ESSEX MURDERS: Inquests opened into deaths of strangled Donald Ralph and stabbed Paul Fletcher


THE inquests into the deaths of two Essex murder victims found dead just three days apart were today opened and adjourned.

Chelmsford Coroners' Court heard how Donald Ralph, 83, (pictured above) was found unresponsive on his back with facial injuries by his niece at his home in Halstead Road, Aldham, near Colchester, on December 29.

Sarah Lee, assistant to the senior coroner, said: "His death was confirmed, police attended and the coroner was informed.

"A forensic post mortem examination was carried out by Dr (Matt) Ceika who gave a cause of death as 1a ligature strangulation."

Assistant coroner Tina Harrington said: "Police attended and they are treating the death as suspicious.

"No date has been set for the further adjourned inquest as the matter is subject to police investigation."

Detectives investigating the death of the pensioner believe two guns were stolen from his home around the time he was strangled.

Essex Police said a Ruger rifle and a Browning shotgun, which were registered, were taken and may have been sold on.

Leighton Snook, aged 28, of no fixed address, and a 16-year-old boy have been charged with murder and are due to appear at Ipswich Crown Court for a plea hearing at a later date.

STABBED: Paul Fletcher (Essex Police)

The inquest into the death of Paul Fletcher, 31, originally from Dagenham, east London, who was found with a stab wound in his home in Worcester Drive, Rayleigh, Essex, on New Year's Day, was also opened today.

Ms Lee told the court: "in the early hours of January 1, he was found at a house in Rayleigh with a stab wound.

"Police attended and the investigation is ongoing.

"Dr (Virginia) Fitzpatrick-Swallow gave a probable case death of death as 1a a stab wound to the chest."

The case was also adjourned with no date set until after the police murder investigation.

Paul ‘Dod’ Fletcher had been turning his life around after spending years in and out of prison.

The funeral is set to take place on February 11.

Hannah Sindrey, 23, has been charged with the murder. Sindrey, of Worcester Drive, Rayleigh, was remanded in custody until a plea hearing, due to take place in the week commencing February 1.

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