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Two charged over pitch and putt murder

May 19 2013
Police advise rough sleepers to stay in groups and in relatively public places for their own safety

Two street drinkers have been charged with the brutal murder of homeless man Lea Williams in Hove, Sussex.

Michael Clark, 51, and Eddie Philips, 49, are both unemployed and known to Brighton’s homeless community. They are being held in custody and are scheduled to appear at Lewes Crown Court on 1 July. A trial date has been set for 30 September. An unnamed woman, 35, has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder. She was bailed until 28 May, while the police make further enquiries.

Mr Williams, 45, was found dead in an archway – known locally as the ‘bat caves’ – that overlooks Hove Pitch and Putt. Project Antifreeze volunteers discovered the body on 11 February this year. A post mortem showed the cause of death to be severe injuries to his head and face; most likely inflicted with a heavy object. Mr Williams sustained further injury, including multiple fractured ribs.

Detective chief inspector, Ian Pollard, who is leading the investigation, said: “The recent charges are as a result of the culmination of a number of lines of enquiry, which included members of the public coming forward.”

Sara Emerson, a key worker at Project Antifreeze, said the community in Brighton had been shaken by the events. “Everyone’s been looking for an answer for a while and they seem a little bit content that someone’s been charged, but it’s all a bit sad,” she said.

Richard Siggs, sergeant in charge of the Brighton Street Community Neighbourhood Policing Team, told The Pavement there had been nine murders within the street community in as many years. “Nine murders in nine years in any community is a really, really bad statistic,” he said. “When violence occurs in the street community, it tends to be extreme. Last night we had a rough sleeper set on fire. The street community suffer, whether at the hands of other street community members or, as it appears in this case, some people out on the beers.”

Sergeant Siggs advised rough sleepers to stay in groups and in “relatively public areas” as well as staying in touch with key workers. “Tell the key workers what goes on, so we can put the responses in place to try to reduce that tendency to violence.”

Pollard urged anyone with information who has not yet spoken to the police to call 101 quoting Op Depot.