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Grave yard murder trial: Security guard heard argument in Cowgate Cemetery on night homeless man was killed

A Dover security guard told a murder trial how she heard an argument near her home just hours before a man was discovered battered to death.

But she didn't know the victim was one of the men involved in the row.

Homeless Piotr Lacheta had been living in a tent in Cowgate Cemetery. Picture: GoFundMe
Homeless Piotr Lacheta had been living in a tent in Cowgate Cemetery. Picture: GoFundMe

The jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard how Piotr Lacheta - known as Polish Pete - was beaten to death in Cowgate Cemetery in 2019.

Homeless Justin Burnett, 38, and Claire Lunn, 48, have both denied murder.

Security guard Nicola Hodgkinson said she she knew a number of people living rough at the cemetery through her work at a nearby shopping centre where some would sit outside.

She knew Lunn was in a relationship with 55-year-old Mr Lacheta and Burnett was with a woman called Lisa Taylor, 45.

The guard said she heard one of the men outside her home saying Ms Taylor and he had been to Deal and he had been "mugged off".

Police were still at Cowgate Cemetery two days after the body of 'Polish Pete'
Police were still at Cowgate Cemetery two days after the body of 'Polish Pete'

The prosecution has claimed that Mr Lacheta was beaten and stamped on by his lover and Burnett during a late night row, who lived in a tent in nearby Bleriot Woods.

Ms Hodkinson added that a man -known as "T" - Trever Christie - was at the shopping centre the following day when Burnett's girlfriend arrived.

She said that Mrs Taylor had been told that "Polish Pete" had been killed and her lover had been arrested.

The guard added: "She (Mrs Taylor) was upset. She said she and Justin had been in Deal and they had been having a good time. She was shocked.

Ms Hodkinson's partner Jenna Hickan told how they had been at their home at her flat near Cowgate Hill on September 30.

"He told police that he and Lunn had been having a laugh and chuckling with each other. He said there were no arguments or disagreements and no drugs were taken..."

"Between 8pm and 9pm I heard two men and a woman having a heated discussion.

"I heard a gentleman with an accent. It sounded Polish.

"The other male said he had come back from Deal.

Neighbour Sally Miller, who lives in Cowgate Hill near the graveyard, said: "I knew Claire who told me she had been homeless for 25 years and chose to live in the graveyard.

"She was always pleasant unless she had a drink.

Maidstone Crown Court. Stock picture
Maidstone Crown Court. Stock picture

"When she had been drinking she became loud, abusive and swearing a lot. She was abrupt and would get into people's faces."

ProsecutorEloise Marshall QC had revealed that the body was discovered by dog walkers and as they were they were telling police what they had found, Lunn approached them.

She asked: "What's happened here?" before going to the body and adding: "That's my partner."

The prosecutor said that Burnett had spent the night in Lunn's tent.

Police officers discovered Mr Lacheta's tent had been flattened and police believe he died nearby where experts found gravestones spattered with blood.

Prosecutor Eloise Marshall QC
Prosecutor Eloise Marshall QC

After being arrested Burnett replied: "Murder? I couldn't murder a wet fart!

Ms Marshall added: "He told police that he and Lunn had been having a laugh and chuckling with each other. He said there were no arguments or disagreements and no drugs were taken."

The victim's blood was later found on his shoes, the jury was told.

Burnett's partner Ms Taylor had told a jury that earlier in the day she and Lunn had been drinking vodka when the two began talking.

"She (Lunn) asked me to help her buy a penknife from Poundland because she wanted to cut (Piotr's) tent."

Police vehicles outside Cowgate Cemetery after the body of homeless Piotr Lacheta was found
Police vehicles outside Cowgate Cemetery after the body of homeless Piotr Lacheta was found

She alleged that Lunn told her: "I am going to ******* kill him, whether it's today or another day..I mean it, I mean it"

Mrs Taylor added: "I laughed and I didn't take it seriously."

The trial continues.

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