Two drug dealers who beat a man to death with a baseball bat after he confronted them outside his home have been sentenced to life in prison.
Ian Tomlin died after he was hit multiple times to the head and stabbed in the neck at Cromwell House, Charlotte Despard Avenue, Battersea, south-west London on October 17.
The 46-year-old was struck with such force during the violent attack that the bat split, a trial at the Old Bailey heard.
A jury found Michael Swan and Mr Tomlin’s neighbour, Gary Beech, guilty of his murder earlier this month.
Sentencing the pair on Friday, Judge Rebecca Poulet QC jailed Beech, 48, for a minimum of 21 years and Swan, 46, for a minimum of 19 years.
The judge said the murder had involved “sustained and gratuitous violence” that had left Mr Tomlin with “terrible injuries”.
At the start of the hearing, a statement from Mr Tomlin’s 82-year-old mother Monica was read to the court by Prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC.
She described arriving at the scene of the attack to witness her son lying in a “pool of blood” in the block of flats’ communal area.
Gary Beech faces at least 21 years in prison (Metropolitan Police/PA)Mrs Tomlin said his murder had left her feeling “completely lifeless” and “totally destroyed” by the memories of seeing Mr Tomlin’s injuries.
Her family had been “smothered in grief” by her son’s death, which had left a “hole in my heart that will never be filled,” she said.
Summarising the case, Judge Poulet said the murder was the “culmination of a year of hostility” between Mr Tomlin and his killers.
She said that Beech, who lived across the corridor from Mr Tomlin in Cromwell House and had known him since childhood, dealt class A drugs from his flat.
Swan, of Enterprise Way, Wandsworth, was described by the judge as a “serious crack and heroin addict” who was also involved in drug dealing, was a regular visitor to the block.
He was attempting to deter you both from drug related activity in the flats Judge Rebecca Poulet
Judge Poulet said Mr Tomlin was “very anti-drug” and upset by drug users ringing on his own door and smoking outside.
The men had been involved in a previous confrontation over the issue, and Mr Tomlin’s partner had begged him to call the police, the judge told the court.
She said that on the day of his death, Mr Tomlin was returning from shopping shortly before 5.30pm when he passed Beech and Swan in the block of flats where words were exchanged.
Mr Tomlin returned to confront the men carrying a baseball bat and chain and an altercation occurred, during which he was beaten and stabbed.
CCTV from a building nearby, which looks on to Cromwell House, was played to the jury and appeared to show “a ruckus” on the first floor.
Judge Poulet said Mr Tomlin died “within minutes”, adding that he was struck while lying face down and stabbed whilst already unconscious.
She said she was unable to conclude which defendant brought the knife to the scene but said the pair had launched a “joint attack”.
The judge conceded that Mr Tomlin had brought the bat and chain to confront Beech and Swan but rejected their claims of self-defence.
“He was attempting to deter you both from drug related activity in the flats,” she said of Mr Tomlin.
“It appears to have led him to fear serious violence from you in any confrontation,” the judge added.
She said Mr Tomlin had died while “trying to combat serious anti-social behaviour in his block”.
After the killing, Swan fled in a car, while Beech left the housing block temporarily before re-entering and going into his flat, a journey which would have taken him past the dying Mr Tomlin on the floor, the court previously heard.
The court heard that Beech and Swan had a long history of crime, including convictions for assault, carrying knives and possessing drugs.
Swan was also sentenced to 30 months for perverting the course of justice by removing the bat from the scene, which will be served concurrently with his life sentence.