Golf Course Murder Trial
31 March 2011, 14:16
A 21-year-old man has been found guilty of murdering a man whose badly burned body was found on a golf course.
The body of Stefan Welch, 36, was discovered between the 17th and 18th holes at Dyke Golf Club on the outskirts of Brighton, East Sussex, on September 4 last year.
The heroin addict had suffered ``catastrophic brain trauma'' caused by a heavy blunt object and probably died in less than an hour, the three-week trial at Lewes Crown Court heard.
Jurors took around five hours to find Sean Iran guilty of murdering Mr Welch along with a charge of perverting the course of justice.
The judge, Mr Justice Nicol, had to order members of Mr Welch's family to be quiet when they shouted out from the public gallery as the guilty verdicts were read out.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 19 years and was also sentenced to seven years, to run concurrently, for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Babak Iran, 45, and Navid Iran, 23, both of St Richards Road, Portslade, have been found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the same matter and sentenced to seven years and six years respectively.
The three are pictured at the bottom of the page
During the trial jurors heard that a golfer found Mr Welch's body as he went to fetch a stray ball from bushes.
Malcolm McNeil and his friends had been the first to tee off that morning and they were coming to the end of the 18-hole round when he hit his ball into bushes.
As he went to retrieve it he noticed there had been a fire before spotting Mr Welch's charred remains, the court heard.
Mr McNeil, a former teacher, told jurors he was shocked when he later found out the dead man's identity as he had taught Mr Welch when he was aged nine or 10.
Prosecutor Philip Katz QC said Mr Welch had been killed at the house where the three men lived in St Richard's Road, Portslade, before his body was moved to the golf course, doused with petrol and set alight.
Jurors heard that CCTV footage showed cafe owner Babak Iran filling his car with diesel at the BP garage in Kingsway, Hove, after the killing.
Navid Iran filled a green plastic canister with petrol before they paid and drove off in the 4x4 vehicle.
Mr Katz said they then helped Sean Iran remove all traces of the murder from their home before disposing of the body at the golf course.
The same 4x4 was later detected by a police automatic number plate recognition camera near the golf course, the court heard.
Jurors were told that Mr Welch had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his adult life, which had brought him into contact with police.
The day before he died, he had spoken to his probation officer about his drugs debts and revealed that he had been threatened over them.
During his own evidence Sean Iran told jurors he had nothing to do with Mr Welch's death, saying they were actually close friends and he had been trying to help him kick his heroin habit.
He said he had called Mr Welch his ``guardian angel'' ever since they had met when he rescued him from being attacked by four men when they were in Lewes Prison in 2008.
The court heard that Sean Iran, who admitted he smoked #20 to #30 worth of cannabis a day to ease his own symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, had serious drugs debts of his own.
He had met Mr Welch while on remand before being jailed for two years in August 2008 for a charge of robbery and one of causing actual bodily harm to a 15-year-old boy.
The court heard that the defendant is also on the sex offenders register for a sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl.