Man accused of murdering Belsize Park pensioner found dead in prison cell

Police officers investigating the death of pensioner Philip Silverstone at Spencer House sheltered f

Police officers investigating the death of pensioner Philip Silverstone at Spencer House sheltered flats in Belsize Park Gardens last year. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A man on trial for murdering a Belsize pensioner in his own home has been found dead in his prison cell.

Leo Barnes, from Balsall Heath, Birmingham, was on trial for the murders of 67-year-old Philip Silverstone and 80-year-old Cynthia Beamond.

The 33-year-old was found hanging in his cell at HMP Hewell in Redditch yesterday morning, West Midlands Police said.

He had been due to be cross-examined over the killings at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday, but had complained of feeling ill.

Police said an investigation will be held into Barnes’ death but it is not regarded as “suspicious”.

Det Insp Caroline Corfield, who led the murder inquiry, said: “I am shocked to hear about the death of Leo Barnes, who was found dead in his cell at HMP Hewell by prison staff. His death is not deemed suspicious.

“Family liaison officers have been supporting the families of both Cynthia and Philip - and officers have also notified Mr Barnes’ next of kin.”

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Barnes gave evidence in his defence on Thursday, telling jurors that his alleged victims died at the hands of an intruder and a Polish man who went “absolutely wild” after a sexual encounter.

The self-confessed cocaine dealer told jurors he witnessed assaults on Mrs Beamond and Mr Silverstone, but had done nothing to harm them.

Wearing a dark suit, blue tie and white shirt, Barnes told the jury that Mrs Beamond, whom he knew from childhood, was still alive when he left her house.

The following day, he told the court, he drove to London, arriving at Mr Silverstone’s flat in Belsize Park at about 11pm.

During his evidence, Barnes denied attacking Mrs Beamond with a saucepan and killing Mr Silverstone using a jack he had taken from a hire car.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Hewell prisoner Leo Barnes was found unresponsive in his cell at about 6.05am on Sunday.

“Paramedics attended but he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

“As with all deaths in custody, the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”