Man Jailed For Life For Murder Of Cornish Pensioner

27 January 2015, 13:51 | Updated: 27 January 2015, 14:03

Patrick Curran

A man who strangled an elderly widow to death at her home in Cornwall has been jailed for life.

Patrick Curran, 38, was told he would spend at least 18 years behind bars for the sexually-motivated murder of pensioner Joan Roddam. The 74 year old, who lived alone at her remote bungalow near Delabole, was found dead in the field behind her home on November 8 2003.

Wearing only a nightdress, bed jacket and dressing gown, her body was found placed underneath an upturned wheelbarrow and covered in a blanket.

Curran, then 27, was arrested and questioned in 2004 and again in 2014 when he was charged with her murder following the reopening of the inquiry by Devon and Cornwall Police.

The defendant, of West Down Road, Delabole, was convicted last week of a single count of murder following a two-week trial, which he chose not to attend or be represented at.

Judge Graham Cottle had adjourned sentencing to see whether Curran would be prepared to attend court but again he was not present. The court heard that Curran passed a note to prison staff, in which he said: "I am an innocent man, I don't think I received a fair trial.''

Imposing a life sentence, Judge Cottle said Curran's computer records showed he had accessed a "very considerable number of websites'' containing pornographic images of "mature and very mature women'' engaged in sexual activity with men in their 20s.

"I have no doubt that this was a particular sexual interest that you had at the time of the murder and it had much to do with the reason that you murdered Joan Roddam,'' the judge said.

"The explanation for your going there, I am quite satisfied, was the sexual interest that you had acquired in mature and very mature women.
Joan Roddam was 74 years of age - a woman who took considerable care in her appearance. She almost certainly let you in and there was no evidence of any forced entry. What happened then cannot precisely be known, beyond that you would have made your sexual interest apparent. She almost certainly resisted your advances.

Whether that angered you sufficiently to strangle her to death or you killed her to silence her, I do not know. The strangulation took place in her bungalow. It seems she did not die at that point but in all probability lapsed into a deep unconsciousness. This inference can be drawn from the fact that she sustained a number of injuries in life - injuries almost certainly sustained in consequence of you manhandling her body from the bungalow and then into the wheelbarrow and to its final resting place.''

The judge praised the police for their determination in bringing Mrs Roddam's murderer to justice.

"It was not until many years later, after a very comprehensive review had been carried out, that the Crown Prosecution Service were persuaded that there was sufficient evidence to charge you with murder,'' he told Curran.

"By then, you had got away with this heinous crime for over a decade. I do not believe it is appropriate to express any view as to the quality of the decision-making process that allowed the proper resolution of this case to remain outstanding for so long - thereby prolonging the stress and anxiety for those to whom Mrs Roddam was near and dear. Eventually you have been brought to justice for the murder of a 74-year-old widow. You murdered her in her own home - she was vulnerable by reason partly of age and partly by her circumstances.

As I have said, this murder was sexually motivated, not in the sense that you sexually assaulted Joan Roddam - it was never the prosecution case that you had - however, the murder was sexually motivated in the sense that it explains why you went to her home. You went there, I have no doubt, with the intention of having a sexual encounter with Mrs Roddam.''

The judge added: "You refused to attend your trial and you have consistently refused to attend all court appearances leading up to the trial.
I am satisfied, following the steps taken to rule out all other explanations, that you have wilfully decided for whatever reason not to co-operate in the process. The court is at a loss to understand your attitude or what you considered you could achieve by it.''

During the trial the court heard that Curran - who lived with his parents at the time of the murder - knew Mrs Roddam because she was friends with his mother and father. Speaking last week, Aine Rendell, the great-niece of Mrs Roddam, who was an animal lover, welcomed his conviction. She said:

"We still find it difficult, even after all these years, to come to terms with the fact that Joan was murdered by somebody that she knew and trusted. Patrick is the son of Margaret Curran who cared for Frank, Joan's husband, before he died. Margaret remained a friend of Joan's after Frank's death and it has been hard for us to accept why somebody so close to Joan could have killed her.

During the trial we have heard details about Joan's death that have shocked us. Joan did not deserve to die in these circumstances. We cannot understand why Patrick Curran did not come to court to defend himself and face us as a family.''

Detective Inspector Stuart Ellis, who led the investigation, said: "The murder of Joan Roddam occurred some 11 years ago. Since that time her family and the community in which she lived has had to deal with this tragedy and all its consequences. I hope that the conviction of Patrick Curran now will in some way bring comfort and reassurances to all those who have been affected."