February 16, 2023 6.00 pm This story is over 9 months old

Man reverses murder plea to guilty after Spalding house fire

Victim’s family was told before court appearance

A Spalding man faces life imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Vincent Markham and setting a fire which destroyed his home.

Samuel Church, 36, of Acacia Avenue in Spalding, was due to stand trial at Lincoln Crown Court today (Thurs) after previously pleading not guilty to murdering Mr Markham, 52.

However Church entered a guilty plea to murdering Mr Markham before the trial jury were sworn in.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting public justice by setting a fire at the property in Farrow Road, Whaplode Drove on 7 August last year.

A third charge of reckless arson, which Church had also denied, will lie on the file after the court heard Mr Markham’s neighbours were out at the time of the fire.

The court heard Church had entered his guilty pleas on a basis that he did not intend to kill Mr Markham but did intend to cause him really serious harm.

Katherine Goddard KC, prosecuting, said members of Mr Markham’s family, who were present in court, had been told about the decision before they came into court.

Miss Goddard told the court it was understood Church was intoxicated when he visited Mr Markham’s home with an intention to settle their difference one way or the other.

Miss Goddard said the prosecution understood the defendant’s plea was on the basis that he did not intend to kill Mr Markham but to cause him really serious harm.

That plea was acceptable to the Crown Prosecution Service after serious consideration was given to the medical evidence, Miss Goddard said.

“We maintain there was a serious assault on Mr Markham,” Miss Goddard added.

Nigel Edwards KC, defending Church, said he had entered his guilty pleas after a written basis was agreed with the defendant.

Mr Edwards asked for an adjournment for a further psychiatric report after telling the court Church had various personality issues.

Judge Simon Hirst adjourned sentence on Church until 14 March and remanded him back into custody.

Judge Hirst told Church: “You have pleaded guilty to murder and perverting the course of justice.

“You know a sentence of life imprisonment awaits you. What you don’t know is the minimum term of detention that you will serve.”

Lincolnshire Police previously said Mr Markham died as a result of an assault at a property in Farrow Road, at Whaplode Drove, on 7 August.

Emergency services were called to the property following reports of a fire at the home at about 1am.

Mr Markham died at the scene, and police said ‘100 per cent’ of the home was destroyed in the incident.

Church was taken to hospital following the incident and was arrested whilst there.

He remained under arrest, and with police guard until his release from hospital, where he was taken into police detention and charged with murder.

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