Two drug addicts who beat and killed a lonely widower for his bank card are facing jail for the brutal attack
- Aaron Brown, 39, and 29-year-old Hannah Day left John Cornish with 42 injuries
- Police believe the pensioner was assaulted to get him to hand over his bank card
- The pair had each denied charges of manslaughter and of attempted robbery
- But a jury yesterday found them both guilty and they will be sentenced today
Two drug addicts were yesterday found guilty of the violent death of a kindly pensioner who was so desperate for companionship he had placed an advert in the lonely hearts’ section of his local newspaper.
Aaron Brown, 39, and 29-year-old Hannah Day left John Cornish with 42 injuries including a fractured larynx and knife wounds.
He collapsed with a heart attack but the callous pair then went upstairs to have sex.
Violent attack: Aaron Brown, 39, is pictured left while Hannah Day, 29, is pictured right. Matthew Jewell QC said the killing was ‘far more violent’ than either Brown or Day were prepared to admit
Police believe he was threatened and assaulted to get him to hand over his bank card.
In court Day – who had stolen from and taken advantage of the pensioner for years – and Brown blamed each other for the ‘sustained violent attack’.
She claimed he had grabbed Mr Cornish, 75, and punched him in the head while demanding money before he collapsed from a heart attack.
Brown alleged it was Day who was arguing with Mr Cornish and claimed she slapped him around the face before he turned purple and fell to the floor.
Prosecutors said Day and Brown had ‘lied, lied and lied again’ about what took place in Mr Cornish’s bed and breakfast in Weymouth, Dorset.
Matthew Jewell QC said the killing was ‘far more violent’ than either Brown or Day were prepared to admit.
Trapped: John Cornish felt a prisoner in his own home
They had each denied charges of manslaughter and of attempted robbery but after deliberating for six and a half hours a jury yesterday found them both guilty. They will be sentenced today.
During the three-week-trial, Winchester Crown Court heard Day had ‘taken advantage’ of the ‘quiet, caring and non-judgemental’ widower.
The court heard he lost his wife in 2002 and become lonely after another long-term relationship ended in 2012.
Day, who began using drugs aged 13, told the court she first met Mr Cornish in 2015 when she was trying to find a room at a bed and breakfast for a friend.
Mr Cornish reported Day to police in 2016 for ‘using his bank card to steal £21,000’ however he later declined to press charges.
CCTV seen in court showed her leading him to cashpoints to withdraw money, while she apparently looked over his shoulder.
Day, of no fixed address, told the court she had taken £32,000 ‘with his permission’ and claimed the pensioner gave her between £50 to £200 a day for drugs.
But halfway through the trial, Day admitted stealing Mr Cornish’s bank card and using it without his permission on five separate occasions in May 2019.
In the weeks before his death, Mr Cornish’s daughter, Beverley, said she saw a change in her father’s demeanour and became extremely concerned. She told the court her father felt like ‘a prisoner in his own home’.
On the day of the killing, Brown and Day had been taking heroin and drinking on the seafront of the Dorset town.
They went back to the bed and breakfast, where Day stayed most nights, to get £20 from the pensioner, although they claimed in court they were just going there to have sex.
Moments after they arrived on September 6 Mr Cornish was attacked and his bruised and bloody body was left lying on the floor of the kitchen.
Brown, from Weymouth, called an ambulance three hours after the attack but it was unable to locate Mr Cornish because Brown gave them an incorrect address.
The pair then spent the night having sex in the house before Day again raised the alarm and Mr Cornish’s body was found the next morning. He had 42 injuries, including a fractured larynx, bruises and knife wounds on his face and body.
Undercover officers investigating the case later overheard Day talking about Brown, a former soldier in the territorial army, saying ‘he was proper nasty when he was on the gear’.
Brown claimed he was just an innocent bystander and said Day was a ‘little ball of nastiness’ who had a ‘strange, dominating relationship’ with Mr Cornish.
Mr Cornish and his wife Linda had moved to Weymouth years before and had been looking forward to a long, happy retirement.
Their new home, a three-storey period property, overlooked the resort’s wide beach and was spacious enough for them to run an upmarket bed-and-breakfast.
But in 2002 Mrs Cornish died and, after a subsequent relationship broke down in 2012 Mr Cornish was so desperate for companionship he placed an advert in the Lonely Hearts’ section of the local newspaper.
Crime scene: Police outside Mr Cornish’s yellow-painted property
But he didn’t find love. Instead, one day while walking along the esplanade, his path crossed with that of drug user Day.
Weymouth will to many be associated with its Victorian heyday, but it has been blighted by problems of drug-abuse and addiction.
Two years ago, figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed the levels of deaths from heroin and morphine misuse there were among the highest in the UK.
Day saw only opportunity – a vulnerable man ready to be manipulated. While she would claim that in the years that followed she would provide him with the company he so sought, doing his laundry and cooking him meals, all she was really interested in was his money.
‘He would drive me to go and buy my drugs,’ Day, who started abusing drugs at the age of 13, would claim.
‘He wasn’t judgemental at all. He just thought it was a waste of my life. He was very kind about everything.’
After the verdict Detective Chief Inspector Rich Dixey of Dorset Police said: ‘While we may never know which defendant was the main aggressor in the assault, as both defendants made attempts to implicate each other, what we were able to prove through our investigation is that they acted together in the lead up to the incident and in the moments after. They therefore must both bear a share of the responsibility.’
Mr Cornish’s daughter Beverley told of how desperate her father became after the collapse of his second relationship.
‘He was very, very lonely and it was very, very difficult to be in the house on his own,’ his daughter Beverley Cornish would tell the court.
‘He did not cook for himself. He ate out regularly and it was quite normal for him to have just a pint of milk in the fridge and butter and marmalade.’
After an unsuccessful attempt to find another partner through a Lonely Hearts advert, Mr Cornish met Day by chance on the seafront. At the time Day was looking for somewhere for a friend to stay the night.
While Mr Cornish felt sympathy for Day, his daughter was immediately concerned about what she was really after.
‘He explained Hannah’s difficult situation and he felt sorry for her,’ 49-year-old Miss Cornish said.
‘I saw danger and I told him so. I did have concerns that he was being taken advantage of. He thought he was being useful by giving her a bed for the night or giving her some money. I thought that was OK, but I was a bit worried.’
Each week Day would withdraw up to £300 from Mr Cornish’s account. She promised to pay it back – but any repayments she made actually came from his own money.
Dorset Police say allegations of theft were investigated in 2016 ‘but there was insufficient evidence to prove that the money had not been given willingly’.
As well as the large sums of money leaving Mr Cornish’s account, his daughter noted his father’s demeanour start to change. He described to her an occasion where he had come downstairs in the morning to find Day asleep in his house, having forced open his front door.
‘He felt pressurised to give her money,’ she said. ‘There had been threats and arguments. He told me that he was very concerned because she was part of a violent group of people. He said that he was quite fearful about opening the door and he felt a prisoner in his own home.’
Day denied this. ‘We had an arrangement that I could stay without charge if I just kept him company,’ she claimed in evidence.
‘I would do laundry and cook little meals. I would make myself food and he would eat with me. It was just little things.’
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