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Reepham man jailed for life

PUBLISHED: 09:51 07 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:10 13 July 2010

A 64-year-old man was jailed for life on Monday after he was found guilty of battering an elderly neighbour to death with a hammer.

Colin Barker was told at Norwich Crown Court that he would serve at least 15 years in jail for his attack on Heather Burton, 79, at a sheltered housing complex in Reepham last November.

A 64-year-old man was jailed for life on Monday after he was found guilty of battering an elderly neighbour to death with a hammer.

Colin Barker was told at Norwich Crown Court that he would serve at least 15 years in jail for his attack on Heather Burton, 79, at a sheltered housing complex in Reepham last November.

Judge Peter Jacobs described Barker's attack on Mrs Burton as “frightening” and “brutal” but said the reasons behind it would never be known unless Barker chose to reveal them.

As the foreman of the jury of seven men and five women announced a unanimous verdict of murder, there were cries of “Yes!” from members of Mrs Burton's family sitting in the public gallery.

The court then heard that Barker, who denied murder, had a criminal record dating back to 1959, for offences including dishonesty, theft and fraud.

He was jailed for a wounding offence in 1968, and has more recent convictions for deception and criminal damage. Two years ago he was cautioned for theft.

The court had earlier heard that Mrs Burton was very security conscious and trusted Barker, who visited her home in Sun Barn Walk daily.

He attacked her with the hammer wrapped in a carrier bag, striking her around the head at least 14 times. The weapon was later discovered in Reepham Cemetery, where Barker had been seen on the day of the murder.

Mrs Burton's body was discovered by Barker at about 10am on November 3. He was arrested the following day, and on November 15 charged with murder.

Forensic tests revealed blood on Barker's clothing, which he was unable to account for. During interview, he denied killing Mrs Burton and said that while he owned a hammer similar to the murder weapon, it had recently been stolen.

Sentencing Barker, Judge Jacobs said: “Something happened one day. You and she fell out.

“You argued and as a result of that argument you completely lost it. The clue to this seems to be in your own character and your own volatility.

“You took the hammer, and the mechanism of how you took the hammer will probably not be known by us unless you choose to tell us at some time in the future.

“You became completely enraged and there is not a shadow of a doubt you struck this elderly lady once or twice at least while she was standing and then a large number of occasions after she had gone to the floor or had almost gone to the floor. Then you went out and hid the hammer.

“This was a frightening crime.”

After the case, Det Insp Andy Guy, who headed the investigation, said: “This was a particularly brutal attack on a defenceless lady who was extremely popular in her local community. Heather was a friend to Barker and appeared to give him the benefit of the doubt when others may not have been as trusting.”

Mrs Burton's son-in-law John Hunter read a statement on behalf of the family in which he thanked police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

“Colin Barker murdered our mother in a cold-blooded and frenzied attack and for what reason we may never know,” he said.

“We've had to endure the pain daily for nearly 12 months and although we will never forget what has happened, we now need to get on with the rest of our lives, happy in the thought that Colin Barker is locked up and cannot harm another person in the community.”


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