A 26-year-old man has today (Monday) been found guilty of raping and murdering a 72-year-old woman believed to be the niece of crime writer Colin Dexter in her Fleckney village bungalow.
The jury at Birmingham Crown Court took just four hours to find Craig Keogh guilty of murder, two counts of rape and burglary.
Judge Mr Justice Jeremy Baker has still to decide on a sentence for Keogh.
The jury heard that after a night of drink and drugs, Craig Keogh entered pensioner Jane Hings’ bungalow in Elizabeth Road, Fleckney, in the early hours of Sunday, September 24, 2017, while she was asleep in bed.
He then carried out what police described as a “terrifying attack” on the frail woman as she lay in bed before killing her – almost certainly by suffocating her with her pillow.
He then stole her mobile phone, cash and a quantity of jewellery including rings before fleeing the scene.
Ms Hings was found dead in her bed at 7am the following morning by two of her carers.
A post mortem failed to reveal exactly what caused her death but it is believed she was suffocated. Among the injuries found were those which proved she had been the victim of a violent, sexual assault.
At Birmingham Crown Court today (Mon), the jury found Keogh guilty on all counts.
Detective Chief Inspector David Swift-Rollinson, who led the murder investigation, said: “I cannot imagine the terror and pain that Jane suffered that night at the hands of Keogh.
“She lived alone in her bungalow, was vulnerable and largely dependent on the support of friends and neighbours, not least to walk her beloved greyhound Paddy.
“Although she had been married before, Jane had no immediate family. She had told neighbours that her uncle was the creator of the Inspector Morse novels, the late Colin Dexter.
“She was a vulnerable, fragile lady whom I’m afraid would have suffered greatly during the sustained attack.”
A major investigation was launched to identify the person responsible for her murder, during which forensic science was to play a key part.
A number of items were found in Jane’s bedroom which provided clues about the identity of the person who may have killed her.
These included a baseball cap, which was found lodged between the bedhead and the wall, and a steel piercing bar which was found on her body.
Forensic examination of the DNA on the bar was found to match that of Keogh, who lived in a caravan in the village and was known to Mrs Hings, having occasionally walked her dog.
The pillow cases from her bed were also examined.
Scientists found Jane’s DNA concentrated in the middle of one pillow, and Keogh’s DNA at either side of the pillow. Police believe this showed that Keogh had held the pillow over Jane’s head, suffocating her.
In the coming hours, detectives began to build a picture of Keogh, his movements, and the whereabouts of Jane’s stolen jewellery and her mobile phone.
The stolen phone was found in a drain near a betting shop in Granby Street, Leicester, and a trawl of CCTV footage found images of a youth dropping the phone down the drain.
An appeal was issued with a CCTV still of the youth in a bid to identify him and within 40 minutes of it being published he visited a local police station.
He told officers that Keogh had approached him the street, handed him the stolen phone and said “get that gone”. The youth’s evidence wasn’t challenged in the trial.
CCTV footage was found showing Keogh in Fleckney walking down as street carrying a black bin liner, containing what police believed was property stolen from Miss Hings’ bungalow.
Footage was also found of Keogh selling Jane’s stolen jewellery for a little over £100 - it was valued at over £1,000. When officers retrieved the jewellery, Keogh’s DNA was found on it.
At lunchtime on Tuesday, September 26, just two days after Jane’s murder, officers arrested Keogh in his caravan in Fleckney.
He initially told detectives that he had recently met Jane and had been undertaking odd jobs for her. He claimed that on that Saturday night she had offered to pay him for sex and that it had been consensual.
He claimed that when he left the bungalow, Jane was alive but complaining of feeling unwell.
He denied taking her phone or jewellery, and refused to answer any questions in subsequent police interviews.
DCI Swift-Rollinson said: “The real version of events could not be more different to the lies Keogh told us.
“In the hours before this terrible crime, eye-witnesses reported seeing Keogh in several local pubs, drinking and seemingly under the influence of drugs. His behaviour was erratic and he was clearly in an extremely aggressive mood.
“He carried out a terrifying attack on a defenceless woman in her own bed. He will now spend many years incarcerated in prison as a result of his wicked crime.
“We’d like to thank the public for their assistance throughout the investigation, the information they supplied helped us piece together vital evidence.”