'Greedy' couple tied up and strangled pensioner to steal £13,000, court told

A pensioner was strangled, stripped and tied up before being robbed of £13,000 by a couple from London, a court has heard.

Chelsea Grant, 28, and Xyaire Howard, 23, were said to be motivated by "greed and self-interest" when they allegedly attacked Susan Hawkey, 71, to get her bank card PIN.

Both are on trial at the Old Bailey accused of repeatedly robbing Ms Hawkey and murdering her last September.

It was 20 days later that Ms Hawkey's body was found under a duvet in her living room in Neasden, London, a jury was told, with her hands taped and tied behind her back, and her eyes taped closed and a ligature around her neck.

In her opening statement, Annabel Darlow KC, prosecuting, said Grant and Howard identified Ms Hawkey as an "ideal victim" and "easy pickings" last summer, adding the victim was a "highly vulnerable" woman who had little contact with her family and friends.

Ms Hawkey was a "creature of habit", and would take the same route to the shops and Post Office with her card to withdraw cash, the jury heard.

The prosecution alleges she was robbed by the defendants on 27 July and 22 August 2022.

Ms Darlow said Grant and Howard ripped Ms Hawkey's bag from her shoulder "with enough force to knock her over to the ground".

The court was also told that, the following day, the pair let themselves into Ms Hawkey's home with stolen keys, pinned her down and stole more money, while the victim fought back.

But Ms Hawkey managed to then cancel her cards.

She was last seen on 6 September last year - the same day Grant and Howard were seen walking to and from her home, the jury heard.

'All of her lower clothing had been removed'

Ms Hawkey was described as "feisty, brave and ready to stand up for herself", Ms Darlow said, adding the next day, her card had been used to take out £250 at a cash machine.

The prosecutor added: "The evidence indicates that Susan Hawkey had committed her PIN to memory and would not have given the PIN to anyone - still less two people who had robbed her three times before - unless she was the victim of considerable violence and aggression.

"When Susan Hawkey's decomposing corpse was found by the authorities, she was bound and blindfolded, and a ligature was around her neck.

"For some reason, all of her lower clothing, including underwear, had been removed, and her upper clothing had been cut down the front."

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A used condom containing Howard's semen and material from Grant was found in the same room as the body, together with a wrapper bearing Howard's fingerprint, the court was told.

Ms Darlow added: "The ligature around Susan Hawkey's neck had been tightened with sufficient force to break one of the bones in her neck and the prosecution say that she was strangled by these defendants during an attack motivated by greed and self-interest - they wanted to stop Susan Hawkey from blocking the card and prevent her from reporting them to the police for the multiple crimes they had already committed against her."

Evidence of disturbing Google searches

Ms Darlow said the defendants went on a "massive spending spree" over the next three weeks and "burned their way through almost £13,000" of Ms Hawkey's money in 146 transactions.

The pair then allegedly spent thousands on luxury goods, during trips to Westfield in Shepherd's Bush and shops in Wembley.

They are also accused of sending cash to St Vincent and the Grenadines, with Ms Hawkey's balance said to go from more than £16,000 to £3,434.03 after she was attacked and killed.

Howard searched online for "Barclays transaction limit", while Grant Googled "can you smell a dead body from outside the house" and "is a dead body a very strong smell", according to the prosecution.

Howard and Grant, from Press Road in Neasden, were eventually arrested at a bus stop on 28 September and the card was blocked at the request of police.

They deny murder and robbery, though Howard has pleaded guilty to a charge relating to theft on 22 August 2022.

However, both admit to fraud by false representation in relation to their misuse of the victim's card, jurors heard.

The trial continues.