Drug addict lodger, 42, is found guilty of killing his landlady

Drug addict lodger, 42, is found guilty of killing his landlady, 52, and plundering her bank account while living with her rotting corpse for a MONTH in a one bedroom council flat

  • Kristian Smith found guilty of manslaughter of landlady Antoinette Donegan
  • Ms Donegan last seen on February 1 last year but body not found until March
  • Smith admitted fraud and preventing lawful burial of a body but denied murder

A lodger has been found guilty of killing his landlady and then plundering her bank account while living with her rotting corpse for a month in a one-bedroom flat. 

Antoinette Donegan, 52, was last seen on February 1 last year, but her body was not found at her home in Battersea, southwest London, until more than a month later.  

Kristian Smith, 42, continued to live in the one-bedroom flat and used her bank card and mobile phone as she lay dead in her bedroom.

Police eventually discovered the decomposing body in March, after concerns were raised for Ms Donegan’s welfare, the Old Bailey heard.

Antoinette Donegan (pictured) was last seen on February 1 last year but her body was not found until March

Smith had admitted fraud and preventing the lawful burial of a body but denied murder.

A jury deliberated for nine hours to clear him of murder, but found him guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter by a majority of 11 to one.

During the trial, prosecutor Louis Mably QC said Ms Donegan appeared to have been assaulted.

He said: ‘There was blood on the floor by her head, and there was blood on furniture in the bedroom. And she had cuts to her head.’

He told jurors that officers noticed clothes had been pushed against the door as a makeshift ‘draught excluder’.

Mr Mably said: ‘It obviously wasn’t Antoinette Donegan who had done this – she had died inside the bedroom. Someone else had done this.

‘And the implication was that someone had done this in order to conceal the smell coming from the bedroom – the smell of her decomposing corpse.

‘So, there was someone who knew she had died, but rather than calling the police, had tried to prevent the body from being discovered.’

The court heard Ms Donegan, who lived on benefits, and Smith shared a drug addiction and attended the same drug recovery centre.

She was last seen on February 1 last year, but her bank card continued to be used and her benefits withdrawn, jurors heard.

CCTV was shown of Smith using the victim’s bank card following her death.

Mr Mably said: ‘He must have taken the bank card and mobile telephone from the flat, knowing that Antoinette Donegan was dead.

‘And he continued to live there – pushing clothing up against the bedroom door to contain the smell of her decomposing corpse.’

During the trial, jurors at the Old Bailey were told how Smith made a series of ‘rambling’ confessions to his girlfriend and a support worker in the weeks before the victim was found.

He messaged girlfriend Caroline French he was ‘going down to the fires with old Lucifer’ and had ‘done something really bad,’ the prosecution said.

Reading the texts, Mr Mably said: ‘I’ve got a few weeks left. Don’t wanna go down to the fires with old Lucifer without you sending me off.’

The prosecutor went on: ‘Something has prompted him to send this somewhat rambling, somewhat desperate text.

‘He then said [to Mr Diafli] he was going to the Caribbean and wanted some methadone to take with him.

‘He told Mr Diafli he had done something really bad and needed to leave the country, and he also said he felt like he was going to hurt someone.’

After his arrest, Smith claimed Ms Donegan had turned violent after a drugs binge and tried to stab him with a syringe.

Kristian Smith had admitted fraud and preventing the lawful burial of a body but denied murder. He was found guilty of manslaughter at the Old Bailey (stock image)

He said he hit Ms Donegan with a mug in self-defence but claimed she was still alive when he fled from the flat.

The mug was found smashed to pieces next to the body amid blood-spattered furniture and a pile of clothes shoved under the bedroom door outside to block the foul stench.

The prosecutor went on: ‘He said Antoinette Donegan was a drug addict and would come violent and aggressive, that she had been taking drugs and had started to call him names and tried to stab him with a needle.

‘He said he fought back and picked up a coffee cup and hit her once over the head and managed to leave the flat leaving her alive and well still shouting at him.

‘Later he returned and found her dead on the floor and he said everything that resulted was out of panic.

‘That’s his account. Obviously it doesn’t explain injuries to two sides of the head and the presence of broken ribs.’

Mr Mably said it was difficult to know precisely how Ms Donegan had died due to the state of decomposition.

The prosecutor said: ‘The body [was] lying face down, almost in a foetal position.

‘A detailed post mortem examination was carried out on the body to try and identify the cause of death and the extent of her injuries.

‘This was an exceptionally challenging task, because the fact was that the body had suffered significant decomposition.

‘Indeed, it was so difficult, that the doctors have not been able to identify the precise cause of death.

‘A jumper was looped around her neck and the skin was very, very tight to the jumper. The obvious signs of strangulation would not be present [because of decomposition].

‘Police found a smashed coffee cup and the injuries to her scalp were consistent with having been smashed over the head with a weapon of that kind.

‘The medical evidence suggests she was beaten up severely which led her to collapse and die.

‘It must have been the defendant who did this. He was her lodger, he concealed what he had done, he stole her money and he took her telephone and her jewellery.’

Judge Philip Katz QC adjourned sentencing until a date to be fixed.

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