Michael Bryant beat Alan Wyatt to death before setting the crime scene alight to destroy evidence however he was caught on CCTV using the victim’s bank card at two shops and a fast food restaurant on the same morning of the offence. Forensic evidence also tied him to the crime.
The 35-year-old, formerly of Firethorn Close, pleaded guilty to murder at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday 1 September 2020 will serve a minimum of 28 years in prison.
Kent Police was first called to a fire at a ground floor flat in Firethorn Close at around 10.30am on 14 February 2019.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service were already in attendance and, upon arrival, officers were informed that Mr Wyatt, who was 68, had been found deceased inside a bedroom.
It was clear he had sustained numerous facial injuries that could not have been caused by the fire and detectives began to piece together the circumstances.
A number of witnesses told officers Bryant had been seen acting in a threatening way towards Mr Wyatt before the fire and investigators went on to find a bloodied cushion, hammer and knife in a discarded washbag on the landing of Bryant’s home – which was above the victim’s flat.
They also found the victim’s birth certificate, house keys and other personal items in Bryant’s property. He had also stolen frozen food from Mr Wyatt’s freezer.
Search for the suspect
About 45 minutes after first being called to the scene, officers viewed CCTV from a convenience store in Gillingham High Street. The footage captured Bryant using the victim’s bank card to buy various items.
They went on to find the offender sleeping rough in the same street at 12.20am the following morning.
At the time of arrest, Bryant’s face and clothes still had traces of blood and a DNA swab taken from blood on his face provided a match for Mr Wyatt.
Detective Chief Inspector Tristan Kluibenschadl, a senior investigating officer for the case, said: ‘Bryant committed an appalling crime on a vulnerable man. He needlessly robbed Mr Wyatt of his life and has caused a huge amount of pain for his loved ones.
‘While nothing can undo the harm he has caused, I am pleased that justice has done and that a violent offender has been locked up and is no longer able to harm the public.
‘In my 29 years of policing, which has included a long stint covering homicides, I have never come across a more harrowing scene and I would like to pay testament to the officers that first attended this call. Despite being confronted with an extremely distressing set of circumstances, their professionalism allowed us to quickly gather the vital evidence needed to track Bryant’s movements and bring him into custody at the earliest opportunity.’
A spokesperson representing Mr Wyatt’s family said:
‘Alan’s life was tragically cut short by the wilful actions of a so called friend and neighbour who took it upon himself to murder a frail, defenceless, wheelchair-bound amputee in the most brutal way.
‘We were deprived of our right to say a proper goodbye to him in the most horrific circumstances imaginable.
‘The last memory some family members have of Alan is a green tarpaulin on a public walkway outside his home, covering the body of the man we all loved. We will all be haunted forever by the truly horrific act of evil that took Alan away from us.’
Additional lines from the victim’s family, directed towards Bryant:
‘You have deprived our family of a brother, uncle, cousin and nephew – but also a dad and a grandad to people who never got the chance to know him and love him like we did. You made us sit through weeks of a court trial listening to the most horrific injuries that Alan sustained in the most brutal way. We could have been spared this heartache and the details if you had only admitted to your guilt sooner.
‘We want Bryant to feel the pain, emptiness and hurt we are going through for the rest of his life. Alan will always be remembered and will always be in our thoughts and our hearts.
‘On behalf of Alan’s family we would first like to thank DCI Tristan Kluibenschadl, DS Alastair Worton, DC Catherine Holmes and the rest of their team in the Major Crime Department for their hard work in bringing this case to court, for their kindness and respect to our family; for their updates throughout this time and ensuring us that justice will be served.
‘To our Family Liaison Officer PC Jessica Summers, for her continuous support to the family throughout all of this, she has been the person that’s kept us going by answering our questions that have been put to her day and night.
‘We thank Oliver Saxby QC for his professionalism in presenting this case to the court, for his understanding and compassion to our family.
‘There is not enough thanks we can give these professional people to show our gratitude.
‘Alan’s family must now come to terms with the senselessness and wanton disregard for human life inflicted by this man. Time is a healer but memories good and bad last forever.’