Two men and a woman who submerged their victim in a bath after subjecting him to a “sustained”, “sadistic” torture likened by one of his killers to something out of the Resident Evil video game franchise have been jailed for a total of 61 years.

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The body of Derek Blake, 44, of Louise Close, Great Yarmouth, was found face down in a bath at an address in St Nicholas Road in the town on May 24 this year.

He was partially clothed and had been covered with pieces of carpet, clothing, towels and bedding and had been subjected to an attack during which a claw hammer, three knives, including a boning knife, boiling water and a pool cue were used.

Andrew Brown, 43, Ricky Roys, 21, and Helen Cooke, 19, all of St Nicholas Road, Yarmouth, appeared at Norwich Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced after previously pleading guilty to murder.

Sentencing all three to life imprisonment with Brown to serve a minimum of 23 years, Roys a minimum of 20 years, and Cooke a minimum of 18 years, Judge Peter Jacobs described it as a murder which involved “sadistic” conduct.

He said: “Whether or not you set out to kill him when you planned this I can’t say, but I’ve no doubt whatsoever that at the time all three of you had finished that was the only intention in your minds. You had been overtaken by then by the gravity of your own actions.”

Graham Parkins QC, prosecuting, said Home Office pathologist Ben Swift found 104 groups of injuries on Mr Blake, including more than 20 chest wall fractures, following the “sadistic” attack in which the defendants “intended to kill” rather than do “really serious injury”.

Mr Parkins said: “Despite his body being submerged in a bath full of water he had not met his death by drowning. The cause of his death was established by Home Office pathologist Ben Swift and was given as blunt force trauma to head, neck and chest.

“In his opinion Mr Blake had been subjected to a sustained assault over an extended period of time and the assault had taken place in the lounge and part of the bedroom of the flat.”

The attack included pouring boiling water over Mr Blake, inflicting cuts, including a J-shaped cut to the side of his face with a Stanley knife, and burns all over his body and torturing him with a pool cue.

The court heard Mr Blake, who had been restrained by at least one of his attackers holding his arms, may have survived for some hours after the attack and would have been conscious for much of it and would have been in “extreme pain”.

Mr Parkins said the sustained nature of the attack together with the type of injuries and use of weapons led to the “irresistible conclusion that this is a case in which these defendants intended to kill Mr Blake rather than cause him really serious injury”.

He added: “We conclude there’s a number of features which lead to the irresistible conclusion acts amounting to torture, sadistic acts, took place.”

Mr Parkins said Mr Blake had a “serious alcohol problem” and was “mentally very fragile” and “vulnerable” but was described by friends as a “happy drunk”, a “nice person who didn’t threaten anyone”.

The court heard he had met his killers in a hostel in the town and they became drinking partners.

Mr Parkins said Mr Blake had been worried he might be robbed by people who wanted his benefit money.

After the killing, the defendants described the attack to people they knew. Cooke told one friend they “battered him” and should have called an ambulance when he was frothing at the mouth.

Roys said it was like something out of Resident Evil – a horror video game franchise which spawned a film.

Michael Clare, mitigating for Brown, said his client was an alcoholic whose recollection of the events was limited because of the amount of alcohol he had consumed.

Mr Clare said he accepted he bore a “joint responsibility” for what happened but should receive credit for his plea.

Ian James, mitigating for Roys, who the court heard had previously attacked a police officer and fractured his own father’s foot in an assault, said he had led a “chaotic and drunken” lifestyle for many years.

He said he had consumed a significant amount of alcohol on the night but said it was not an “excuse” or “explanation for what happened”.

Katherine Moore, representing Cooke, said her parents had split up when she was eight years old. She was 18 at the time of the murder and had admitted her guilt at the first opportunity.

All three defendants had been socialising with Mr Blake in the hours leading up to his death on Wednesday, May 23 in Brown’s flat in St Nicholas Road.

Neighbours heard shouting and screaming and forensic evidence showed he had been assaulted in many of the rooms.

Further examinations also revealed there was an attempt to clean the property after Mr Blake’s death.

During the morning of Thursday, May 24, Brown, Roys and Cooke were seen in numerous CCTV images, captured as part of the investigation, travelling from Great Yarmouth to Beccles, with several bags. These were later discovered to contain blood stained clothing which when examined proved to be Mr Blake’s blood.

peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Police statement

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Guy, from the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, who led the investigation, welcomed the sentencing saying, “Brown, Roys and Cooke were known to Derek Blake and they had all been drinking together on May 23. The true motivation of why they attacked Derek in such a savage manner may never be known but the extent to which they tortured him was completely incomprehensible and inhuman.

“There was evidence to suggest that this offence was premeditated. No sentences will alleviate from the family the knowledge of the suffering that Derek endured.”

Family statement

First and foremost we would like to thank the Joint Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team and all their staff for their time and dedication in bringing this case to court. We would also like to thank the Crown Prosecution Service.

So good was all their work in the investigation that these offenders pleaded guilty to murder due to the overwhelming evidence against them.

This has been a very trying time for all our family. These three people have left three daughters without a father and their children without a granddad. They have also taken a much loved son, brother, uncle and friend.

While we do not think that any sentence would be long enough due to the brutal, torturous and sadistic nature of Derek’s murder, we believe justice has been served and these people will be locked up for a long time unable to harm any other members of the public.

Our family would now like to be left alone to mourn Derek and to try to get back to some sort of normality, rebuilding our lives without him.

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