A man growing cannabis plants in his home in Luton was brutally murdered by robbers out to steal them, it was alleged in court.
Atul Shah, 47, was found dead in his flat at Crescent Rise on January 6. His body was found on the floor by a neighbour, bound by his hands and feet with a wet cloth over his face.
It is believed Mr Shah was bludgeoned in the face with a dumbbell weight – three of his teeth were found in his stomach during a post-mortem examination.
At Luton Crown Court today, prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said: “Atul Shah was murdered in what can only be described as a brutal attack.
“His feet were tied together, you can see by his side a credit card and over his face is a towel-like item that’s wet. To the side is a bottle of plant food liquid that appears to have been emptied over his face.”
Two men stand accused of murder, while three of their acquaintances face charges of complicity.
Those on trial are:
< Kyle Pitchford-Price, now 23, of Dovehouse Hill, Luton, faces counts of murder, conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to burgle, and perverting the course of justice.
< Luke West, 23, of Abbotts Wood Road, Luton, faces counts of murder and conspiracy to rob.
< Corinna Armstrong, 21, also of Dovehouse Hill, faces counts of conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to burgle, and two counts of perverting the course of justice.
< Callum Holton, 19, of Milton Road, Luton faces counts of conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to burgle.
< Brian Edge, 56, faces counts of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.
Mr Timmins QC said: “Atul Shah lived alone in the flat at Crescent Rise.
“In that property, he was growing cannabis plants. There were a number of plants and a relatively sophisticated set-up for keeping them, growing them and nurturing them... The murder was committed to rob Atul Shah of those plants and anything else valuable in the flat.
“Atul Shah was last seen on CCTV at about 5.14pm on January 5.
“The four defendents [Kyle Pitchford-Price, Luke West, Callum Holton and Corinna Armstrong] were all aware of the fact that Atul Shah kept and grew cannabis in that flat. The crown say this was a conspiracy to rob. They expected to be met with resistance and conspired to go together.”
The prosecution alleged that between 4.50am and 6am on January 6, Kyle Pitchford-Price and Luke West went into the flat and allegedly murdered Mr Shah, while Callum Holton and Corinna Armstrong are alleged to have waited outside.
The prosecutor said: “The crown say that Callum Holton and Corinna Armstrong also went to Atul Shah’s address. The crown accepts they were not involved in the murder.”
Mr Shah’s body was discovered in the blood-stained flat by a neighbour the next day.
“Teeth were on the floor that the crown say were bludgeoned out of his face. His hands were also bound behind his back.
“Atul Shah was beaten probably with a heavy weight – a dumbbell – and beaten around the face so severely that his teeth were knocked out.”
The prosecution allege that after the murder, Kyle Pitchford-Price and Corinna Armstrong went to Brian Edge’s flat at Harthill Drive.
Mr Trimmer QC said: “Brian Edge allowed his flat to be used for cleaning up after the murder.”
Mr Edge – who is also Luke West’s stepfather – claimed not to have been at the address at the time.
“Kyle Pitchford-Price was arrested and in interview, he said to police he wasn’t there, he was with his girlfriend Corinna Armstrong at the relevant time.
“Corinna Armstrong was spoken to. She insisted yes, Kyle Pitchford-Price couldn’t have been murdering Atul Shah between 4am and 6am because he was with her.
“Both Mr Pitchford-Price and Miss Armstrong gave false alibis.”
The trial continues.