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Burglar guilty of pensioner murder

A burglar who allegedly stabbed a pensioner 22 times after breaking into his home was today convicted of murder.

Aaron de Silva had pleaded guilty to killing Joseph Griffiths, but denied murder. However a jury at the Old Bailey found the case proved.

The 21-year-old, of Earls Court, south west London, also admitted aggravated burglary armed with a lock knife.

Mr Griffiths, 73, was discovered in a pool of blood by his wife and a friend after the "brutal" attack in Hazlebury Road, Fulham, south west London, on November 10, 2012, the court heard.

Prosecutor Brendan Finucane QC told the jury when he opened the trial: "There were no eye witnesses but people were awoken by a completely brutal and overwhelming assault on an elderly man in his own home, where he was knifed 22 times to the body."

After the attack De Silva was caught on CCTV taking a "cool, calm and collected walk" back to the Earls Court hostel where he was staying to wash his clothes and get rid of evidence, Mr Finucane said.

He was arrested at the Opendoor Housing Trust Hostel three days later.

The court heard that on the morning of November 10 De Silva went into a number of gardens on Hazlebury Road before stealing a pair of bolt croppers from an unlocked garden shed.

Using the tool, at about 6.15am he broke a rear window on the basement level of Mr Griffiths' nearby six-storey terraced home and walked around the lower two levels.

Mr Griffiths and his wife Judy, who had lived there for 50 years, were asleep in separate bedrooms on the ground floor, while family friends John and James Hall, who were visiting for a wedding, slept on the second floor.

Mr Finucane said: "Mr Griffiths must have been woken by the defendant coming in, must have challenged him in the hallway, outside his own bedroom door."

It was at this point, Mr Finucane said, De Silva carried out the "brutal and overwhelming assault", stabbing him 22 times in his chest and abdomen.

He added: "This awoke his wife and friends, but by the time they got there he had left."

Mrs Griffiths found her husband lying on his back in a pool of blood. The front door was still locked, and Mr Hall found the rear basement door had been opened.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate Mr Griffiths, but he died in the house just before 7am.

De Silva was arrested at the hostel on Warwick Road on November 13, and the knife was found in the basement area outside a house on Snowbury Road, near the scene of the killing.

De Silva was seen on CCTV before the attack walking in a "determined and purposeful" manner towards the area of Hazlebury Road, and after the killing going back to the hostel with a "cool, calm and collected walk".

Mr Finucane said: "Given the savagery of the attack on Mr Griffiths and his behaviour before and after, there can be no doubt that he had the intention to kill or cause really serious harm."

He added: "Anybody who stabs a person 22 times with a knife like that has at the very least the intention to cause really serious harm, and further you can be sure that he did it with the intention to kill the deceased."

De Silva looked impassively in front of him as the verdict was returned. Sentencing will be on Friday.

Mr Griffiths' eldest son, Mark Griffiths, 53, said afterwards: "There is a great sense of relief for all the family, friends and customers of Joe."

The victim had a car repair business in which his son still works.

He added: "We are overwhelmed with all the support we have had from the police, and very impressed with the way they've handled it from day one.

"We are very happy that the legal system of this country has proved to be one of the best in the world, as usual, and we have come to the correct verdict."

In an impact statement written by Mark Griffiths, on behalf of the family, which was read to the court, he said: "The murder of Joe in such a senseless manner has left a gaping hole not just in our family, but every family who knew him."

And the statement added: "We as a family are living with the devastating consequences of that act of violence."

De Silva is said to have 31 previous convictions from the age of 12 to his arrest for the murder when he was 19, for matters such as robbery, burglary and carrying a knife.

The trial judge, Timothy Pontius, sentenced De Silva's father Emmanuel de Silva to 24 years' imprisonment in 2002 for robbery.

Court reports at the time said he was part of a gang that was responsible for a number of well planned and executed robberies in the London area between January 2000 and May 2001.

The reports said that Emmanuel's nephew, Orson de Silva, was jailed for 24 years for similar offences.

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Simon Pickford, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "De Silva is an extremely violent individual who had no hesitation in stabbing the victim repeatedly in a frenzied and brutal attack after he was disturbed having broken into Mr Griffiths' home.

"I must pay tribute to Mr Griffiths' family who have been left utterly devastated by what happened. They have conducted themselves with the utmost restraint and dignity throughout this tragic incident and my and my team's thoughts are with them."

CCTV showed De Silva back at his hostel around an hour after the murder listening to music, seemingly entirely unaffected by what he had just done.

Mr Griffiths had two grown-up sons and seven grandchildren.

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