Leo Barnes death: Double murder suspect found dead in prison cell

Mr Barnes, who denied both murders, was found hanged in his cell at HMP Hewell in Redditch on Sunday

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The Independent Online

A man who was on trial for the murder of two pensioners has been found dead in his prison cell.

Leo Barnes, 33, was accused of murdering Cynthia Beamond, from Halesowen, and Philip Silverstone of London, on consecutive days last year in June.

Mr Barnes, who denied murder, was found hanged in his cell at HMP Hewell in Redditch on Sunday 25 January, West Midlands Police said. His trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court had begun last Monday.

An investigation is due to take place but police have said that the death is not deemed to be suspicious.

West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Caroline Corfield, who led the murder enquiry, said: "I am shocked to hear about the death of Leo Barnes.

"Family Liaison Officers have been supporting the families of both Cynthia and Philip - and officers have also notified Mr Barnes’ next of kin."

Jurors had been told that Mr Barnes knew his victims - Ms Beamond since childhood - but claimed someone else had murdered them.

He told the jury he had been followed to 80-year-old Mrs Beamond's home by three men who then robbed him at gunpoint.

He claimed that Mrs Beamond was hit over the head with a saucepan by an intruder, but he thought she was still alive when he left her house, and that a second murder of Philip Silverstone, 67, took place during a "three-way fight" which ended with a Polish man hitting the pensioner with a car jack.

During his evidence, Mr Barnes denied attacking Mrs Beamond with a saucepan and killing Mr Silverstone using a jack he had taken from a hire car.

Cynthia’s daughter, Beverley Hadley, said that the family was "devastated" to learn of Mr Barnes' death. "We are devastated as a family that the man we believe is responsible for the brutal murder of my beloved Mum is not going to face justice for this horrendous crime," she said.

"We have been deprived of those valuable final years of Mum’s life and those precious moments with her to say our final goodbyes.

"She is missed by everyone who knew her and her loss has left a huge void. Our lives have been devastated and changed forever. As a family we are now suffering our own life sentence."