TWO convicted murderers laughed as they were led from the dock after being given life sentences for the murder of a father of two.
Ryan Leck and Ryan Saint could be heard laughing and shouting as they were led away by security guards to be jailed for killing Andrew Smart last year.
Leck was sentenced to a minimum of 21 years in prison and Saint will spend at least 22 years behind bars after they were convicted of murdering the 47-year-old following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court last month.
During the trial, the court heard that the pair kicked and stamped on Mr Smart, a former computer engineer battling a drink problem, after breaking into his home in Sibthorpe Street, North Shields, late on February 25.
Mr Smart’s body was discovered on February 28.
He had died from multiple injuries.
Leck, 19, of Lower Rudyerd Street, North Shields, pleaded not guilty to murder but admitted manslaughter, and Saint, 21, of George Street, North Shields, denied murder.
The pair returned to court last Thursday to learn their fate.
Judge Esmond Faulks said the murder of Mr Smart was a “prolonged and savage attack” necessitating a minimum life sentence of 30 years, but that could be reduced due to the defendants’ young age and lack of significant premeditation and intention to kill.
Judge Faulks said: “Mr Smart was a trusting and vulnerable man.
“He was an alcoholic and in poor health.
“Earlier that night, you both stole £150 from him on the pretext of buying him some cannabis.
“Then in the early hours of February 26, you both visited him at his home but neither of you really knew him at all.
“I find that you visited him not in order to part with the money, you visited him with the view of extracting more money by one means or another.
“Ryan Saint, you got there first and summoned Leck.
“Because of the fingerprint by the bedside cabinet, you Saint were in the bedroom looking for something to steal.
“That led to a confrontation, Mr Saint was knocked to the floor where his head and body were repeatedly stamped on by both of you.
“In doing so, you caused no less than 13 rib fractures.
“It is the view of the pathologist that considerable force would have been required to break those bones.
“As a result, Mr Smart suffered massive internal bleeding which led to his death.
“It was a prolonged and savage attack with no defence injuries found.”
The pair were also given two-year sentences for conspiracy to steal, to run concurrently.
Toby Hedworth, defending Saint, said his client lacked maturity.
“The pre-sentence report paints a picture of a young man who by his behaviour over a number of years still lacks maturity,” he said.
“He expresses no explanation about why he behaves as impulsively as he does. He is anxious to find out why and take the relevant courses to ensure he becomes a different person in the future.”
David Robson, defending Leck, said his client had not been part of the initial break-in, instead receiving a telephone call inviting him to Mr Smart’s flat.
He also said Leck decided to admit to manslaughter part way through the trial as he did not want one of the co-accused – Stephen Kirkpatrick – to be wrongly convicted of murder.
Mr Robson said: “He (Leck) denied and denied and denied that he had done it until faced with the reality of hearing in court that someone else was likely to be convicted when he clearly knew it would be a gross miscarriage of justice.
“He did what many people might not have done in coming clean.
“He is an unusual young man who has behaved in unusual way.
“The horror of what he caused Mr Smart and his family is respected in a letter he wrote.
“He is not somebody by any means lacking in the courage to face up to what he has done.”
Mr Robson added that as Leck was led away from the dock on his last appearance, a security guard sympathised about the length of sentence he was facing, with Leck responding that “he would be out one day while he (Mr Smart) would always be six foot under”.
• Mr Smart, a former King’s School pupil, moved back to the region from Surrey after problems with his business and his marriage failed.
After the hearing, his daughter Rachael paid tribute to her father and welcomed the verdict.
She said: “I cannot forgive these people for what they have done; we all lost someone that we loved and cherished, it was a day that I will never come to terms with or understand.
“My dad was cruelly taken away from us at a time when he was vulnerable and had been taken advantage of.
“I am satisfied with the verdict today as my dad has been deprived of the rest of his life and it’s only right that these murderers should be deprived of enjoying their lives.
“The whole family would like to personally thank everyone from Northumbria Police for their hard work and dedication on this difficult and complicated case.
“My brother and I will miss my dad every day of our lives.”
• Detectives investigating his murder found that a group of young men targeted Mr Smart because of his drink problem.
They came into his home and exploited him, incidents he did not report to the police.
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Peter Bent, of the major investigation team, said: “This has been a very upsetting and difficult time for Mr Smart’s family and I hope they now feel that justice has been done.
“The murder has had a major effect on the family as a whole and Andrew’s children in particular who are keenly feeling his loss.
“It is totally abhorrent that a group of people can behave in this way which culminated in the death of a vulnerable man who needed help.
“Northumbria Police will always seek to help those who need our assistance and no one should have to suffer in the way that Mr Smart did.
“It is very sad that he felt unable to seek help from the police, but that may have been the result of his alcohol problem.
“Our thoughts are very much with Mr Smart’s family at this time.
“I would also like to commend the work of my investigation team.
“This was an incredibly difficult investigation in many ways and it took twelve months of monumental effort to secure these convictions.
“Their efforts are truly a credit to themselves and Northumbria Police.”
• A third man, Anthony Smith, 19, of Gardner Place, North Shields, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Stephen Kirkpatrick, 20, of Balkwell Green, North Shields, will be sentenced for conspiracy to steal on May 4.