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26 October 2010, 13:38 | Updated: 26 October 2010, 14:25
A bin man who battered to death a popular work colleague has been jailed for a minimum of 22 years for murder.
Julian Felisi, 38, lured gentle giant Gary Bennett to a country park early in the morning where he hit him on the back of the head as many as 13 times. A gold chain, worth over a £1,000, that 46-year-old Gary wore was also used as a ligature to cause a strangulation mark around his neck and break a bone in his larynx, St Albans crown court heard.
During a three week trial the jury of eight women and four men were shown a photograph of the victim's high-visibility work jacket which was covered in his blood following the attack. Prosecutor Michael Speak said Mr Bennett of Little Oxhey Lane, South Oxhey, near Watford, had been "robbed as well as murdered." His gold chain, phone and wallet were missing. His body was found by a disused kiosk in Aldenham Country Park in Herts by pupils on their way to Haberdeshers' Askes private school on Wednesday February 24 this year.
Work colleagues described Mr Bennett as a "big bloke", "a gentle giant" , a "friendly man" and someone who was a "little slow." He would routinely ride his pedal-bike to work after being woken by his mother at about 4.30am. But on the day he died he left his bike at home, along with his rucksack, which he always took to work.
Felisi, now 38, of Whippendell Road, Watford pleaded not guilty to murder but was convicted by the jury after 14 hours' deliberations. The jury was told the motive for the killing was not clear, but Gary Bennett would buy tobacco from Felisi who had recently returned from Belgium or France with supplies. When questioned soon after his body was found Felisi initially told police he had no idea how Gary was killed and said he had never given him a lift in his car. But the jury was told that after his arrest, and CCTV evidence had been produced, his solicitors filed a defence case statement with the court.
In it Mr Felisi said he had picked Gary up from his home in the morning, but two Irishmen got into the car and told him to go to Aldenham Country Park. He said he was not present when a tobacco deal took place and all he heard was shouting in the early morning darkness. Mr Speak said: "He said these Irishmen had murdered Mr Bennett. He was forced to take them away from the murder scene and then drop them off to catch a bus to London. Are these the first murderers who flee the scene by standing at a bus stop and waiting for a bus?"
Sentencing him to life with a minimum term of 22 years Judge Stephen Gullick told Felisi: "You delivered ferocious blows to his head. The weapon used has never been found."
The judge said the aggravating features of the murder were Gary Bennett was vulnerable because of intellectual difficulties, the crime was pre-meditated and because of the "sheer brutality, ferociousness and viciousness of the attack."