An 84-year-old man who attacked his neighbour with a spade and killed him has been jailed for life.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Thomas Dunn attacked Royston Costello, 60, as he lay asleep on the sofa in his home at Oakdene Court in Sandbach around 10am on Monday 20 February 2023.
Mr Costello's wife Catherine had left the flat shortly beforehand to take their dog for a walk. Dunn, who also lived in the sheltered accommodation, went in, armed with a garden spade and struck Mr Costello to the head three times. He then left, threw the spade in a bush nearby and set off on his bike to a home he'd formerly lived in in Wilmslow.
Catherine Costello returned to the flat and heard a strange groaning sound in the lounge. When she went in, she saw her husband surrounded by blood and clearly seriously injured. Mr Costello was taken to hospital and surgeons fought for his life but he died some weeks later from complications caused by his injuries.
Dunn was arrested a few hours after the attack. He made full and frank admissions to arming himself and deliberately striking Mr Costello to cause him serious injury.
He said he understood what he was doing and wanted to cause as much harm as possible. He said he was not concerned with the huge distress caused to Catherine Costello. He was arrested and charged with wounding but that was changed to a murder charge when Mr Costello died.
Dunn entered a guilty plea to murder on 13 October 2023 at Chester Crown Court and at the same court on 17 November, he was jailed for life and must serve a minimum of seventeen-and-a-half years before he can be considered for parole.
The sentencing hearing heard that Mr Costello was a sociable man who had been in the army for many years but retired through ill-health. He was still active and involved with social activities at the sheltered accommodation.
Thomas Dunn was a very different character – something of a loner with a strict regime he stuck to each day. He had been in the army before working for many years for the water board taking early retirement in his fifties. He was happily married and struggled to recover from the death of his wife shortly after he retired.
Mr Costello suspected Dunn of vandalising his car on a couple of occasions and called the police. The police spoke to Dunn but he denied it. He accused Mr Costello of bullying him and claimed he tampered with his letter box late at night. He was said to be furious at the allegation of vandalism and this appears to have been the trigger for the fatal attack.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Adrian Evans, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: "It was obvious that Dunn felt resentment towards Mr Costello but there was little to explain the extent of the animosity.
"He had clearly planned this brutal attack on Mr Costello and waited in his flat for his wife Catherine to leave. Mrs Costello saw him leave the building as she returned, with the spade in his hand.
"She told police how frantic she was when she saw her husband so badly injured and said she suspected Dunn was responsible as she'd seen his bike near her flat.
"When he was arrested, he said to officers, 'I won't be needing my bike again in a hurry.' He admitted the attack in interview and said he'd hit Mr Costello three times and then thought, 'That's enough'.
"This is an almost inexplicable tragedy that has left the family of Mr Costello traumatised and devastated. Dunn has previous convictions for disputes with neighbours and there is clearly a very dark side to his character. Our thoughts remain with Mr Costello's family and friends."