Devon killer gets life sentence for brutal caravan murder

A killer from Devon has been told he must spend at least 22 years behind bars after murdering a man in his caravan.

Lewis Finch told police he had “done them a favour” after battering and strangling scrap dealer Geoffrey Pearce on 9 January.

Plymouth Crown Court heard the 31-year-old had gone to Mr Pearce’s caravan at a haulage yard near Newton Poppleford, East Devon with “murder in mind”.

Police at the scene of Mr Pearce's caravan, which was burned to the ground following his death.

He was sentenced to life and told he must serve at least 22 years behind bars by Judge Peter Johnson, who said he was satisfied Finch had been abused by Mr Pearce as a child.

Jurors, who found Finch guilty of murder, heard he had been abused from the age of 11 or 12.

The defendant claimed it was this abuse which led to the attack on 9 January.

The following day, he told police: “I've done you a favour, I've killed a paedophile."

“You told lie after lie”

Finch phoned his sister after attacking Mr Pearce with a pick-axe or hammer.

After hearing his victim’s cries for help in the background, Finch told his sibling: “He’s not dead, but he is going to be.”

Judge Johnson said Finch tried to destroy evidence by setting fire to the caravan, which was burned to the ground.

The account you gave [the police and jurors] was a carefully contrived construction of lies designed to minimise the price you would have to pay for this dreadful deed.

Judge Johnson

While he found the accusation of abuse credible, the judge noted Mr Pearce - whose family had described him as "no saint" but having "a heart of gold" - was not able to respond to the allegations.

Finch, of Briseham Close, Brixham, had admitted manslaughter but denied murder.

Adam Vaitalingam, QC, defending, asked the judge to take into account the childhood abuse which formed the background to the killing and Finch's history of mental illness and substance abuse.

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