Three men were killed and dumped in two ditches, five miles apart, following a dispute over an eviction notice at a rented house, it was claimed today.
The body of landlord Kevin Lee, 48, was found with multiple stab wounds on Saturday, while the bodies of two other men were found dumped in a dyke in open fenland in Cambridgeshire four days later. Police yesterday named the two men found on Wednesday as widower John Chapman, 56, and Luckasz Slaboszewski, 31, who were both unemployed. The two men were reported to be living in the same shared house in Peterborough that was owned by Mr Lee, a builder. Post-mortems were due to be carried out yesterday to discover how both men died.
Police have linked the killings. A former resident of the house, Toni Roberts, 25, said the tenants had been served with an eviction notice by Mr Lee ordering them out by 25 April so the house could be renovated.
“Kevin was my landlord and was really kind to me, he didn’t make me pay a deposit or anything. I can’t say a bad word about him really,” said Ms Roberts, who left four weeks ago.
“I reported John missing and I had a feeling that he might have been one of the ones who had been caught up in it. John didn’t hurt no-one. He used to just sit in his room drinking after his wife died a year ago.
“He was harmless and I don’t know why they targeted him. He was only a small guy.”
The house in Orton Goldhay remained boarded up yesterday as police searched a separate nearby property in Welland, Peterborough, which was believed to be owned by Mr Lee’s wife.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “That property was up for sale and then it got sold not too long ago. It was a builder who was renovating the house and I don’t think anyone lived there.”
Mr Lee had last been seen on Friday of last week and was reported missing later that day. His car was later found burned out at a farm in Yaxley, south of Peterborough.
An estate agent from Bairstow Eves in Peterborough, who marketed Mr Lee’s properties, said he had been notified of his death.
“It is very sad. Mr Lee was always friendly and polite with our staff. We never had a problem with him. We’re surprised that someone would want to hurt him.”
Mr Lee’s family said in a statement that the death was a tragic loss. “We are devastated by Kevin’s death. He was a wonderful husband, father, loving brother and son. His naturally infectious personality touched everyone who knew him,” the Daily Mail reported.
Officers are also connecting the deaths to two separate stabbings on Tuesday in Hereford, some 140 miles away. The two men hurt in the attacks remain in hospital in Birmingham.
Five people have been arrested in connection with the murder of Mr Lee during what police have described as a complex investigation, named Operation Darcy.
Two people arrested at the weekend have been released on bail, while a 36-year-old man has been charged with perverting the course of justice and is due to appear in court next week.
Gary Stretch, 47, arrested earlier this week remains in custody and Joanna Dennehy, 30, has been detained under the Mental Health Act. She is being assessed in a secure unit. Both were detained by West Mercia Police, which has said it is liaising closely with colleagues in Cambridgeshire.