Man killed flatmate then plundered her bank account while living with her corpse

A lodger has been found guilty of killing his flatmate before living in her home for weeks with her body hidden in a bedroom.

Kristian Smith, 42, was yesterday convicted of the manslaughter of 52-year-old Antoinette Donegan after a trial at the Old Bailey.

As she lay dead in her west London bedroom with her body undiscovered, he plundered her bank account and used her mobile phone. Jurors heard her benefits had been withdrawn.

When police eventually found her, clothing had been pushed up against the bedroom door from the hallway to cover the smell of the decomposing corpse.

Officers also found a significant amount of blood on the floor by her head and on the furniture in the room.

Irish Antoinette Donegan died in her one-bedroom council flat in Battersea last February.

Police discovered the decomposing body in March, after concerns were raised for her welfare, the Old Bailey heard.

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 find him guilty of the alternative charge of manslaughter, by a majority of 11 to one.

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

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."

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The court heard Ms Donegan, who lived on benefits, and Smith shared a drug addiction and went to 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She was last seen on February 1 last year, but her bank card continued to be used and her benefits withdrawn, jurors heard.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."

A post-mortem examination revealed that Antoinette had suffered a number of head injuries caused by a broken mug found in the bedroom.

She had also suffered seven fractured ribs, injuries believed to be indicative of an assault.

Detective Chief Inspector John Massey, the officer in the case, said: "This is a tragic case in which Antoinette’s generosity in allowing Kristian Smith to stay in her flat has been abused in the worst way possible.

“Antoinette was a vulnerable individual who was battling addiction herself.

“We will never know what instigated Smith’s brutal attack on Antoinette. But, what we do know, is that he then carried on with his life as if nothing had happened.

"He stole her bank card and withdrew money, presumably to buy drugs. Despite knowing she was dead, Smith did not tell anyone and simply blocked up the bedroom door to conceal any smell.

“The injuries on Antoinette’s body were numerous and it was clear that Smith did not kill her in self-defence. I am glad the jury has seen through his lies and he now faces a long period in jail.”

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