A COUPLE who beat a man to death in his own home before setting the flat on fire in a bid to cover their tracks have been convicted of murder.

The lifeless body of Paul Gillett, 54, was found in the bath of his flat in Station Road, Clacton, by firefighters.

The crews had responded to reports of a fire at the block of flats at around 7am on Boxing Day last year.

Mr Gillett suffered a minimum of 73 blows to his body and head, including defensive wounds.

Freya Parker-Magowan, 43, had been living with Mr Gillett at the time of his death. She had moved in with him a week before Christmas having split from her partner, 48-year-old Seth Stollery.

However, the pair had reconciled and in the early hours of Boxing Day had visited Mr Gillett’s home to pick up Parker-Magowan’s belongings.

The pair arrived at the flat at around midnight on Christmas Day and stayed for several hours.

During that time Mr Gillett was subjected to the assault, which was launched with multiple weapons including a stool and a kettle.

Fire investigators found five fires had then been started in the flat in an attempt to cover up the murder.

When uniformed officers first attended the scene they quickly located a key witness which led to important evidence being secured and both Stollery and Parker-McGowan being identified, found and arrested.

Through their investigations detectives established that, earlier in the evening, Stollery had been told that Mr Gillett and Parker-Magowan had engaged in a sexual relationship while she was staying at the flat.

Both Stollery and Parker-Magowan were picked out during an identity procedure as having been seen going into the block of flats around midnight on the night of Christmas Day.

The pair, both of no fixed address, were charged with murder and arson with intent to endanger life.

At trial, both confirmed they were the only other people in the flat at the time Mr Gillett was murdered, but each sought to blame the other.

They claimed the assault took place during a dispute over an iPad they claim Mr Gillett (pictured below) had stolen and then sold.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

They both denied the charges.

A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court took less than two hours to convict them both.

They are due to be sentenced at the same court next month.

The court heard Mr Gillett was a loving father to his daughter and had cared for his wife before she passed away.

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Truss, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said the murderers had "taken advantage" of Mr Gillett's nature.

“Seth Stollery and Freya Parker-Magowan acted together to kill Paul Gillett in his own home," he said.

“The attack he suffered was brutal and the pair tried to cover their tracks by setting fire to his home.

“I want to praise the police and fire officers who first attended the scene for their fantastic work which set the foundations for this conviction.

“In a short amount of time, through speaking to people at the scene and excellent local knowledge, they were able to identify Stollery and Parker-Magowan, locate them and secure them, and secure vital evidence. It is this which led to today’s conviction.

“Mr Gillett was a quiet man, who was liked within the flats at which he lived.

"Stollery and Parker-Magowan took advantage of his nature.

"They brutally and needlessly murdered him before trying to callously cover their tracks.

"They had no regard for the safety of other residents when they started the fire in Mr Gillett’s home.

“I am pleased with the result today, and hope it brings some closure for Mr Gillett’s family”.