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Murder trial begins after death of homeless Razvan Sirbu in Tovil

A teenager accused with two friends of killing a homeless Romanian man confessed that he kept beating him in the face because he thought it was funny, a court heard.

Witnesses overheard a conversation between Alex Macdonald and one of his co-accused, Charlie White, discussing the attack on 21-year-old Razvan Sirbu in woods in the Loose Conservation Area, it was alleged.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC said a teenager White knew was at a skate park the morning after the murder when he, Macdonald and Jimmy Buckley, then 19, were present.

Razvan Sirbu
Razvan Sirbu

White, then 18, allegedly asked Macdonald, also 18: “Did you kill him or did I?” Macdonald replied: “Well, I killed him didn’t I?”

White asked: “Why did you keep beating him in the face?” Macdonald replied: “Cos I thought it was funny.”

Macdonald, White, now both 19, and Buckley, 20, are accused of murdering Mr Sirbu on May 6.

A jury at Maidstone Crown Court was told the victim was beaten to death after the three came across him late at night.

Mr Bennetts said Mr Sirbu had been sleeping rough across a verge in a residential area in Tovil since April 24 this year. He is believed to have previously lived in the Gravesend area.

He obtained a tent from a homeless charity about a week later and pitched it in the same spot.

Razvan Sirbu
Razvan Sirbu

A local resident asked him to move on and he settled a few hundred yards away in the conservation area on the afternoon of Friday, May 5.

He was first seen there that evening by a resident standing by a pond and again the next morning by the chairman of the nature reserve, Paul Wilby.

After dark, at about 9pm, he was seen sitting alone on a bench close to his tent.

His body, clothed apart from shoes, was discovered at about 7am the next morning by a dog walker.

A wooden chair leg he was thought to have for protection was between his legs.

Mr Bennetts said the tent was damaged, the lining appearing to have been cut in several places. His possessions were inside.

Flowers, lanterns and other items were left in tribute to 21-year-old Razvan Sirbu
Flowers, lanterns and other items were left in tribute to 21-year-old Razvan Sirbu

A forensic scientist gave the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head and torso. There were multiple skull fractures, multiple facial bone fractures and other injuries, including broken ribs.

“In his opinion, to inflict the injuries suffered by the deceased, it would require the use of a blunt object with a significant degree of weight - heavier than the wooden chair leg found between his legs,” said Mr Bennetts.

“The pathologist’s opinion is that there were at least four blows and very likely a significantly higher number.”

A neuropathologist who examined Mr Sirbu’s brain, believed he would only have survived for about 30 minutes.

Mr Sirbu was last seen on CCTV walking towards his tent at 6.51pm.

White, Macdonald, Buckley and two others were seen on CCTV at 11.15pm walking along Gleneagles Drive, about 400 metres east of the tent.

Mr Sirbu's body was found in the woods near Crisbrook Meadow
Mr Sirbu's body was found in the woods near Crisbrook Meadow

A minute later they turned onto Postley Road. At 11.20pm White, Macdonald and Buckley went into an address in Quarry Road.

At 12.40am, a teenager the prosecution said was Macdonald left the house and cycled north. He returned 23 minutes later carrying something on the handlebars and went back in.

Mr Bennetts said the morning after the attack the defendants and others were at a skate park in Armstrong Road, about 300 meters from the Quarry Road address, where a grey top was burn and the violence was re-enacted.

Afterwards, they left the area. A coat Macdonald was wearing was recovered from a caravan in Shepherdswell. It had Mr Sirbu’s blood on it and Macdonald’s DNA.

A teenager who can't be named said in a statement while at the skate park on May 7, the boys were talking in code. She asked what was going on and White took her for a walk.

He started to cry and gave an account of what had happened the night before. He said they had gone out to meet a man about selling a lawnmower in Teasaucer Lane.

"I struck him with the blunt item two or three times only to protect myself as he had a weapon" - Charlie White

White said he took a blunt meat cleaver with him in case there was trouble with the man. He saw his friends involved in an altercation with Mr Sirbu and he hit him on the shoulder with the cleaver.

He added that he hit the man six or seven times, but not in the face or head. Asked if he killed him, he replied: “No, I didn’t kill him.”

Mr Bennetts said White’s cousin received a text from him on May 6 at 11.19pm saying: “Ring asap.” She called him and he sounded desperate as he told her: “Alex has just beat someone with a lump of wood. I need to get out of Tovil.”

When arrested at his home, Buckley gave a prepared statement which read: “I have learning difficulties and special needs. I’m not guilty of the killing of Razvan Sirbu.”

When shown CCTV footage timed at 11.15pm on May 6, he denied being there or knowing any of the people present and claimed he only heard about the killing on the news.

Asked how he got a cut on his hand, he claimed he fell over.

Razvan Sirbu
Razvan Sirbu

White gave a prepared statement in which he said he was planning to steal a lawnmower on the night in question from a garden in Bockingford Road. He took with him a blunt meat cleaver because he intended to sell the lawnmower and had previously had problems with the buyer.

“I was making my way to the garden,” said the statement. “I heard shouting from behind me. I hurried back. Upon arrival I could see a man speaking a foreign language holding what looked like a machete (but I believe now it was a lump of wood).

“He was threatening them with it. When he saw me he turned and came towards me. I struck him with the blunt item two or three times only to protect myself as he had a weapon.

“From this point, I did not strike him again with anything. I played no further role. I did not entice anyone to strike him further either.

“The following morning I was at the skate park. I did set fire to a top. This was not my top. Someone else asked me to burn it for them, and I did.”

White, previously of Quarry Road, and Macdonald, of Regency Place, deny murder.

Buckley, of Capell Close, Coxheath, has been found unfit to plead and the jury will have to decide whether he “did the act”.

Judge Carey said the jury’s function in respect of Buckley was different to that of White and Macdonald.

He said of Buckley: “His involvement as a participant, therefore, will be limited.”

The trial continues.

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