TWO men have been cleared of murdering a vulnerable pensioner by beating and strangling him, but jailed for a total of 17 years after being found guilty of burglary.

Simon Smith, 40, of no fixed address, and Anthony Smith, 44 of Ceylon Road, Westcliff, forced their way into a flat in Cedar Close, Southend, at about 11pm on August 1, 2015.

They kicked and punched 67-year-old Albert Williams and stole a box believed to contain about £2,000.

After the burglary, Mr Williams received hospital treatment, but returned to his home.

The drug addicts were accused of a second burglary at the address on August 8, during which Mr Williams was brutally murdered.

At least one of the men was alleged to have stamped on his chest and strangled him, while the other ransacked the flat.

The pensioner’s body was then set alight in an apparent attempt to dispose of evidence. He was discovered when firefighters were called.

A post mortem examination later revealed he died as the result of compression of the neck and multiple blunt force chest injuries.

Mr Williams suffered 50 rib fractures and his chest was completely flattened.

Enquiries revealed the property had been burgled sometime overnight and about £9,000 was thought to have been stolen.

The two men, both named Smith but not related, were charged with murder and two counts of burglary.

They denied the charges but were convicted yesterday of the first burglary following a trial at the Inner London Crown Court.

They were found not guilty of murder and not guilty of the second burglary.

They have each been sentenced to eight and-a-half years in prison.

Senior investigating officer Det Insp Danny Stoten, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Albert Williams was a vulnerable 67-year-old man who lived alone.

“He lived his life peacefully, had a love of gardening and bothered no-one.

“Anthony Smith and Simon Smith exploited his vulnerability and ruthlessly targeted him because of it.

“They invaded his home and the severity of their sentence bares testimony to the callous nature of the crime.

“This murder investigation remains open.

“I would like to hear from anyone that has any information in relation to this crime.”

Southend Standard:

‘Kind and caring’ Albert left a key under the mat

ALBERT Williams was a “kind and sensitive” man who probably became a victim of his own trusting nature.

The proud Eastender was estranged from his wife and children, partly because of his unconventional tastes.

Children were known to target the 67-year-old because he would sometimes venture out wearing women’s clothing.

The 5 foot 2 inch pensioner, who weighed just ten stone, was once pushed off his bike because of his attire- an incident that led to him giving up his bike and staying indoors more often.

As a former gardener for the Greater London Authority in Greenwich Park, he played a keen role in maintaining the gardens of his new neighbours in Southend.

He also formed a bond with neighbour Brian Wallace, who took him on a trip to his old haunts in Stratford, Plaistow and other areas.

Mr Wallace gave the court an example of his friend’s naivety and casual attitude to cash when the pair went to buy a new watch.

Having picked out the one he wanted, Mr Williams took £100 out of his pocket.

Mr Wallace said: “He laid the full amount on the counter. The cashier picked it up and left the remainder on the counter, by which time Albert was motioning towards the door.

“He said: ‘I thought I had to pay £100.’”

But it was Mr Williams’ reliance on food deliveries from Deb’s Diner in Sutton Road that prosecutors said led to his brutal murder.

He would turn up most mornings for breakfast and leave after placing an order for his dinner.

This would be delivered by whoever happened to be working and Mr Williams would hand over cash he kept in a shoe box.

As one worker told the court: “I told him to put it in the bank, but it was up to him wasn’t it?”

Sometimes, whoever delivered the meal would even microwave it for him, because Mr Williams- who had problems reading and writing- struggled with the technology.

He was so reliant on the daily deliveries he became stressed if they had not shown up by 2pm and would often retire to his flat to wait for his meal, leaving a key under the mat.

How many people knew about the key was an issue at the trial and the defence suggested others were involved.

On August 8, as Mr Williams waited for what would be his final delivery from Deb’s Diner, somebody used the key to get in for a second time.

Ironically, the alarm would be raised by the delivery driver when he smelled smoke coming from inside.

Southend Standard:

Three trials but no end to killing quiz

THE question of who killed Albert Williams in a brutal and frenzied attack remains unsolved after two aborted trials.

Anthony Smith and Simon Smith first stood trial at Chelmsford Crown Court in June, but proceedings were abandoned after two weeks because the prosecution wanted to introduce phone and CCTV evidence that the defence had not had a chance to see.

The new trial was moved to the Inner London Crown Court in a bid to select a jury uncontaminated by publicity surrounding the case.

However, just two days after it opened a juror carried out research on the internet and discussed it with fellow jurors, breaching the Contempt of Court Act.

That juror will face action from the Attorney General’s office and could be jailed.

A new jury was sworn but only convicted the two men of a single burglary, following a four week trial.