MURDERERS who hunted down and brutally beat a rough sleeper to death have been told they will serve a minimum of 23 years.

Darren Miller, 46, and Mark Hartley, 32, were convicted of murdering Martin Dines after her was found dead in St Mary’s Car Park in Balkerne Hill, Colchester, in April.

The group had been arguing with Mr Dines as they believed he and his friends had been telling others that Hartley was never in the Parachute Regiment.

The claim was true as Hartley, although an ex-serviceman, never made it to the Paras having been discharged because he failed a drugs test. Miller also lied about being in the Army.

At Ipswich Crown Court Judge Martyn Levett said alcoholics Miller and Hartley will be in prison for at least 23 years before a parole board will even consider their release.

He said the pair decided Mr Dines should be taught a lesson and spent two hours searching for him before they found him in the car park and launched an attack which included biting his ear off, stamping on his head multiple times and causing a horrific injury to his genitals.

He said: “Darren Miller you dressed yourself in camouflage clothing not by any kind of entitlement but to add credence to your lies about being in the Army.

“Mark Hartley your Army service came to a halt in 2010 and since then you have traded on lies about being in the Parachute Regiment.

“This was a brutal attack causing at least 50 injuries and maybe up to 70.

“The callous killing was teaching him a lesson.

“Why should it matter so much about being in the Army?

“I can only thing it maybe because Colchester is a garrison town with many servicemen and women passing through.

“It seems to me it may be to attract more sympathy for people who have fallen on hard times.

“It is a grave illustration of the vulnerability for those who are homeless.”

READ MORE: Brother pays heartbreaking tribute to murdered Martin Dines

Nneka Akodulo, mitigating for Miller, argued he was the only person who had shown genuine remorse and wanted to apologise to Mr Dines’ family for what had happened.

It was argued by Richard Sutton QC, representing Hartley, that his sentencing should be adjourned to see whether he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his Army service in Afghanistan.

But Judge Levett said the only evidence of his having the condition was a “self-assessed ramble at the police station where he was talking about being a trained killer” and that Hartley was a pathological liar.


Manslaughter - Heidi Kennedy

Heidi Kennedy, 47, was convicted of Mr Dines’ manslaughter having been with the two murderers while Mr Dines was savaged. She was jailed for five years.

Graham Parkins, QC, mitigating for her questioned what she could have done to stop Miller and Hartley.

But Judge Levett said she stuck to the pair “like glue” on the night and the next day.

He said: “It must have been blindingly obvious that the man was getting a kicking and a stamping that was going to cause serious harm with that amount of blood.

“She was still not disengaging.

“It seems to me you had a phone on you that you could have used at any time to call the police towards the end of the attack and when it finished.

“I accept at one point you may have told Mr Miller to stop.

“The easiest thing would have been to walk away, but you didn’t.

“You could have gone at any time, and you know that.”

Mr Dines was attacked three times on the night he died, the first in Head Street outside the Royal Bank of Scotland where he regularly begged, and then in Crouch Street.

But the worst of the violence came in the stairwell of the town centre car park.

Kennedy and Hartley blamed Miller for the majority of the violence, while Miller blamed Hartley.

As Mr Dines laid lifeless the three went back to Hartley’s flat where they stayed for approximately 20 hours, only venturing out to steal more booze.

Police then arrived to arrest them.

Mr Dines had visited Hartley’s flat to drink in the months before he was killed.

Miller said he thought of Mr Dines as a friend as they were both rough sleepers, while Kennedy had not met any of the people involved until the day Mr Dines was murdered.

She had gone into town with her then boyfriend who went home ill, while she stayed on with Hartley and Miller and did not go home when the violence began.

Kennedy, of Queen Elizabeth Way, Colchester, Miller, of no fixed address, and Hartley, of New Kiln Road, Colchester, had all denied murder.

But Miller admitted to Mr Dines’ manslaughter while Kennedy admitted assaulting Lisa Peck, a friend of Mr Dines, on the same night.

Hartley was also sentenced to a year in jail for a separate stalking and assault causing actual bodily harm matter.