A murderer stabbed to death a man in his flat in Teignmouth then called his ‘vulnerable’ and naive friend to help him move the body.
Neil Hinton, 39, thought David Ablett was ringing up for help to bag some drugs. But when he arrived at Barnpark Terrace he found Matthew Jackson, 38, battered and dead on the floor.
Ablett told Hinton he needed a hand moving the body so grabbing Mr Jackson’s legs and arms the pair dragged him down the hallway, out the front door, and dumped him by some wheelie bins outside.
Mr Jackson’s dead body was found a few hours later by neighbours. Police followed a trail of blood back to Ablett’s door.
Ablett was sentenced to life in prison last week for the murder of Mr Jackson. He stabbed him repeatedly with a two-pronged fork in a row over drugs.
Hinton, of Ness View Road, appeared at Exeter Crown Court on Monday and was sentenced for perverting the course of justice. He initially lied to police about his involvement but later admitted helping Ablett move the body.
The court was told he had suffered with mental health and learning difficulties since birth.
Ms Heather Hope, defending, said: “He is a childlike individual.
“He was somebody who was used by Ablett that night. He didn’t enter this as somebody who wanted to be involved.”
Ablett was jailed for a minimum of 16 years for murdering Mr Jackson. He claimed Mr Jackson, from Bishopsteignton, attacked him and tried to steal his £1,000 stash of heroin and cocaine he kept hidden in his bedsit.
After the killing he went upstairs to a neighbour’s room and called Hinton on the phone.
Prosecutor Simon Laws QC said: “After the stabbing Ablett set about trying to cover up what he’d done, getting rid of the weapon and Mr Jackson’s phone and wallet.”
The body was too heavy to move on his own so Ablett called Hinton saying he needed help with something. Hinton, a drug user, assumed he wanted him to bag drugs but when he arrived a short time later he was threatened by Ablett and ordered to help move the body.
DNA showed the men had grabbed his arms and legs while dragging him outside. A pathologist told the trial Mr Jackson may still have been alive, but unconscious, at the time.
Hinton told police that when he arrived at the flat Ablett looked ‘horrible’. He had sustained bruises during the violence. Hinton denied seeing or moving any body.
Hinton’s lies did not impede the police investigation very much though it had diverted the focus for a short time.
“It did not cause the inquiry into Ablett’s role in the murder to be distracted to any great degree,” Mr Laws said.
Ms Hope said Hinton was vulnerable and naive and somebody who was ‘manipulated and exploited by those around him’.
The defendant’s parents were in court to hear his sentence. Ms Hope said they were distraught by the case. Hinton’s mental health and learning problems were the result of a difficult birth. He had ‘struggled through life’ and his family had done all they could to help him.
He had become involved int he drugs world, but was usually exploited by others to run errands in exchange for drugs.
Hinton described moving the body as a ‘horrible night’.
Judge Peter Johnson accepted Hinton, a schizophrenic, had been bullied and threatened by Ablett.
He said perverting the course of justice usually resulted in prison but due to his personal mitigation he was prepared to suspend the 12 month sentence.
“You were manipulated and easily exploited because of your learning difficulties,” said the judge.
“I accept you were acting under Ablett’s direction and control for a short and limited period of time.”