Family of murdered Belsize pensioner feel ‘cheated’ of justice after inmate found hanged

Leo Barnes

Leo Barnes - Credit: Archant

The brother-in-law of a pensioner who was murdered in his Belsize Park flat says his family feel “cheated” of justice after the alleged killer hanged himself at the start of his murder trial.

Norman Stone, brother-in-law of murder victim Philip Silverstone. Picture: Polly Hancock

Norman Stone, brother-in-law of murder victim Philip Silverstone. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Philip Silverstone, 67, was found dead by police on June 30 last year at his flat in Spencer House, a block of supported flats in Belsize Park Gardens, where he cared for his disabled wife.

Leo Barnes, 33, of Runcorn Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, was charged with the murder of Mr Silverstone and 80-year-old widow Cynthia Beamond, who he is alleged to have bludgeoned in her West Midlands home the day before Mr Silverstone’s death.

Barnes was found hanging in his cell at HMP Hewell in Redditch, Worcestershire, on January 25, the same week his trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court had commenced.

Norman Stone, a retired black cab driver whose wife Ros is Mr Silverstone’s sister, told the Ham&High: “He’s got away with it and as far as his family is concerned he’s innocent until proven guilty.

“I feel very, very cheated. Literally he got away with murder. The trial was a complete waste of time because nothing came out of it at all.

“He took his own life presumably not to shame his family or because he knew he was guilty. I’d be happy if he could be tried in his absence and found guilty. It’s just a ridiculous, crazy situation.”

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During the trial, prosecutor Stephen Linehan QC told jurors that Barnes had used a heavy object to kill Mrs Beamond and then drove to London the next day, when he killed Mr Silverstone using a car jack.

Mr Linehan said the pensioners did not know each other but were linked by the “misfortune” of having both come into contact previously with Barnes.

Barnes had known Mrs Beamond since his childhood and it is understood he was Mr Silverstone’s neighbour for a time in Spencer House, which is maintained by Camden Council.

“Barnes apparently lived there for a while illegally within the block, which my son wasn’t happy about because of the security of the building,” said Mr Stone.

Barnes, a self-confessed cocaine dealer, denied hitting Mrs Beamond with a saucepan and claimed he had witnessed an intruder attack the pensioner.

He told jurors a Polish man went “absolutely wild” and killed Mr Silverstone after a sexual encounter.

Mr Stone said: “He came out with so many fabricated stories, a load of rubbish. It was horrendous, it was one prolonged breakdown.”

Mr Silverstone’s family could not bury him until six weeks after the murder due to police forensic investigations and will have to wait until May for his gravestone-setting, as part of Jewish tradition.

His wheelchair-bound wife Mary was moved to a care home following his death.

Describing Mr Silverstone, Mr Stone added: “His nickname was the ‘gentle giant’, he was always cracking jokes. He was just a great guy.”