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Man ‘strangled dog owner to death then stole his labradoodle as body decomposed on floor’

Donald Patience, 45, was discovered dead at his home in Greater Manchester last year (GMP)
Donald Patience, 45, was discovered dead at his home in Greater Manchester last year (GMP)

A man allegedly strangled a dog owner to death before returning to the scene of the crime to steal his labradoodle, a court has heard.

Ian Connell, 39, is on trial accused of the murder of “much-loved” Donald Patience, found dead under a duvet cover at his home in Greater Manchester last year.

Greater Manchester Police officers were called out to Mr Patience’s house on Ainsworth Road on the morning of 22 August in response to the reports of pet theft – and found the 45-year-old’s body while searching the end of terrace property.

A postman had contacted 999 after seeing a male figure break into the property, before emerging with a “medium-sized, fluffy” white dog on a lead,

It was later established that Mr Patience, originally from Scotland, had been dead for several days and is believed to have been killed sometime after 19 August.

Opening the prosecution case on Tuesday, Michael Hayton KC told jurors Mr Patience was an “educated man” who had access to money, and was “preyed upon” for his generosity.

Police at the scene on Ainsworth Road (Peter Byrne/PA)
Police at the scene on Ainsworth Road (Peter Byrne/PA)

“The Crown say it is the reason, in all probability, that he was found deceased and decomposing at the foot of his own stairs by a police officer following a report of a burglary at the property,” Mr Hayton said.

“Mr Patience’s access to money and also perhaps his good nature led to others taking advantage of him, abusing his generosity and using his access to funds.

“The Crown say one such person who sought to take advantage in this way was Ian Connell, and money was central to many of the communications between the two men in the lead up to Mr Patience’s death.”

Shortly before police arrived at the scene, Connell was seen talking to two strangers with the labradoodle, and showed them a hand injury which he said had been inflicted during a row with his girlfriend.

He was detained on suspicion of burglary when one of the responding police officers recognised the labradoodle from a previous interaction with Mr Patience, the court heard. He was found to be in possession of a wallet containing Mr Patience’s driving licence and library card.

Flowers left outside the terraced house where Donald Patience’s body was found (Peter Byrne/PA)
Flowers left outside the terraced house where Donald Patience’s body was found (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Hayton said Connell began to “tell the first of many lies” at the scene and then later in interview following his arrest on suspicion of murder. He told police that Mr Patience had asked him to walk to dog while he was visiting Scotland, despite him being dead for some time.

He also claimed he had found Mr Patience deceased in the property and had attempted to move him upstairs.

A pathologist found that Mr Patience died from a “sustained period of pressure to the neck” from either some form of ligature or manually by hands.

Mr Hayton said Connell initially stated to detectives that the property in Ashworth Road was his home address and he had lived there for 12 months.

“He said he couldn’t have killed him because he loved him like a dad or a brother and said he would find who had killed him,” the prosecutor said.

“He said he lied early in the interview process because of fear. The Crown say the only fear was the fear of being held responsible for what he had done.

“At the heart of this case is the question of who killed Donald Patience. The Crown say that the evidence will show that the person responsible is Mr Connell.

“A man he left despite the affection he purported to feel for him, a man left decomposing on the floor while he callously went about his day-to-day life.”

Connell, from Duke Street, Bolton, appeared at Manchester Crown Court in November when he pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Patience. He also denied his manslaughter.

Following his death, the family of Mr Patience, who was affectionately known as Prentice, described him as a “much-loved son, brother and father”. The labradoodle was recovered into the care of the relevant authority, police said.

The trial, estimated to last two weeks, continues on Wednesday.