Accomplices 'in thrall' of Dennehy

Preston and Leyland Citizen: Photo of Joanna Dennehy, which was shown to jurors as evidence at the trial of Gary Richards, also known as Gary Stretch Photo of Joanna Dennehy, which was shown to jurors as evidence at the trial of Gary Richards, also known as Gary Stretch

Two men in the "thrall" of "sadistic" serial killer Joanna Dennehy have been convicted of offences related to her killing spree.

Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton were "manipulated" by psychopath Dennehy who murdered Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, Kevin Lee, 48, and John Chapman, 56, in and around Peterborough over a 10-day period.

Stretch, 47, was found guilty at Cambridge Crown Court of the attempted murder of dog walker Robin Bereza, while Layton, 36, was convicted of preventing the lawful burial of two murder victims.

Prosecutors said the men, who had already been found guilty of other offences relating to Dennehy's attacks in March last year, "revelled in bringing suffering and misery upon their victims and showed no remorse for their atrocious acts".

Dennehy, 31, had previously pleaded guilty to the killings as well as admitting the attempted murders of two dog walkers, John Rogers and Mr Bereza, and preventing the lawful and decent burial of her murder victims.

All three will be sentenced at a later date along with a third man, Robert Moore, 55, of Belvoir Way, Peterborough, who previously admitted assisting an offender.

After the hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Martin Brunning, who led the investigation, said: "Three men were brutally murdered in Peterborough and two men were stabbed in West Mercia.

"Today their killer and her willing accomplices have now been brought to justice.

"Joanna Dennehy is a sadistic 'serial killer' with a fearsome personality. She manipulated these men into doing things she wanted.

"I am relieved she is facing a substantial period of time behind bars."

Chris McCann, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the East of England, said: "Stretch, Layton and Moore were in the thrall of triple-murderer Joanna Dennehy.

"They revelled in bringing suffering and misery upon their victims and showed no remorse for their atrocious acts.

"The fact that Leslie Layton photographed one of the deceased victims is testament to the warped nature of these crimes and those that committed them.

"I hope the two victims and the families of Lukasz Slaboszewski, John Chapman and Kevin Lee can take some comfort from the fact that the perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice and will be punished for what they have done."

On Monday jurors at Cambridge Crown Court found Stretch guilty of three counts of preventing the lawful burial of a body and another count of attempted murder on Mr Rogers in Hereford on April 2.

Layton was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

The jury returned a majority verdict on the three remaining charges, a court official said.

During the trial, prosecutors said Dennehy "cast a spell" over her alleged accomplices and some of her victims as she killed "for fun".

Dennehy, of Orton Goldhay, Peterborough, was likened to "Uma Thurman from Kill Bill and the woman from the Terminator" by married father-of-two Mr Lee shortly before his death.

Another victim, Mr Chapman, had dubbed her the "man woman" because of her intimidating nature.

At the height of a nationwide man-hunt, she bragged to one witness that she had killed eight people - although no further murders have been detected.

All of the murder victims died from multiple stab injuries, including wounds to the heart.

After his death at a house in Rolleston Garth, Peterborough, on or around March 19, the body of Mr Slaboszewski was stored in a wheelie bin.

At one point a smirking Dennehy showed the body to a teenage girl, prosecutor Peter Wright QC told the court.

Along with Mr Chapman, who was killed in the block of bedsits he shared with Dennehy in Bifield on March 29, his body was later dumped in a ditch near the isolated Thorney Dyke.

Mr Lee was also killed on March 29 in the same house as Mr Slaboszewski.

His body was found wearing a black sequin dress and positioned in a sexual pose in a separate ditch near Newborough, in what Mr Wright described as a "final act of humiliation".

After the Peterborough killings, Dennehy had bragged that she and Stretch were "like Bonnie and Clyde" as they drove 140 miles across the country to search out further victims.

The court heard that she drove to Hereford with Stretch in a Vauxhall Astra registered in the false company name Undertaker and Sons.

Once there the diagnosed psychopath randomly selected and repeatedly stabbed two dog walkers - Mr Bereza and Mr Rogers - in the street. Both survived despite suffering critical injuries.

Describing the involvement of the two defendants, Mr Wright said both had been "willing and able" participants in the plot.

Neither man gave evidence in the trial, but both claimed they had been acting under duress.

Mr Brunning said the police inquiry had been "one of the largest and most complex investigations" in his 20 years' experience.

He said Dennehy's accomplices had "not only fuelled her violence but also assisted her in these cruel crimes, by helping her dump their bodies".

"Stretch drove her around and helped her pick her next victims - without a thought of the impact on them or their loved ones," he said.

"Moore sheltered Dennehy and Stretch while they were on the run and lied to police about their whereabouts while Layton was prepared to help Stretch and Dennehy with their criminal activities, helped dump the bodies and did everything in his power to assist them to avoid being caught.

"The actions of Dennehy and those who helped her have had a devastating impact on the families of those killed and the surviving victims.

"Two of the victims will live with what Dennehy has done for the rest of their lives. I hope today's convictions will provide them, and their families, with some closure."

Later, Darren Cray, the brother-in-law of Mr Lee's widow Cristina, said: "Joanne Dennehy has taken over our lives and has callously created a hole that cannot be filled.

"She tried to humiliate Kevin in a way that wasn't deserved.

"Kevin gave everyone a chance, no matter how vulnerable, which sadly led to him losing his life. I'm sure all of those people he helped will remember how he helped them.

"His friends and family were absolutely blessed to know the true person he was and will remember him always and miss him each day."

He went on: "The trial is over and the jury has reached its verdict. We would like to thank all those involved in the case and the support that has been given to our family, in particular Victim Support homicide service and officers from the Major Crime Unit.

"Kevin was much loved by all his family and he will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace and our family be left to grieve."

In a statement released by police on behalf of the Lee family, Mr Cray went on: " This has been an incomprehensibly difficult time for all the family as we try and come to terms with what has happened to Kevin.

"Nothing is the same now. This tragedy has shaken our lives to the core and we are devastated about how Kevin's life came to an end.

"Kevin was Cristina's first relationship; she is devastated that Kevin has been taken away from us as a family. Initially, after discovering the circumstances of Kevin's death she felt a lot of anger but she is slowly managing to deal with that.

"As a family we feel an immense pressure to fill so many voids which no one could ever really replace.

"Kevin was so full of life, excitement and laughter that life now is very dull without him around. He was headstrong, intelligent, unique and his charisma ensured everyone he ever met would never forget him, a true one-off.

"We live every day with the devastating effect this has had on our family. Cristina, Chiara and Dino are now in a very different place, they struggle every day to deal with our loss and every day we all try and pick up the pieces.

"Dino has lost not only his dad, but his best friend, his karting mechanic and his most enthusiastic and encouraging mentor.

"Dino and Chiara have in essence lost both parents because Cristina hasn't been able to deal with her own grief, almost 12 months on and she is still not coming to terms with the loss of Kevin."

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