How could brutal killers do this to former Norwich bus conductor?
PUBLISHED: 19:19 01 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:19 01 February 2013
He was a happy, quiet, peaceful man who loved meeting up with former bus colleagues, playing cards, fishing and plane spotting.
Yet on February 9 last year his unassuming life was ended by a “grotesque” attack by Kelly and Jodie Barnes, formerly Ramsbottom, who tortured him for his pin number so they could feed their drink and drugs habit and later returned to ransack his home as he lay dying.
Today, as they start to serve life sentences for his cold-blooded murder, the big question is: How could they stoop so low?
Civil partners Kelly, 32 and Jodie, 31, of Bixley Close, Norwich, were both convicted at Norwich Crown Court yesterday of killing 67-year-old Barry Reeve whose body was discovered at his home in Corton Road on February 26 last year.
The pair, who are both drug addicts, will serve a minimum 24 years in prison and will not be considered for parole until 2037 at the earliest.
Members of Mr Reeve’s family wept as the verdict was delivered and the inevitable sentences followed.
Judge Peter Jacobs said he was sending a “message” as he jailed them both for life for the murder of Mr Reeve, a former bus conductor for Eastern Counties.
Judge Jacobs said: “Let’s get this message over.”
He told the women: “The man who you killed was frail, old and vulnerable and lived on his own.
“As a result of the attack, Mr Reeve was kicked, stamped upon and punched, then put to the ground in a semi-comatose state but he was sufficiently conscious to be able to give you information.
“Some form of kitchen knife was used to cut this man. Serious, deep incised cuts were made to both cheeks and to his stomach.
“A forensic pathologist said the obvious: those cuts were made to get information, probably both his pin number and any information about what was in the property.
“It was a grotesque situation that he was lying there slowly dying and you were going around his property, stepping over and around his body and stealing his property.”
The court heard Mr Reeve, a retired bus conductor, lay dying for up to 48 hours after the attack on February 9 last year.
The pair returned to Mr Reeve’s house after the attack and stripped it of anything of value, including food from the freezer and Mr Reeve’s medicines.
Emergency services were called by Mr Reeve’s daughter Julie after she received no answer when she called at his home.
Jonathan Goodman, mitigating on behalf of Kelly, told the court it had not been a premeditated attack.
Jodie’s barrister, Graham Arnold, said: “There was no intention to kill.
“It is distressing that he was left to die in the way that he was, but there was no attempt to finish him off.”
A post-mortem examination showed that Mr Reeve had died from hypothermia brought on as a result of a skull fracture and multiple other injuries to his body including two slash wounds to the abdomen, lacerations to the cheeks and forehead and five fractured ribs.
The last known sightings of Mr Reeve had been at The Busman’s Club on Rouen Road in the early afternoon of Thursday, February 9 and later on in Castle Meadow, as it was getting dark.
He was due to attend a cribbage match at the Trowel and Hammer pub later that evening and never arrived.
A woman, thought to be Kelly Barnes, answered his mobile phone and told the caller that the phone had a new owner and she had bought it on Wednesday, February 8.
Officers, who had been alerted by Mr Reeve’s daughter Julie, arrived at Corton Road to find the body of Mr Reeve face-down in the sitting room, close to the hallway entrance.
There were no signs of a break in, although drawers had been emptied and bloody footprints were found in the kitchen.
It was later revealed that Mr Reeve’s electricity card had expired and when electricity was restored to the address, the TV came on at a very high volume.
There were also a number of copies of the Evening News by the door and the milk on the doorstep had expired on Friday, February 17. Following the discovery of Mr Reeve’s body, his mobile phone, wallet and other items were recovered from the home address of Kelly and Jodie Barnes.
DNA samples obtained from heavily bloodstained jogging bottoms and boots belonging to Jodie and trainers taken from Kelly, showed traces of Mr Reeve’s blood. The shoes worn by both offenders were also matched to shoe prints found in blood in Mr Reeve’s house.
During interview neither Kelly nor Jodie admitted any involvement although the court heard how a taxi driver had taken them back to the Corton Road property on Thursday, February 9, where they removed several bags of property before heading to a cash point.
Both later admitted they were present when Mr Reeve was attacked but blamed each other.
Speaking after the case, DCI Andy Guy, from the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Major Investigation Team, said: “Murder is thankfully a rare crime in Norfolk and Suffolk. Even more unusual is the fact that this crime was committed by two young women who clearly were prepared to inflict injuries on an elderly man in order to obtain his pin number.
“It is beyond comprehension that the pair returned to Barry’s home whilst he was dying on the floor in order to steal further items from him.”
The verdict was also welcomed by former colleagues who worked with Mr Reeve on the buses or who remembered him fondly.
Retired methodist minister and former First Eastern Counties driver the Rev Jack Burton said: “I followed this case closely because Barry was a former colleague and popular with the Norwich bus workers and known affectionately as Titch.
“I think this was a brutal and pitiless crime inflicted on an elderly man in his own home. It doesn’t get much worse.
“I’m full of admiration for the dignity showed by Barry’s family who sat in court loyally every day to listen to terrible things.”
He said the case highlighted the “evil stupidity” of drug abuse and what lengths those who succumbed to it would stoop.
He added: “Barry was bright and chirpy and full of life and bus workers remember him with affection and say ‘thanks Titch’.”
Ex-bus driver Dennis Hartree, 75, from Long Stratton, who organises the reunions, said he was shocked to learn what Mr Reeve had been subjected to during his fatal ordeal.
He said: “You can’t believe what people can do to other people.
“He was a nice guy and certainly didn’t deserve this.
“He was fairly popular with the boys on the buses.
“It’s all the talk up Rouen Road – he was playing cards up there every day.
“He would get up in the morning and play cards till about 3pm or 4pm and wasn’t any trouble to anyone. He wasn’t a bloke looking for trouble – he was just a normal bloke.”
John Peacock a current driver with First, formerly Eastern Counties, said: “Many of the older drivers who knew him better than me are deeply shocked about it.
“It’s a great pity because he kept coming back to see us all particularly for the camaraderie and friendship that he missed so much.” Ben Doraj, landlord at the Trowel and Hammer pub, where Mr Reeve played cribbage every week, said: “He was very quiet and reserved. He always smiled. All the others were laughing and joking, but he was quiet, not much conversation.
“Everyone was shocked. It’s very bad – how can this happen? The police were here with his picture. It was a shock to find out. He was a good guy.”
A regular, who didn’t want to be named, said: “Everyone was shocked because he was such a quiet and nice person.
“You think that kind of thing doesn’t happen to anyone but with him it was done.
“It’s a shock. I just can’t see what he would’ve done to anyone to get attacked like that. That’s how he was – he wouldn’t say boo to a goose.”