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Barrister ‘beaten to death with gavel and laptop’ in Canterbury

A qualified barrister who ended up living rough on the streets of Canterbury was brutally beaten to death with a wooden gavel and laptop, a murder trial has heard.

Guy Malbec, who studied law in the late 1990s but never practised, was homeless, disabled and living in a tent in Castle Street car park when he was allegedly attacked by four men, two of them his 'neighbours'.

Guy Malbec, pictured in Mexico in 2018, was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook
Guy Malbec, pictured in Mexico in 2018, was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook

The 51-year-old's "battered and bloodied" body was discovered by police on Easter Monday, April 10.

He was laying face down within a partially-zipped tent and inside a sleeping bag pulled tight around his face.

He had suffered severe head and facial injuries, including a significant brain injury and fractured left eye socket, as well as a swollen and blackened right eye, numerous cuts, bruises and lacerations to his scalp, and four fractures to his left rib cage.

One of his alleged killers later likened the injuries to those seen in "the 10th round of a Rocky film", having described one of his co-accused as "absolutely raging", Canterbury Crown Court heard today (Tuesday).

Mr Malbec, who used a wheelchair and walking frame, had in fact been assaulted in the early hours of Easter Sunday and then left to die by his assailants, who also stole his phone and bank card.

Some of the fatal assault was captured on CCTV, as was the moment three of the alleged attackers returned, having discovered Mr Malbec was dead, to carry out "an extensive clear-up" of the scene.

Some hours earlier however a council parking officer had taken a photo of the site, including Mr Malbec's collapsed shelter and strewn belongings, not knowing that he was laying dead inside the adjacent tent.

In the dock accused of murder are Sobantu Sibanda, 27, of Albert Street, Whitstable, Airidas Sakalauskas, 22, of Old Dover Road, Canterbury, Gavin Houghton, 50, also of Old Dover Road, and 51-year-old Keith Hall, of Athelstan Road, Thanington.

At the start of their trial, prosecutor Caroline Carberry KC told the jury the "vulnerable" victim was subjected to a "brutal and sustained" attack in the early hours of April 9.

She said Mr Malbec had been sleeping at that location for two to three weeks before he was killed.

Detailing his life and how he ended up on the streets, Ms Carberry told the court: "Guy Malbec was a vulnerable, homeless man. He lived alone in a tent in a corner of the lower ground floor of the Castle Street car park in Canterbury.

Guy Malbec was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook
Guy Malbec was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook

"He had a significant leg injury and he needed a walking frame, and sometimes a wheelchair, to mobilise.

"But it wasn't always this way for Guy Malbec. He had qualified as a barrister in 1998, but never practised. He then spent a considerable period of time living abroad, most recently in Israel where he sustained his leg injury.

"He returned from Israel to the UK in December last year. His absence from the UK for such a long period of time made him ineligible to access the benefits system and for that reason he was rendered homeless."

Referring to the CCTV footage to be played during the trial, Ms Carberry told the court it was at times of poor quality.

But she continued: "What can be seen, on close and careful viewing, is an attack - or rather a series of attacks – carried out intermittently over a period of about an hour and perpetrated, in the main, by the first defendant Sobantu Sibanda."

As to why the attack may have been carried out, she continued: "You will hear that these four defendants were generally not well disposed to Guy Malbec. They did not like him.

"And when this fatal assault occurred, all four defendants were present, participating or lending their support to the main attacker.

"And all four, after his death, tried to dispose of evidence that might link them to the killing, demonstrating, the prosecution say, a callous disregard for Mr Malbec then, just as they had done during what was a sustained assault.

"it is the Crown's case that this was a group effort and that all four are responsible for Mr Malbec's death.

"The prosecution case is that these defendants, acting together, killed Guy Malbec and they did so unlawfully and intending to kill him or to cause him serious harm."

Guy Malbec, pictured in Thailand in 2015, was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook
Guy Malbec, pictured in Thailand in 2015, was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook

On the issue of self-defence, the prosecutor added: "Guy Malbec did not pose a threat to any of these defendants. He was vulnerable, he was outnumbered and he was incapable of taking all four of them on."

The jury was told the defendants have all admitted perverting the course of justice. Sibanda, Houghton and Sakalauskas disposed of items from the scene of the attack as Mr Malbec lay dead in the tent.

This included three black sacks dumped in council bins in nearby Gas Street.

Inside were 80 items including blood-stained bedding, clothing, tent poles and the victim's personal belongings, as well as the gavel - the sort used by American judges, explained Ms Carberry - and Inspiron laptop casing.

Both these were stained with Mr Malbec's blood and had Sibanda's DNA on them. The jury was told injuries to his scalp were consistent with them having been used as weapons.

Hall meanwhile deleted text messages and call logs from his phone which showed contact with his friend Houghton before and after the attack.

"These acts were all done in order to conceal evidence and evade arrest," said Ms Carberry.

"They tell you, don't they, that even after the fatal assault the defendants continued to work as a group."

The court heard Mr Malbec knew his alleged murderers, all having accessed the Catching Lives charity which works in partnership with Canterbury City Council’s homelessness officers to support the rough sleepers' community in East Kent.

Sibanda, known as 'Talent', and Houghton, who was working as a chef at the time, also shared a tent next to Mr Malbec's.

Sakalauskas was housed in temporary accommodation less than a 10-minute walk away in Old Dover Road. He had been seen by a charity worker in Canterbury with Mr Malbec the previous month.

Mr Malbec's final visit to Catching Lives, where he would often play Scrabble with volunteers, was on April 6.

He had told one of the workers he suffered with his mental health and spoke of a desire for people to understand more about how and why people end up on the streets.

The charity was also in the process of appealing on his behalf the decision to refuse him access to Department for Work and Pensions services.

Forensics officers at the scene in Castle Street, Canterbury
Forensics officers at the scene in Castle Street, Canterbury

In the days leading up to the murder, Houghton was becomingly "increasingly irritated" with his neighbour, the jury was told.

He emailed the council's Rough Sleeping Team on March 30 to complain about the mess outside Mr Malbec's tent, adding he was "disrespectful and not liked", and claiming his wheelchair use was "attention-seeking".

That same day, Houghton texted Sibanda telling him Mr Malbec, who he referred to as 'G', was "doing my head in....I'm done with him....He needs to go!!"

He also messaged Hall about the victim, with both men describing him in derogatory terms, and in a text sent on April 8 Hall told Houghton "He needs sorting".

"Was that simply a throwaway remark or was it something a little more sinister? Because later that very same night they did just that, didn't they? They sorted him," said the prosecutor.

Mr Malbec spent the evening alone at the car park, while Sibanda, Hall and Houghton were seen drinking in a Wetherspoon's pub in North Lane and then The Cherry Tree.

But by 4.30am the four defendants were all in the car park where, over the next hour, Mr Malbec was assaulted "in bursts of activity", starting with a forceful push from Sibanda which caused him to fall backwards onto his tent, said Ms Carberry.

Hall and Houghton were initially inside another tent but had emerged within 20 minutes.

The CCTV footage also showed Sibanda repeatedly striking Mr Malbec who, at one stage, had tried to hop away on his good leg before again being hit forcefully and knocked to the ground.

As the assault by Sibanda continued, the other three were close-by, said Ms Carberry.

The camera also caught Houghton wielding a stick as Mr Malbec crawled on his hands and knees on the ground before raising his arm in front of his face.

Guy Malbec was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook
Guy Malbec was allegedly murdered in the Castle Street car park in Canterbury. Pic: Facebook

It was just before 6.30am that all four defendants left the car park, taking the badly injured victim's phone and bank card.

Mr Malbec, who had not moved for an hour, managed to retreat to a tent and into a sleeping bag where he died. His last movement was recorded on camera at 6.58am.

The court heard Houghton and Sakalauskas returned to the car park just after 11am and were seen crouching down at the tent. Texts from Houghton to Hall and Sibanda revealed he thought their victim was sleeping.

It was only when they went back for a second time almost five hours later that they realised Mr Malbec had died.

But the unfortunate former law student was not discovered by police for almost another 24 hours.

In that time, Sibanda, Sakalauskas and Houghton had carried out their clean-up of the scene and disposed of the binbags. Houghton also texted Hall to explain they had "tidied up".

The alarm was eventually raised after Sibanda allegedly confessed to a friend during a visit to Catching Lives on April 10.

Jayden Holman told police that 'Talent' revealed he had "beat the **** out of G" in a row over missing cocaine and, when he later returned to apologise to Mr Malbec, found him curled up in the tent "stone cold like a rock and hard".

Sibanda was arrested that same day in Whitstable while Houghton was apprehended in Canterbury's Dane John Park on April 11. Both declined to answer police questions when interviewed.

Sakalauskas was also arrested on April 11. He said he had agreed to let Sibanda and Houghton move in with him over the weekend and had gone to the car park to help move their belongings.

He denied involvement and participation in any assault.

Hall was arrested at the Sea View caravan park in Whitstable on April 13 and also denied being involved.

But he told police Sibanda was "absolutely raging" and "like an animal" as he accused Mr Malbec of stealing his drugs.

Hall added he had pulled Sibanda off and tried to calm him down.

He said that when he left the car park, Mr Malbec was conscious and awake but told police "I can only liken it to Rocky films....where they've got to the 10th round if you like". He then described seeing bruises and swelling around his eyes, blood to the nose and ears, and cuts on the cheeks and cheekbones.

Hall also told police he deleted phone messages and call logs under Houghton's instruction, and any blood on his clothing would be from when he tugged Sibanda back.

"The reason he gave for not calling the emergency services was that he had buried his head in the sand," Ms Carberry told the jury.

A pathologist later gave the cause of death as sustained blunt force trauma to the head and facial injuries. Mr Malbec's brain injury would have required immediate medical intervention to be survivable.

Toxicology analysis demonstrated he had not taken cocaine or alcohol, the court heard.

At the end of her opening speech, Ms Carberry told the jury: "You will be able to judge for yourself how they felt about Mr Malbec - the cruel contempt they had for his life.

"And you will be able to judge what they did not only at the time of his drawn-out ordeal but afterwards, and you will have no trouble deciding they are responsible together for his death."

The trial continues and is expected to last up to six weeks.

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