Three people convicted of murdering Joe Pooley in Ipswich
- Credit: Suffolk Police
Three people have been convicted of murdering Ipswich man Joe Pooley, whose body was found in the River Gipping.
Sebastian Smith, Sean Palmer and Becki West-Davidson were all convicted of murder by majority verdict at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday afternoon following 59 hours of jury deliberations.
A fourth defendant, Lisa-Marie Smith, was unanimously cleared of murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter.
The jury had retired to consider its verdicts on Friday, February 19, more than four months after the trial began on October 12.
Mr Pooley's body was found in the River Gipping by a dog walker at about 10.30am on August 13, 2018.
The likely cause of his death was later established to have been immersion in water.
The two men and two women were accused of ganging up and murdering the 22-year-old on or before August 7.
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Sebastian Smith, 35, of no fixed address, Palmer, 30, of South Market Road, Great Yarmouth, West-Davidson, 30, of Rope Walk, Ipswich, and Lisa-Marie Smith, 26, of Hawick, Roxburghshire, had all denied murder and manslaughter during the trial, which took place across two courtrooms due to Covid-19 protocol.
Opening the trial in October, prosecution counsel Christopher Paxton QC told jurors that each defendant had a role to play in events that led to the death of Mr Pooley, who had been under the wing of adult social care and was considered to be “vulnerable, trusting of others and easily taken advantage of”.
He said West-Davidson’s anger with Mr Pooley, over comments he was said to have made about her and Lisa-Marie Smith, “stoked up hostility towards him”.
Mr Paxton said West-Davidson had encouraged Sebastian Smith and Palmer to attack Mr Pooley and cause his body to end up in the river.
He said Sebastian Smith’s then girlfriend, Lisa-Marie, lured Mr Pooley from his address at the Kingsley House Hotel, in London Road, knowing he was going to be attacked.
Mr Paxton said it was agreed by West-Davidson that she and Mr Pooley had sex at her Roper Court flat, in Foxhall Road, on the night of August 5.
He said subsequent declarations of love and affection – in the form of text messages – showed an intensity of feeling that “stoked her anger and hostility”.
He said a voicemail message from Sebastian Smith to West-Davidson demonstrated his anger over things Mr Pooley was supposed to have said about him and Lisa-Marie Smith.
He told jurors that a subsequent message from Sebastian Smith to Mr Pooley read: “I’m going everywhere until I find you”.
Mr Paxton said the “ebb and flow” of contacts showed that Sebastian Smith, Lisa-Marie Smith and West-Davidson “bullied, threatened and ganged up on” Mr Pooley, believing him to be the source of “rumours, slurs and name calling”.
Sebastian Smith, the only defendant to give evidence in the case, had denied telling a friend that he and Palmer had “put Joe in the river", claiming instead that he punched Mr Pooley twice before he and Palmer ran off and left him on the ground.
Asked why he left Ipswich for Scotland shortly after the alleged murder, Smith said he "needed to get away for a while".
Mr Paxton claimed West-Davidson “tried to cover up” the alleged murder by deleting a number of Facebook messages, including one in which Mr Pooley asked her to “call off the hit” and another telling Mr Pooley “you’re f****d, mate”.
Simon Spence QC, representing Sean Palmer, had suggested to the jury that Mr Pooley could have fallen into the river, swam for a short time and then drowned.
Barrister Stephen Rose, representing West-Davidson, had argued that there was "no plan" between his client and Sebastian Smith.
Judge Levett praised the jury for being diligent, meticulous, thorough, hard-working and unflagging.
Sentencing of Sebastian Smith, Sean Palmer and Becki West-Davidson will take place on May 24.