Col 'Riley' Workman 'shot dead at front door'
- 3 October 2012
- From the section Beds, Herts & Bucks
An 83-year-old retired Army officer was killed by a single shotgun blast after answering a knock on his cottage front door, St Albans Crown Court has heard.
Lt Col Robert 'Riley' Workman was found dead on his doorstep in Furneux Pelham, Hertfordshire, on 7 January, 2004.
Christopher Docherty-Puncheon, 33, from Stocking Pelham, was a pest controller and had recently worked at Col Workman's home, the prosecution said.
Mr Docherty-Puncheon denies murder.
At the time, the defendant, formerly known as Christopher Nudds, was 24 and living with his parents in the neighbouring village of Stocking Pelham.
According to the prosecution, he knew Col Workman, having visited his home just months before his death to deal with a wasps nest.
Richard Latham QC, prosecuting, told the jury that during the trial they will hear about two murders.
One, he said, was Col Workman and the other was the murder of a man called Fred Moss.
Mr Latham said: "They are linked killings and we allege both men died at the hands of this defendant. You have to try this defendant on the allegation that he murdered Col Workman."
The court was told that Mr Moss was killed in 2004 and, in February 2006, the defendant was convicted of his murder and his subsequent appeal against conviction was dismissed.
Mr Latham said that Mr Docherty-Puncheon's conviction for the murder of Mr Moss was a fact and he said it might help them conclude that he was capable of "cold-blooded murder".
He said: "The allegation is that that is precisely what the killer of Fred Moss and the colonel was, a cold-blooded killer."
He then told the jury: "This is a whodunnit trial. There is no dispute that someone murdered colonel Workman, the question is "are you sure it was this defendant?"
The court heard Mr Docherty-Puncheon owned dogs and, from time to time, had access to firearms.
He had owned a shotgun certificate between 1994 and 1997 but, at the time of Col Workman's murder, did not have a certificate and therefore could not hold a firearm legally.
Mr Latham said the defendant's uncle had discovered a sawn off shotgun in the defendant's Range Rover prior to the killing of Col Workman.
The court heard that at the time of his death, Col Workman had a woman carer who visited him every day.
On the evening of 7 January 2004 she had left him sitting in the downstairs lounge area, where he slept.
He was wearing his pyjamas and drinking whisky.
The court heard that witnesses heard a bang at between 20:15 GMT and 20:30 GMT that evening.
Mr Latham said that early the next morning the carer, Josette Swanson, returned to the victim's cottage, called Cock House in The Causeway, to find him lying dead in the hallway.
At first it was thought Col Workman had died from natural causes but, later that morning when undertakers moved his body, it was discovered he had been shot.
The court heard a murder investigation began and it was established that he had been shot from a distance of between 11 and 13 ft with a sawn off shotgun.
Mr Latham said: "He was shot from outside his home as he stood in his doorway and you may think the killer must have knocked on his door.
"It's a form of execution isn't it?"
The prosecutor said that despite the sound of a gunshot being heard in the village, no-one had heard the sound of a car driving away.
The jury was told it was possible to walk from Stocking Pelham, where the defendant lived, to Furneux Pelham across open fields.
They were then told how hours after the shooting, but before the carer had discovered Col Workman's body, a 999 call was made from a telephone box in the nearby village of Braughing, asking for an ambulance.
The caller asked for an ambulance to go to The Causeway in Furneux Pelham, but gave the name of the cottage not as Cock House, but Hollyhock Cottage.
Mr Latham said that as a result, the ambulance crew could not locate the address and put the call down to a hoax.
But, Mr Latham said, Col Workman's cottage had been known as Hollyhock Cottage "many years before".
The court heard that the day after the shooting, the defendant was arrested by police and initially claimed he did not know the victim.
Later he claimed he had worked for him on three previous occasions.
The trial continues.