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High-ranking tax official 'murdered by teenager he met on gay dating website'

Published 08/11/2016

Ben Bamford will go on trial at Lewes Crown Court
Ben Bamford will go on trial at Lewes Crown Court

A high-ranking civil servant who advised senior ministers on Government tax policy was murdered at his country cottage by a teenager he met via the gay dating website Grindr, a court heard.

Ben Bamford, 18, is accused of killing 52-year-old Paul Jefferies in a "sustained attack" at his property in Coggins Mill Lane, Mayfield, East Sussex, on February 23.

Openly gay Mr Jefferies, a senior HMRC official who had reportedly advised ex-chancellor George Osborne's Treasury team, had his throat slashed and thumb almost severed.

Lewes Crown Court heard how police alerted by worried colleagues found blood-covered Mr Jefferies lying naked on his kitchen floor with a tea towel over his head.

Prosecutor Jeremy Carter-Manning QC said Bamford had "sought out" Mr Jefferies on the night he was killed after Bamford had built up drugs debts of around £400.

Opening the Crown's case, Mr Carter-Manning said: "Unknown to Mr Jefferies, Benjamin Bamford was desperate for money, say the prosecution.

"He had involvement in drugs and a drug debt at the time of £400 or so, and was being pressurised by a known person who supplied drugs."

Bamford, from Crowborough, denies murder.

Mr Jefferies, described by colleagues as "diligent, personable but very private", moved to Sussex from London about five years before his death following the breakdown of a relationship.

He struck up contact with Bamford through the Grindr website from the early summer of 2014, and they met a number of times either at Mr Jefferies' home or in his car, Mr Carter-Manning said.

In one of a number of text exchanges read to jurors, Bamford asked Mr Jefferies for money. Mr Jefferies replied: "Oh OK, it's just that introducing money changes the whole dynamic but we can talk about it when we meet."

On the night Mr Jefferies was killed, the jury was told Bamford was under pressure to pay money to a drug dealer and contacted Mr Jefferies by text, asking whether he wanted to meet up.

Mr Carter-Manning said: "The indication is, say the prosecution, that this defendant was at the time under pressure to pay money and you will hear from the police that the contact who is relevant to these matters is a known drug dealer.

"He was someone who was going to get his money. This defendant had to pay. He sought out Mr Jefferies that night with the intention of robbing him."

Jurors heard how after arranging to meet on the night of the killing, Bamford's mobile phone connected automatically to the internet router at Mr Jefferies' home.

"That connection lasted from 9.34pm to 10.57pm, by which time, say the prosecution, Ben Bamford had killed Paul Jefferies," said Mr Carter-Manning.

"Having struck what was a fatal blow, the defendant left Mr Jefferies lying dead or dying on his kitchen floor.

"He put a tea towel to cover Mr Jefferies and he took from the house his car keys and the house keys. He locked what was a mortice lock and stole the car - an Audi TT."

A neighbour heard the sound of wheels spinning on gravel as the car pulled out of the shared driveway as Bamford made "his escape as quickly as possible".

After the killing, Bamford picked up two friends and drove them to Eastbourne District General Hospital where he was admitted for treatment to his injured hand and arm.

He told hospital staff that he had self-harmed and during his time there he posed for a picture giving a one-fingered sign, Mr Carter-Manning said.

Prosecutors alleged that the injuries Bamford was treated for were sustained during a struggle between him and Mr Jefferies.

In the morning, Bamford's mother was contacted by the hospital who told her he had been referred to the crisis team because of his claims he had self-harmed.

Later, when she spoke to her son he told her a different story, saying instead that he had been attacked by "some man", jurors were told.

In a later conversation with his mother after he had been transferred to East Grinstead Hospital for an operation, Bamford told her: "I think the man's dead. I think I have killed someone." And he added that he was at the house in Mayfield "getting some money".

Bamford said he had been drinking and smoking cannabis and that the man had "come on to him" and "tried to rape him".

He told how he "panicked", that the door was locked and so he grabbed a knife from a knife block and stabbed Mr Jefferies after he refused to let him out.

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.

Press Association

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