TWO men have appeared in court facing charges of their alleged murder of rough-sleeper Giles Metcalfe in the stairwell of Torrington car park.
The 43-year-old died of asphyxiation from fumes and burns when he was set alight in the early hours of March 7.
It took place only hours after he had text his wife, who he was separated from, to say he was “settling down for the night. Its all good xx,” the jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard on Monday (September 18).
Dean Lewis, 34, of no fixed address, and James Marshall-Gunn, 30, of Hadlow Road, Tonbridge are accused of dousing Mr Metcalfe in barbecue lighter fluid as he lay asleep before setting him alight. Both deny the charge.
Lewis, who was also a rough sleeper, claims Mr Metcalfe had poured the fluid on himself while holding a cigarette whilst ‘acting weird’.
However, prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said Mr Metcalfe’s medical records contained no history or mention of him having suicidal thoughts, feelings or tendencies.
His body was discovered by firefighters shortly after 3am next to the open bottle of accelerant and two lighters.
The court was told the most likely source of ignition for the fire was a naked flame being held to the Mr Metcalfe’s sleeping bag.
At the time he was almost three-and-a-half times the legal drink-drive limit and a pathologist concluded Mr Metcalfe would have been ‘relatively oblivious’ to whoever was with him and what was happening.
Traces of paraffin were also found on his jeans, upper clothing and socks, as well as on a pair of shoes found at Lewis’s address after he was arrested.
The jury heard how the flames of the fire were caught on CCTV in the reflection of a shutter outside Tunbridge Wells Train Station opposite the car park.
“Together they went in to kill Mr Metcalfe by fire”
CCTV footage also showed Lewis and Marshall-Gunn met up with Mr Metcalfe earlier in the evening to buy whiskey from a Sainsbury’s store. They were later seen together in the car park in Vale Road.
The two defendants were then seen again on camera leaving at 1.20am before returning again 47 minutes later. They left just six minutes later, having Mr Metcalf on, fire the prosecution alleged.
Mr Bennetts questioned why the pair had returned to the car park for such a short duration, before turning to the jury, stating: “We submit on the evidence for your consideration that you can draw a proper and safe inference that together they went in to kill Mr Metcalfe by fire. What other explanation can there be? In, fire, out.”
The court hear how one possible motive for the alleged murder was Lewis’s anger after his girlfriend Vivien Martin, was invited by Mr Metcalfe into his sleeping bag.
Ms Martin is then said to have told Lewis when they left the car park to buy cigarettes that Mr Metcalfe was a paedophile who ‘likes taking kids out of playgrounds’.
There was ‘not a word of truth’ in her allegations, the prosecution said but added: “You will know how inflammatory such comments can be.”
Lewis, formerly of Grange Gardens, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, was arrested on March 8 and when told why he replied: “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”
He denies killing Mr Metcalf alongside Marshall-Gunn after the three of them had been drinking.
In a prepared statement he said: “Giles started saying lots of really weird stuff. I have never heard him talking like that. He was talking weird. Giles then poured lighter fluid all over himself. This freaked me out and I left.”
Marshall-Gunn was arrested on March 12. When charged with murder he replied: ‘I’m not guilty.’
Both defendants had applied to have the charges against them dropped in May, causing the case to be adjourned until this month.