Lodger Denies Murdering Sussex Vicar

31 August 2010, 14:56 | Updated: 1 September 2010, 12:00

A young lodger killed an elderly vicar in his own home before chopping up his body because he claimed he had been sexually abused, a court heard today.

Former church server Christopher Hunnisett allegedly drowned 81-year-old Reverend Ronald Glazebrook in his bath and then dismembered his body in 2001.

Together with a friend, Jason Groves, Hunnisett, then aged 17, went on to scatter the retired vicar's body parts at woodland spots across East Sussex.

Lewes Crown Court heard that Hunnisett later repeatedly lied to Mr Glazebrook's family and the police but confided in Groves that he had drowned the vicar.

Jurors were told that the vicar was an active, ``independent spirit'' who helped many people with their problems and was regularly seen walking his dog.

The clergyman offered Hunnisett lodgings at his ground-floor flat in Dane Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, after learning of the teenager's problems with his parents.

Hunnisett was given a free run of the flat, which had internet access, as well as use of the vicar's boat which was moored at Newhaven Harbour.

Prosecutor Philip Katz QC said the arrangement broke down, with Hunnisett allegedly physically abusing Mr Glazebrook, force feeding him and removing lightbulbs around the property.

Opening the case, Mr Katz told jurors: ``There is evidence that the relationship between the deceased and the defendant had deteriorated to the extent that the priest wanted the defendant out of his flat and the defendant knew that.''

The jury heard that the case was a retrial after the Court of Appeal earlier this year quashed his original conviction in 2002 for murder.

Mr Katz said Hunnisett was introducing a ``wholly unlikely story'' at his retrial and any suggestion of sexual abuse was never raised at the original trial.

``Throughout the entirety of the first trial in 2002 this defendant specifically denied that there was anything sexual about his relationship with the Rev Glazebrook,'' said Mr Katz.

``However, as the Crown understands it, the position has changed. Now he is going to say that he was sexually abused by the Rev Glazebrook and the death of the Rev Glazebrook arose out of an occasion where he was being sexually abused.''

Mr Katz later added: ``The prosecution say that if he did what he told Jason Groves, the motive for doing it is irrelevant. Sexual abuse may be a motive for murder but it is not a defence.''

At Hunnisett's original trial, he claimed he had woken on the morning of April 28, 2001 to find the vicar drowned in his bath, the court heard.

Having failed to alert the emergency services, he claimed to have panicked and went out for the day before returning to the flat with Groves and later disposing of his body.

Mr Katz said Hunnisett and Groves pleaded guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead person.

Hunnisett, now 26, formerly of Coventry Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, denies murder.

Mr Katz said: ``His case will be that on the evening of his death, he was merely fending off a sexual advance by the Rev Glazebrook and struck him, causing him to fall into the bath.''

He added that the fact Hunnisett had admitted disposing of the vicar's body parts ``points to him having murdered'' him.

Groves and Hunnisett were arrested on May 5, 2001 about the then-missing Rev Glazebrook as bloodstains were found in his car and on his boat.

Both lied to police and claimed to know nothing about his disappearance but days later, after they had been bailed, body parts were found in woods behind Summerfields sports centre in Hastings.

Both Hunnisett and Groves were re-arrested and in interview Groves admitted his part in the disposal of the vicar's body parts, Mr Katz told jurors.

He took police to the A259 at Pevensey Marshes and to Friston Hill where he said Hunnisett had sawn up the Rev Glazebrook's corpse.

Groves also told officers Hunnisett had confided in him that he had drowned him in his bath and that he had made a failed attempt to dump his body at sea after sailing from Newhaven Harbour.

Mr Katz said Hunnisett was also interviewed but gave a ``complete fantasy story'' involving a ``duplicate body''.

Hunnisett was seen by doctors but he was not diagnosed with a mental illness. Mr Katz said: ``The Crown says that was his own tactical decision to play mad.''

Computers and documents were seized where evidence was found of ``bizarre science fiction'' written by him.

According to the Rev Glazebrook's daughter, Christine Freeman, Hunnisett was regarded as like a family member.

In an obituary written about the Rev Glazebrook by himself, Hunnisett was referred to as a godson and there was talk of him inheriting the vicar's boat as they both shared a passion for sailing.