Lodger who beheaded ‘people’s champion’ pub landlord for ‘sadistic gratification’ and then boasted about it on Facebook after Covid lockdown is jailed for life
- Lawrence Bourke, 24, was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Friday, May 21
- He previously peaded guilty to the murder of Scott Golhooly, 44, a pub landlord
- His mutilated body was discovered at the Swiss Bell pub in Braintree, Essex
A lodger who stabbed to death and mutilated a pub landlord for ‘sadistic gratification’ and to ‘humiliate’ his victim has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.
The mutilated body of Scott Gilhooly, 44, was discovered at the Swiss Bell pub in Braintree, Essex, on May 17 last year.
His friend and ‘heavy drinker’ Lawrence Bourke, 24, was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Friday after previously pleading guilty to murder.
Despite his heavy drinking the landlord ‘put up with’ Bourke’s behaviour and they lived together through the first coronavirus lockdown. (Pictured, Laurence Bourke)
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told the court that Bourke attacked the landlord with a knife and axe, and dismembered his body to ‘humiliate’ him.
The court heard Mr Gilhooly suffered 70 stab and chop wounds, including to his heart, lungs and neck, while his ear was discovered in Bourke’s sock.
Sentencing him for the ‘appalling crime’, judge Mr Justice Griffiths told Bourke, of Lister Road, Braintree, that he ‘took sadistic pleasure from what you were doing, and you carried on as Mr Gilhooly was dying and after he was dead’.
He said father-of-one Mr Gilhooly was a ‘joy to everyone who knew him’ and the ‘life and soul of the party’ who was ‘a constant source of support to his family and to others’.
Addressing Bourke, who he described him a ‘terrible lodger’ who got drunk and took drugs, the judge added that the landlord was ‘generous to a fault, and you were one of those who benefited from his generosity and his kindness’.
‘There was much more to him than his last day,’ the judge said, adding: ‘The happiness that he brought into the world, the good deeds he did, and the memories he made for those left behind will never die.’
Mr Jackson told the court Mr Gilhooly, described by a friend as a ‘people’s champion’, lived alone in the flat above the pub but occasionally took in lodgers.
In February 2019, Bourke, who was a frequent customer of the pub, moved in after becoming homeless.
Despite his heavy drinking the landlord ‘put up with’ Bourke’s behaviour and they lived together through the first coronavirus lockdown.
After Mr Gilhooly’s father died a small wake was held on May 7 last year, at which Bourke drank heavily, the court heard.
The landlord decided to redecorate the pub in anticipation of Covid restrictions being lifted and Bourke arranged for an axe to be bought to use on trees in the garden, which he kept.
On May 15, Mr Gilhooly told a friend he was ‘angry’ at Bourke for buying the wrong paint for the pub and because he was not paying his rent.
‘He had become fed up with the defendant and wanted him to either pay the rent or leave,’ Mr Jackson said.
‘It’s plain that hours before the murder relations between the two men were at a very low ebb.’
Shortly after 8am on May 17, Bourke sent a series of Facebook messages to his sister boasting of what he had done to Mr Gilhooly.
Pictured, Scott Gilhooly, a ‘people’s champion’ pub landlord who was decapitated by his homeless lodger
While being arrested, Bourke, who had blood on his hands and clothing, ‘tried to engage officers in jokes and laughter’, the court was told. (Pictured, the scene of the attack in May)
One read: ‘I just stabbed Scott to death ha ha ha ha,’ while another said: ‘I loved killing him. For real.’
A further message said: ‘I wish I had Facetime cos I stabbed him to death – it was fun.’
He asked his sister to keep this ‘secret’, but she drove with their father to the pub where they called 999.
Mr Jackson described the ‘very grim’ scene police officers found upstairs.
‘Mr Gilhooly’s headless body was lying on his front on the floor of his bathroom,’ he said.
‘Mr Gilhooly was naked, there were clearly a number of large open wounds to his back.
‘Mr Gilhooly’s head was on a bed in the defendant’s bedroom and embedded in it was the axe.’
The court also heard that the post-mortem examination recovered a bottle of bleach, one of Mr Gilhooly’s rings, a contact lens and a piece of ‘plastic fake faeces’ from the victim’s body.
There was also a bite mark on his back, the court was told.
While being arrested, Bourke, who had blood on his hands and clothing, ‘tried to engage officers in jokes and laughter’, the court was told.
The trial heard he later claimed to a prison governor that a naked Mr Gilhooly had entered his room and ‘come for him’.
Bourke said he had grabbed a knife to ‘scare’ the landlord and admitted decapitating him.
But Mr Jackson said the forensic evidence did not match Bourke’s account, as it indicated the landlord was attacked in the flat hallway.
Citing the findings of medical experts, Mr Jackson said there was ‘no evidence’ the defendant suffered from a mental illness.
The prosecutor submitted that Mr Gilhooly being gay may have provoked some ‘hostility’ from Bourke.
But Bourke’s lawyer Barry Gilbert said he denied the killing had anything to do with homophobia, and the judge concluded it was ‘hard to say’ whether this had been a motivation in the attack.
Mr Gilbert said Bourke ‘says that he’s very sorry for what he did’, describing the murder as ‘inexplicable’.
In a statement read to the court on his behalf, Spencer Gilhooly, the landlord’s brother, said he was victim of an ‘evil, callous and heinous’ act.
He said it had left him unable to sleep and he suffered nightmares.
Spencer Gilhooly said it had been ‘utterly heart-breaking and devastating’ to see details of his brother’s death ‘plastered over social media’ before being formally informed by police.
‘The impact this has had on my family, friends, the local community and work colleagues is immeasurable,’ he said.
‘We can never be whole again, we are missing a piece. The family jigsaw is incomplete.’
He said his brother was an ‘entertainer’ who ‘lit up the dullest room’ and would ‘give you his last penny and the food off his plate’.
Mr Gilhooly’s mother Doreen said in her statement that her son was ‘my best friend’ who had supported her after a 2018 cancer diagnosis.
‘He can make me laugh no matter what, but now all I’m able to do is cry,’ she said.
‘Scott’s death has left a void in our lives that can never be filled.
‘My three boys were my three amigos. We are broken and this can never be fixed.’
The court heard Bourke had one previous conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 2019, when he glassed a man leaving a pub, for which he received a nine-week sentence suspended for 12 months.
As he was in breach of this sentence at the time of the murder, the judge activated it to be served concurrently with his life sentence.
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