Manchester jury hears murder accused allegedly confessed in phone call

Donald Patience

The trial of a man accused of murdering a dog owner in Greater Manchester then stealing his labradoodle has heard the defendant allegedly confessed in a phone call.

Ian Connell, 39, is alleged to have strangled Donald “Prentice” Patience, 45, following a row over money and then later returned to break into his property to take Mr Patience’s white labradoodle, Layla.

When police responded to the reported burglary on August 22 they found Mr Patience’s decomposing body underneath a duvet cover at the bottom of the stairs of his end terrace home in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.

Connell had earlier told officers at the scene in Ainsworth Road that Mr Patience was away in Scotland and had given him permission to force entry because he needed his pet walking.

The Crown say Connell was among a number of people who preyed upon the “good nature” of Mr Patience who had access to money from family property.

On Friday, jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard the defendant had lived at Muamba House, a hostel for the homeless in Bolton.

Fellow resident Karl Williams told the court that on the afternoon of August 20 he was in the TV room when another resident, Kevin Hampson, received a phone call.

When the call ended Mr Hampson said he had been speaking to Connell, he told the court.

Michael Hayton KC, prosecuting, asked: “What did you hear Kevin say?”

Mr Williams replied: “He said ‘you think you killed your boss?’

“Judging from the conversation he basically gave him two options – either you hand yourself in or you get out of Dodge.”

Mr Williams confirmed to Alexander Leach KC, defending, he could not hear what was being said on the other end of the phone line.

Mr Leach asked: “Can you be sure that call was from Ian Connell?”

Mr Williams said: “Only from what Kevin was saying.”

Mr Leach said: “Whatever it was you heard you didn’t think it necessary to phone the police?”

“No,” replied Mr Williams.

Mr Leach went on: “If you thought that Ian Connell was confessing to a murder he had genuinely done would you not think it was important to tell the police?”

Mr Williams said: “Yeah but I just didn’t believe it.”

Forensic pathologist Dr Philip Lumb told the court he conducted a post-mortem examination of Mr Patience’s body and ruled the cause of death was pressure to the neck.

He said “considerable force” would have been required to inflict his injuries which included a fractured voice box.

From his observations Dr Lumb said he thought it was “very unlikely” Mr Patience died on August 22.

He said it was “possible” he died the day before but, “given his decomposition”, he favoured August 20.

Mr Patience’s mobile phone handset was last unlocked using a Pin code in the early hours of August 20, the court heard.

In a statement read to the court, the defendant’s mother Anne-Marie Connell said her son had done odd-jobs for “Prent” and that he helped Connell with money.

She said: “Prent did a lot for him. If he wanted money he gave it to him.”

Later the jury was read excerpts of police interviews with Connell following his arrest.

He said he loved the victim like a father.

Asked if he had anything to do with Mr Patience’s death, Connell said: “I would have told you.

“All that man has done is support me through everything.

“I will go and find the man who has done this. I will bring him to you. He will still be breathing, I promise you that.

Midway through the reading of the police interviews Connell stood up in the dock and shouted: “When I am going to be able to say something?

The court has heard Mr Patience, originally from Alness, graduated from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University as an actuary in 2001.

He found work carrying out statistical analysis for pensions but became unwell from the “high pressure job”.

Mr Patience moved to Greater Manchester in around 2005 to set up a Domino’s pizza restaurant franchise in Bury but later turned to alcohol and painkillers after a car accident in 2015 left him unable to work.

Connell denies murdering the divorced father-of-three.

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