Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton Common killer gets life sentence

Tommy Scott Image copyright Hampshire Constabulary
Image caption Tommy Scott, who strangled his victim with a belt, was told he may never be released from prison

A man who strangled a grandfather in woodland and stole his car, phone and bank cards has been given a life sentence.

Tommy Scott, 34, returned to Gerald Pragnell's body the day after the killing to steal a ring, a court heard.

The 66-year-old was found dead in November 2018 on Southampton Common, an area he liked to visit for sex, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Scott, who had admitted murder, was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years.

Passing a life sentence, judge Keith Cutler said that Scott, a former psychiatric patient, might never be released.

Mr Pragnell drove to the common after leaving work at Southampton Airport at 06:30 GMT on 1 November, following a night shift, the court heard.

'Laughing and joking'

His body was found by police in undergrowth near Cemetery Road two days later.

Simon Jones, prosecuting, said Scott strangled Mr Pragnell with a belt in order to steal from him.

He said the defendant, of no fixed abode, was pictured on CCTV "laughing and joking" as he went on a spending spree with Mr Pragnell's bank cards.

Sentencing Scott, Judge Cutler told him: "Your vicious, violent and evil conduct... almost defies description."

He said Scott had targeted a "vulnerable man alone" and it was "chilling and shocking" that Scott had returned to the body to take the ring.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Gerald Pragnell was described by his family as a "genuine, hard-working and caring family man"

The court heard the defendant, who had a "severe personality disorder", had previously strangled a man on the common while demanding sex, leaving him unconscious.

At the time of the murder he was in breach of a requirement under the sex offenders register to notify the police that he was homeless.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Pragnell's partner of 20 years, Martin Speed, said he had been planning to marry his "soulmate", with whom he lived in a houseboat in Southampton.

The victim's son, Aidan, said his "caring, compassionate" father had been two days from retirement when he was killed.

Mr Pragnell's daughter, Emma, said: "The defendant should not have been allowed to roam the streets as he pleased."

Two people have admitted fraudulently using Mr Pragnell's bank cards on 1 and 2 November to make purchases totalling £286.90.

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