A man has been jailed after pleading guilty to brutally stabbing to death his friend in Northwich.
Gary Solomon, previously of Castle Court, initially denied the murder of 72-year-old John Hammerton.
However, after hearing the opening statement and realising the strength the evidence against him, he changed his plea to guilty just one day into the trial at Chester Crown Court.
He has subsequently sentenced life in prison with a minimum of 25 years.
The 56-year-old had also admitted of three counts of fraud by false representation and one count of theft.
At the sentencing, his honour Judge Steven Everett described the incident as a ‘truly terrible murder of a 72-year-old man’ who was a friend of Solomon’s. He said that he had lost sight of their friendship because money was all he was thinking of.
Judge Everett said to Solomon “All you could think of was yourself and going the betting shop, you caused Jonny anguish then and even though you knew he was really sad about it, you didn’t let up, when you were short of money you made a decision that cost him his life.
“I’m quite sure you didn’t think you’d go there and kill him, but I am quite sure you thought you’d go there to beg money off him and when he refused you completely lost it and beat him, took a knife out and repeatedly stabbed him to the chest 13 times, you made sure he was going to die, you beat him and then murdered him because you didn’t want anyone to know it was you.
“You went straight to the ATM to get his money out, no conscience and no remorse, it was all about you when he was dead in his home, a truly terrible thing to do.”
Detective Inspector Kate Tomlinson, from Cheshire Constabulary’s Major Investigation Team, who led the investigation, said: “While we may never know the exact reason Solomon killed his friend, it appears that his motivation was money.
“Whether Jonny found out that Solomon had been stealing from him, or if he killed him in order to get more money is irrelevant.
“What the evidence clearly shows is that Solomon murdered Jonny in his own home. This was not an accident or self-defence, he forcefully stabbed him in the neck and chest at least 13 times.
“Then, rather than call for help, he stole Jonny’s bank cards and left him to die, while he went on a spending spree around Northwich using his bank cards.
“Thankfully, as a result of the information provided by all of the witnesses in this case and the strength of the evidence gathered as part of our investigation, Solomon has now admitted his guilt and is facing the consequences of his actions.”
During the opening day of the trial the jury heard how Jonny had lived at his home in Castle for five years and had a number of friends in the local area.
He lived a relatively modest lifestyle and was seen as a worrier who often sought help when managing his finances. But, unbeknown to many of his friends, he had access to more than £100,000 in savings.
The one area where he did spend his money was on two annual trips to Thailand to see his wife Lek, who he had been with for more than ten years.
Solomon’s offending started around Thursday 8 August when he stole Jonny’s bank card for the first time and spent £255 that day including over £190 at Megabet.
Jonny was due to be flying to Thailand the next day but, after realising his bank card was missing, he almost cancelled the trip.
Despite his initial concerns he went ahead with his plans and left the UK on Friday 9 August for a three-month visit.
Over the following days Jonny made contact with his friends in the UK and reported his bank card missing on Monday 12 August.
When he made the report he was told there had been fraudulent transactions at three different locations on his account.
Distressed by the activity Jonny cut short his trip and returned to the UK on Thursday 17 September.
Following his return to the UK Jonny spoke to a number of people about the fraudulent activity and had a meeting with his bank about the incidents.
The last time he was seen alive was on Friday 4 October when he was seen by his neighbour.
That same morning, Solomon went to the cash machine outside Tesco Express on Chester Road, and saw he had no money in the account.
He was later caught on CCTV entering Jonny’s house, where he stayed for more than three hours, eventually leaving at around 3.30pm.
From there, Solomon went back to Tesco Express where he made several unsuccessful attempts to withdraw money from Jonny’s account.
Over the next four days he went on a spending spree making a number of purchases at stores, off-licences and betting shops across Northwich using the stolen card whilst at the same time callously expressing his concern to anyone who would listen for his friend Jonny who he had been unable to contact.
His actions came to an end on Tuesday 8 October when Jonny’s concerned wife contacted a neighbour stating that she was worried about her husband as she hadn’t heard from him for several days.
Unable to get a response, the neighbour called police who attended and forced entry into the address, where they found Jonny dead on the sofa in his lounge.
He had been dead for several days and had bruising to his right eye along with at least 13 stab wounds to his neck and chest.
A murder investigation was launched by detectives from Cheshire Constabulary’s Major Investigation Team, which led to the arrest of Solomon on Thursday 10 October.
A search was carried out at his home in Castle Court where officers found shoes and trousers belonging to Solomon, which contained traces of Jonny’s blood.
They also found his bank cards hidden in a bag of dog food in the kitchen, along with a door key to Jonny’s house, which had been dropped down a grid outside his home.
During questioning, Soloman admitted stealing the bank cards in August but denied any involvement in Jonny’s death. He also claimed that Jonny had allowed him to use his bank cards in October to buy Christmas presents.
Soloman told officers that he could not have killed his friend as he had no way of getting into his home.
However, he was unable to account for why there were traces of Jonny’s blood on his clothes and he couldn’t say why the front door key to Jonny’s home was hidden in a grid near his flat.
Detectives also found traces of Solomon’s DNA in a number of places on Jonny’s body, and in the pockets of trouser where he kept his wallet.
Despite all of the evidence gathered against him, Solomon continued to deny any involvement in the death.
On 25 February 2020 he was eventually charged with the murder of Jonny.
Detective Inspector Tomlinson added: “I would like to thank all of the witnesses who have given evidence in this case, along with those who came forward with information during our investigation.
“Their evidence was compelling and a driving force behind the conviction of Solomon for Jonny’s murder.
“While he has now admitted to killing Jonny, Solomon has never shown any remorse for his callous actions.
“He has shown himself to be an utterly selfish man who put his own need for cash above all else. He knew that Jonny was wealthy but also vulnerable and he took advantage of him – with devastating consequences.
“I hope that Solomon’s conviction will allow Jonny’s wife Lek, and all those who knew him, to try and come to terms with what happened and move forward with their lives.”
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “This crime shocked the local community and deeply saddened all those who knew Jonny.
“My thoughts are with Jonny’s family and friends. I hope this conviction gives them some form of comfort in that justice has now been served.”