Pensioner will die in jail after murdering another OAP over grudge

Pensioner, 84, will die in jail for killing pensioner neighbour, 60, in ‘Midsomer Murders’ style crime after grudge over him letting his dog off its lead and getting a new car on a mobility scheme

  • Thomas Dunn attacked Falklands veteran Royston Costello as he slept on his sofa
  • Dunn had harboured resentment towards his neighbour for several months 

An 84-year-old pensioner will die in jail after he was convicted of murdering his neighbour after developing a grudge against him in the months before killing him with a spade.

Thomas Dunn battered 60-year-old Falklands veteran Royston Costello over the head as he dozed on the sofa in what has been described as a ‘real-life Midsomer Murder’, leaving his victim partially paralysed and unable to speak.

Dunn, of Oakdene Court, harboured feelings of resentment towards his neighbour prior to the killing, claiming Mr Costello had been making noise, using a fire door and letting his dog off of the lead.

He had also been angry that his neighbour had been given a new car under a mobility scheme; a large ‘Z’ mark was scratched into the new car on February 19 this year, prompting Mr Costello to call the police.

But a day later, Dunn went further – waking up at 2am and deciding he was going to attack his neighbour, described by his widow Cathy as ‘a gentle giant who would always help anyone’.

Thomas Dunn is led away in cuffs to begin his life sentence after murdering Royston Costello

Thomas Dunn, who will die behind bars after being sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of more than 17 years

Royston Costello, who was described by his widow as a ‘gentle giant who would always help anyone’

Mr Costello’s wife Cathy said her husband had been her ‘rock’ and ‘her world’

Mrs Costello with her husband’s sister Debbie Dunn (no relation to Thomas Dunn) outside Chester Crown Court on Friday

Oakdene Court in Sandbach, where Thomas Dunn murdered Roy Costello by battering him over the head with a shovel three times

Dunn and Mr Costello both lived at the sheltered housing complex, where Dunn’s growing resentment of his neighbour over several months led him to commit murder

Dunn was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 17 years and six months for the attack following sentencing at Chester Crown Court on Friday. 

He had pleaded guilty to murder last month. The sentence means he will likely die behind bars.

The court heard that, following the incident involving the car on February 19, Dunn pilfered a spade from a neighbour’s shed, waited until shortly before 10am on February 20 for Mrs Costello to take their dog for a walk.

READ MORE: Pensioner, 85, murdered his Falklands veteran neighbour, 60, with a spade while he slept after a petty feud over a scratched car

He then crept into his neighbour’s flat and battered the veteran over the head with the spade three times as he dozed on his sofa.

Mr Costello suffered serious head injuries in the attack. Police say that the malice-driven Dunn deliberately used the edge of the spade head to cause the most harm. 

The attacker then disposed of the spade in a hedge and fled on his electric scooter – leaving Mrs Costello to make the horrific discovery.

It wasn’t long until police identified Dunn as the main suspect in the attack while his victim was rushed to Royal Stoke Hospital.

Dunn was then arrested at 2.40pm the same day at a nursing home in Wilmslow around 15 miles away. He was initially charged with section 18 assault following the attack while his victim lay in hospital.

Mr Costello underwent emergency brain surgery following the attack and remained in critical care, partially paralysed and unable to speak, until he died on April 20.

He had been recovering well – but died two days after surgery to fit a feeding tube in his stomach. 

In a heartbreaking statement issued following Dunn’s sentencing, Mrs Costello said: ‘Roy was a gentle giant who would always help anyone, he was very well loved by all who knew him, because of his caring nature.

‘Roy and I were very much one unit and we went everywhere and did everything together. Quite simply we were each other’s world; we always said as long as we had each other that was enough.

‘Roy being taken the way he was by a neighbour who can only be described as an evil coward is something I will never get over.

‘I have been left with a big void in my life where Roy used to be and I know life will not be the same.

‘I miss Roy each and every day and I now have to live my life a different way.

‘I will do my very best to live a life without Roy as I know this is what he would want but I do not look forward to this and it will not be easy without him, he was my rock.

‘I love you Roy and always will and I thank you for the wonderful 23-years we shared together. 

‘I promise you that not a day will go by when I will not think of you. You will always be with me in my heart and soul, but for now, RIP my darling until we meet again.’

Thomas Dunn being led into Chester Crown Court in cuffs last month, before he pleaded guilty to murdering Royston Costello

Cathy Costello sits on the bench she had made to remember her husband. She says Dunn has left ‘a big void in my life’

Chester Crown Court, where Thomas Dunn was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for murdering Royston Costello

In a previous interview with the Mail, Mrs Costello revealed she had asked managers at sheltered housing operators Anchor to install CCTV after Mr Costello’s previous car had also been vandalised.

She said: ‘I just feel so angry because it should never have happened. We had asked Anchor to install CCTV, but they said it wasn’t necessary. 

‘The police have also told me Dunn has a record for assault, so why was he allowed to move here?’

She added: ‘The scene I came home to that day was absolutely horrendous, it still plays on my mind. Roy was asleep and wouldn’t have known what was happening. 

‘But I am full of what-ifs. What if I had woken him up, what if I hadn’t gone out at that time – but I can’t let myself think like that.’

Following Dunn’s sentencing, Cheshire Police’s Detective Inspector David Hutcheon said: ‘Dunn’s actions that day were horrific. From the moment he awoke he was intent on causing harm to Mr Costello.

‘He carefully planned his attack, hitting Mr Costello with a spade from behind as he slept on the sofa, knowing that he had no way to defend himself.

‘During questioning Dunn admitted that he knew that he had inflicted serious injuries on Mr Costello following the first blow, but that he went on to hit him a further two times as he wanted to ‘teach him a lesson’.

‘As a result of his actions that day, a wife has lost her loving husband, two children have lost their dad and six grandchildren have lost their caring granddad.

‘While Mr Costello’s family will never be able to forget what happened that day, I hope that the fact that Dunn has now been held accountable for his actions and is likely spend a long time behind bars, will provide them with some closure.’

Mr Costello, a grandfather of six, had served in the Royal Engineers for 14 years and survived the bombing of the RFA Sir Galahad in June 1982, which killed 48 soldiers and crew.

He later worked as a security guard on the railways before heart problems forced him to retire. 

The court had been told Dunn had underlying mental health problems, having been assessed by a psychologist, but Peter Wright KC, defending, said these had been ‘insufficient’ to support a defence of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

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