Peter Smith guilty of Hilda Owen claw hammer murder

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Media captionNottingham Crown Court heard how Peter Smith made a fake distress call after killing Hilda Owen

A Nottinghamshire man has been found guilty of murdering a 71-year-old widow with a claw hammer.

Peter Smith, 48, of Skegby, denied killing his neighbour Hilda Owen, who suffered 48 injuries from the hammer and a screwdriver in 2007.

He admitted preparing her will, which left a house and money to him, just two days before she was attacked.

Smith was sentenced to life in prison and was told he must serve a minimum of 29 years.

Mrs Owen died as a result of some of the 29 head injuries she received, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

Image caption Hilda Owen was attacked with a hammer and strangled

The retrial was told Smith was "mortgaged to the hilt" and had debts of £35,000 when he befriended his housebound neighbour.

Attacked in chair

He claimed grants for her and dishonestly posed as her carer to collect £240 a month in benefits.

Two days before she died, Smith got her to sign a will leaving her house and estate to him.

The jury was told Mrs Owen could have taken 15 to 24 hours to die after being attacked on 27 February 2007.

Blood staining in the house indicated she was first struck from behind while sitting in a wooden chair and was then attacked on the floor.

Smith pretended to find her body two days later. Items had been scattered around her room to make it look like a burglary had taken place.

However, the prosecution said it could not have been a burglary as almost £18,000 was found untouched in her bedroom.

'Utterly betrayed'

Skegby residents described being terrified a murderer was "on the loose" before Smith was arrested and charged with killing his neighbour.

Geoff Shirley, who ran the village shop, said: "I thought he [Peter Smith] was the bee's knees.

"I thought he was ideal for Hilda, that he was a caring, good neighbour. I felt utterly betrayed when it turned out as it has. I was devastated.

"I honestly thought 'how could anyone have done that to Hilda?' She was so frail."

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