Life sentence for son who killed wealthy father

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The Independent Online

A "callous" son who murdered his wealthy father before draining his bank accounts during a lavish spending spree was jailed for life today.

Debt-ridden television executive Benjamin Holding, 29, killed 70-year-old Michael Holding by repeatedly bashing his head against the floor at their home near Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

The executive was told he would spend at least 15 years behind bars for the crime.

Holding, a business development officer with STV at the time, dumped his father's body head-first in a wheelie bin in the garden shed, where it lay unnoticed for nearly two months.

Less than 90 minutes after the killing on October 13 last year, Holding began to claim his "rightful inheritance" by spending his victim's money.

Police said he eventually splashed out more than £30,000 - including £17,000 on a top-of-the-range car - during the seven-week spree.

The "plausible" killer then tricked the rest of the family into believing his father had gone on holiday and ignored the first anniversary of his wife's death.

Last month Holding admitted murder, fraud charges and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by hiding the body and destroying evidence.

At the High Court in Edinburgh today he was told he must spend at least 15 years behind bars before being eligible for parole.

Passing sentence, temporary judge Roger Craik QC branded the killing and Holding's subsequent behaviour "grave and callous".

He said: "The shock and distress that you have caused your friends and family must be considerable.

"You will have to live with that guilt."

The judge said the sentence had to be near the "top end of the scale", telling Holding he would have had to spend a minimum of 18 years in jail if he had not admitted guilt.

He told the killer: "I appreciate there may have been an atmosphere of tension between your father and yourself. This seems largely to be caused by your own financial irresponsibility."

He continued: "What rendered the fatal assault truly a murderous one are your actions thereafter.

"Rather than try and get help for your father, you concealed his body...and proceeded to pretend to all concerned that he was still alive."

The court heard previously that Mr Holding was retired but worked occasionally for an oil industry training company.

His wife, Linda, died in October 2006. They had two sons - the killer and his younger brother, Dominic.

Mr Holding had another son, Stephen, by an earlier marriage.

Holding, who had been bailed out by his father in the past, was in deep financial trouble by the time of the attack.

He and his wife were temporarily living in his father's house at East Mains, Inchmarlo, while they tried to buy their own home.

But Holding, who had run up debts and could not get a mortgage, lied to his wife and father, telling them he had bought a house. His wife had even packed their belongings for the move.

On the day of the killing, he told his wife there was going to be a delay getting into the new property and agreed to go home and tell his father they would need to stay on.

Holding later told police there had been a row in which he took hold of his father and banged his head on the floor several times.

When he realised what he had done, he wrapped the body in cloth and put it in the bin.

He also washed away blood stains in the utility room where the killing took place.

Holding then carried on as normal for nearly two months. He spent £7,000 on his father's credit cards and bought a £17,000 BMW.

The court heard two transactions, a car insurance payment and a withdrawal of £200, happened on the day of the murder.

Advocate-depute Alastair Brown, prosecuting, said: "The accused had begun to commit fraud within, at most, an hour and a half of the murder."

He continued: "The accused was to explain to the police that he regarded himself as having been spending his rightful inheritance."

Holding also embarked on an elaborate scheme to lead people to believe that his father was away from home, even sending bogus emails, claiming to be from the dead man, in a bid to cover up the crime.

The killer's scheme unravelled on December 6 2007 when his wife discovered the pensioner's bank cards were still being used.

He confessed to her and later told police: "Two months ago I had an argument with my father. I killed him and he's in the shed."

He told officers his father saw him as a "waste of space".

Detectives found the bin covered in a paint sheet and an awning.

The victim's relatives have been left distressed by the death, compounded by the fact that the body was only a few feet away from them when they visited the house.

Last month, police described Holding as a "skilful and accomplished liar" who had manipulated his nearest and dearest.

Detective Inspector Matt Mackay, of Grampian Police, said: "Ben Holding's father had clearly loved him and supported him over many years but those feelings were not reciprocated. Ultimately, he used his father purely as a source of cash."

Defence agent David Moggach today insisted his client felt "deep regret and sorrow" in the wake of the killing and was "at a loss" to explain his conduct after the attack.

He said he accepted he had caused "dreadful hurt" to his wife and relatives.

"He has expressed, I would submit, genuine grief and sorrow," he told the court.