Published: 12:00, 12 January 2018
Three men have been convicted of bludgeoning a rough sleeper to death at a Maidstone beauty spot.
Alex Macdonald and Charlie White, both 19, were found guilty of murdering Romanian Razvan Sirbu after coming across him late at night in the Loose Valley Conservation Area.
The jury also concluded 20-year-old Jimmy Buckley, who was deemed unfit to plead to murder, "did the act".
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Macdonald, of Regency Place, White, previously of Quarry Road, both Maidstone, and Buckley, of Capell Close, Coxheath, will be sentenced by Judge Jeremy Carey on Tuesday.
The verdicts were returned today in the absence of White and Macdonald, who refused to leave prison.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the three had gone out on the evening of May 6 to steal a lawnmower when they attacked Mr Sirbu while he was sleeping rough in a tent.
The 21-year-old's body was found at 7.15am the following day, on Sunday, May 7.
A post-mortem examination found he died from “blunt force trauma” to the head and body.
Judge Carey told the jury of eight women and four men after delivering unanimous verdicts: "You have done your duty as you saw it. These defendants have been convicted of murder on what I judge, and you plainly judge, as the clearest evidence.
"This was a brutal sustained attack on a defenceless young man who meant no harm, posed no threat and simply wished to be left alone in his tent.
"It was a shameful senseless act of mindless brutality which ended in death and leaves in its wake a grieving mother and the community in and around Maidstone, who as right-minded and law-abiding people, will have a deep and abiding sense of horror and regret that such an event could have occurred in their town.
"I include in that category those good people who did their best to help him in the days before his murder when living rough in Maidstone.
"For you, it was no doubt an often gruelling experience. You have had to listen to evidence you would not have wished to see. You will have in your minds, no doubt for a long time the events and the narrative you have listened to day by day."
The judge added: "You get no counselling and you rely on the support of those in your family knowing you have done your duty."
The court heard 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.
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 the next morning by a dog walker.
A wooden chair leg he was thought to have for protection was between his legs.
The tent was damaged, with the lining appearing to have been cut in several places. His possessions were inside.
A police investigation led to the recovery of CCTV at a local skate park which showed White burning clothing believed to have been worn during the murder.
Images also revealed Macdonald and Buckley appearing to re-enact some of the violence.
A grey coat was later seized from a caravan where Macdonald was arrested in Shepherdswell. Blood found on the hood was tested and matched Mr Sirbu’s DNA.
Detectives also uncovered details of a conversation between White and Macdonald whereby White had asked him why he kept beating Mr Sirbu in the face. Macdonald was said to have replied "cos I thought it was funny".
During police interview White issued a prepared statement. He claimed on the day of the murder he planned stealing a lawnmower from a garden in Bockingford Road.
He said he was carrying a meat cleaver for protection against the person he was hoping to sell it to.
White claimed as he was making his way to the property he heard shouting and that a man speaking a foreign language then tried to attack him.
He admitted repeatedly striking Mr Sirbu with his machete, but denied aiming any blows to his head.
During the trial, 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 Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC.
“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.
After today's hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Tony Pledger said: "This was an utterly senseless attack on a young man who stood little chance of protecting himself.
"Razvan Sirbu was subjected to a horrific ordeal which appears to have been entirely unprovoked.
"He was beaten repeatedly, suffering a catalogue of appalling injuries as a result of a sustained and savage assault.
"Our investigation has uncovered compelling and overwhelming evidence linking the offenders to this murder, but their refusal to tell the truth may mean we never know precisely why they carried out this attack."
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