A man who bludgeoned a pensioner to death in a “merciless and prolonged” killing after he complained about drug dealing has been jailed for life.
Michael Bryant, 35, murdered 68-year-old Alan Wyatt with a hammer, a meat cleaver and a knife on Valentine’s Day last year in Gillingham, Kent.
He then attempted to set fire to Wyatt’s body to cover up the crime, Maidstone Crown Court heard.
Bryant was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to murder, and having previously pleaded guilty to arson.
The court heard that the friendship between the neighbours had broken down and Wyatt complained to a police community support officer about alleged drug dealing in Bryant’s flat.
Kent Police said officers viewed CCTV footage from a convenience store which showed Bryant using Wyatt’s bank card.
They later found Bryant sleeping rough, and his face and clothes still had traces of blood on them. A DNA swab taken from blood on his face matched his victim.
Police said they found Wyatt’s birth certificate, house keys and other personal items in Bryant’s flat, and witnesses told officers that Bryant had been seen acting “in a threatening way” to Wyatt before the fire.
A bloodied cushion, hammer and knife were found in a discarded washbag on the landing of Bryant’s home, which was above the pensioner’s flat.
Judge Adele Williams said the details of the murder were “harrowing” and she thought Bryant killed him for personal gain.
She said: “The attack was merciless and prolonged.
“You tried to dispose of the body by fire and you have done everything you can to evade responsibility.”
She added that Bryant “may never be released” after passing sentence.
Defence barrister David Josse QC cited his client’s guilty plea and confirmed it was not being argued that anyone else had been involved in the killing.
Wyatt’s niece, Claire Langthorn, said the family “carry a life sentence of grief”.
She fought back tears as she faced Bryant in court and described Wyatt as a “cheerful, happy man” with a “mischievous” laugh and a great sense of humour.
“As his family, he means something different to all of us and we are all just devastated, empty and traumatised by the events of the 14th of February,” she said.
“We were deprived of our right to say goodbye to him in the most horrific circumstances imaginable.
“We will all be haunted forever by the truly horrific attack that took Alan away from us.
“We hope that Alan’s stoved-in face taunts your memories forever.”