Care home resident murdered neighbour in row over letting chihuahua off lead

Thomas Dunn (centre)
Thomas Dunn (centre) lived in the same retirement home complex as his victim - Andrew Price

A pensioner murdered a fellow retirement home resident with a spade over a row about letting a chihuahua off its lead, a court heard.

Thomas Dunn, 84, was jailed for life after attacking Royston Costello, 60, a grandfather-of-six and Falklands War veteran, at Oakdene Court, in Sandbach, Cheshire.

He claimed that Mr Costello had been breaking the rules at the housing complex, making noises, using a fire door and letting his dog off its lead.

He was also unhappy that Mr Costello had been given a new mobility car, a court heard.

Dunn attacked Mr Costello three times with the spade as his victim slept on Feb 20 before fleeing on an electric scooter.

He was charged with murder when his victim died in hospital two months later.

Royston Costello
Royston Costello (pictured) was attacked three times by Thomas Dunn - Andrew Price

At Chester Crown Court on Friday, Dunn was jailed for life, and told he must serve a minimum term of 17 years and six months.

Mr Costello, according to the Daily Mail, had been a resident at Oakdene Court where he had lived with his wife for several years.

Dunn was also a resident at the supported living complex, and in the months leading up to the incident he had developed a grudge against Mr Costello.

Mr Costello denied Dunn’s claims against him, but on Feb 19 awoke to find a Z mark had been scratched onto his new car.

He confronted Dunn about the matter and the incident was reported to police who attended the scene and started an investigation.

Victim asleep when attack happened

At 2am on Monday Feb 20, Dunn decided that he was going to attack Mr Costello and went out to a neighbour’s shed to get a spade. He then took the spade back into his flat where he lay in wait.

Shortly before 10am, Mr Costello’s wife went out to take their dog, a chihuahua, for a walk. Knowing that Mr Costello was alone, Dunn then approached his flat.

He entered through an unlocked door, armed with his spade, where he saw Mr Costello asleep on the sofa.

Dunn then attacked Mr Costello from behind, hitting him three times on the head and purposely using the side of the spade to cause the most harm.

He then left the flat and disposed of the spade in a hedge, before leaving the area on his electric scooter.

Mr Costello’s wife returned to the flat at around 10am where she found her husband on the sofa with serious head injuries.

He was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to the Royal Stoke Hospital.

Officers quickly identified Dunn as the main suspect and following extensive searches he was located and arrested at 2.40pm that day inside a nursing home on Lacey Green in Wilmslow.

Dunn ‘intent on causing harm’

Detective Inspector David Hutcheon said after the sentencing hearing: “Dunn’s actions that day were horrific.

“From the moment he awoke he was intent on causing harm to Mr Costello.

“He carefully planned his attack, hitting Mr Costello with a spade from behind as he slept on the sofa, knowing that he had no way to defend himself.”

DI Hutcheon added: “As a result of his actions that day, a wife has lost her loving husband, two children have lost their dad and six grandchildren have lost their caring granddad.”

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