arrived at the scene.

He noticed one of the men had a bandage on his thumb and told them he too had a hand injury as he showed them a “thick, red mark” across his palm which he said he received after a row with his girlfriend.

Connell was detained on suspicion of burglary when one of the responding police officers recognised the labradoodle from a previous interaction with Mr Patience, the court heard.

He was found to be in possession of a wallet containing Mr Patience’s driving licence and library card.

Mr Hayton said Connell began to “tell the first of many lies” at the scene and then later in interview following his arrest on suspicion of murder.

He said: “When asked why he was walking the labradoodle he stated Mr Patience had phoned him and asked to walk it. We say that is a lie, because Mr Patience had been dead for some time.

“He said Mr Patience was in Scotland, another lie. Mr Connell knew that he was dead at the bottom of the stairs.

“The Crown say simply that by August 22 he was certainly dead and he became deceased at some point from August 19 onwards.”

The prosecutor said the jury will hear evidence from a pathologist whose opinion was that Mr Patience died from a “sustained period of pressure to the neck” from either some form of ligature – such as an item of clothing – or manually by hands.

Mr Hayton said Connell initially stated to detectives that the property in Ashworth Road was his home address and he had lived there for 12 months.

He went on to say Mr Patience was alive when he left the house on 21 August, jurors were told, but then gave an account in which he said he woke up at the address and found Mr Patience deceased before he tried to move him upstairs.

Mr Hayton went on: “He said he couldn’t have killed him because he loved him like a dad or a brother and said he would find who had killed him.

“He said he lied early in the interview process because of fear. The Crown say the only fear was the fear of being held responsible for what he had done.

“At the heart of this case is the question of who killed Donald Patience. The Crown say that the evidence will show that the person responsible is Mr Connell.

“A man he left despite the affection he purported to feel for him, a man left decomposing on the floor while he callously went about his day-to-day life.”

The trial, estimated to last two weeks, continues on Wednesday 21 February.