Murder accused confessed to holding alleged victim’s head under water, court hears

PUBLISHED: 12:53 19 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 19 October 2020

Joe Pooley, from Ipswich, was found dead in the River Gipping in 2018  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Joe Pooley, from Ipswich, was found dead in the River Gipping in 2018 Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY


A man accused of murdering Ipswich man Joe Pooley, whose body was found in the River Gipping, confessed to his mother that he had “held his head down under the water,” it has been alleged.

Joe Pooley's body was discovered in the River Gipping  Picture: RACHEL EDGEJoe Pooley's body was discovered in the River Gipping Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Christopher Paxton QC, prosecuting, told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that Sean Palmer’s mother had initially refused to believe what her son had told her but then couldn’t live with him any more knowing what he’d done.

She had subsequently spoken to a police officer and repeated her son’s alleged confession about holding Mr Pooley’s head under water.

“If you hold somebody’s head under water, it is clear evidence that you intend to kill them or intend them really serious injury,” said Mr Paxton.

During a police interview following his arrest, Palmer said his mother was an alcoholic and had told the police about his alleged confession because she wanted him removed from her home after he had an argument with a man at her house.

Palmer denied any knowledge or involvement of 22-year-old Mr Pooley’s death.

He told police he felt responsible for Mr Pooley’s death because he was with him on the night in question with his co-defendant, Sebastian Smith, at a flat in Yeoman Close, Ipswich and they had been drinking alcohol and smoking weed.

He claimed Mr Pooley had passed out in the flat and he and Smith had agreed to take him home.

He claimed that Smith had suddenly stamped on Mr Pooley’s head a couple of times and had then “rolled him in the river”.

Mr Paxton said Palmer accepted he was at the riverside when Sebastian Smith attacked Mr Pooley but claimed he hadn’t assaulted him or put him in the river.

“Even on his own account in this interview, Sean Palmer did nothing to help Joe Pooley when he was rolled into the water or during the assault,” Mr Paxton said.

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Mr Paxton alleged that Palmer had done more than just stand and watch Mr Pooley be murdered and had told his former girlfriend he had put Mr Pooley in the water and had confessed to his mother that he had held his head under the water.

Palmer, 30, of South Market Road, Great Yarmouth, Sebastian Smith, 35, of no fixed address, Becki West-Davidson, 30, of Rope Walk, Ipswich, and Lisa-Marie Smith, 26, of Hawick, Roxburghshire have all denied murdering Mr Pooley on or before August 7 2018.

The court has heard that Mr Pooley had autism and was considered to be “vulnerable, trusting of others and easily taken advantage of”.

Mr Paxton has alleged that West-Davidson, who had a sexual relationship with Mr Pooley, had been angry with Mr Pooley over comments he was said to have made about her and Lisa-Marie Smith and had “stoked up hostility towards him”.

He claimed that Sebastian Smith and Palmer had attacked Mr Pooley and thrown his body in the River Gipping after Sebastian Smith’s then girlfriend, Lisa-Marie Smith, lured Mr Pooley from his address at the Kingsley House Hotel, in London Road, knowing he was going to be attacked, or at the very least “given a serious beating.”

He claimed that following the discovery of Mr Pooley’s body, Palmer told his then girlfriend that Sebastian Smith had punched Mr Pooley and he had helped put him in the river.

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”.

He said that although West-Davidson had expressed love for Mr Pooley, she had fallen into a rage after learning about comments he’d allegedly made about her children.

Sebastian Smith had allegedly been angry about things Mr Pooley was supposed to have said about him and his girlfriend Lisa-Marie Smith and sent him a text saying: “I’m going everywhere until I find you.”

Mr Paxton alleged that the defendants had “bullied, threatened and ganged up on” Mr Pooley.

He said that prior to his death, Mr Pooley received a message from Sebastian Smith saying: “RIP Joe” and one from West-Davidson saying: “I wish you’d just die tbh.”

During his opening of the case to the jury, Mr Paxton claimed that Sebastian Smith had lied to Mr Pooley’s mother after he went missing by telling her he had “come over a few days ago” and that “he’s prob got some weed n chilling”.

The trial continues.

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