THE niece of a pensioner who was strangled to death in his own home had only friends and no enemies, a court was told.

Tina Ralph was giving evidence at the murder trial into the death of her uncle, Donald Ralph, 83, who was found dead during the Christmas holidays.

The pensioner was allegedly attacked in his home by Leighton Snook, 28, and a teenager who cannot be named due to his age.

Prosecutors have alleged Snook and his accomplice killed the 83-year-old farm worker and gamekeeper during a desperate bid to get thousands of pounds from him in order to pay a drugs’ debt.

A shotgun and rifle, along with Mr Ralph’s light blue Volvo V50, were stolen from his home in Aldham.

A post mortem revealed the nature lover and keen fisherman had been killed by strangulation.

His bruised and bloodied body was found by Ms Ralph on December 29 after she became concerned about her uncle’s well-being.

In a statement read to Ipswich Crown Court she recalled how her uncle had told her of an early morning visit from a young man wanting money.

Mr Ralph told his niece that the visitor has asked him for money and for a lift to Colchester.

The pensioner agreed to take the youngster to the nearby town before giving him £20 for cigarettes and telling him not to come back to his house.

She said her uncle had many friends locally.

“He was astute and switched on,” She said. “He did not need help at all.

“He had no enemies and I can’t think of any recent arguments or fall outs with anyone.

“I can’t think of anyone who would want to cause him harm.”

Ms Ralph, who lived within half a mile of her uncle, became concerned about him after she spotted his car was not on his driveway on December 28 and he was not returning her phone calls.

She went to the home where she found her uncle dead, just inside the backdoor.

The teenager, from Leicester, has admitted a burglary charge.

Snook, of no fixed address, denies burglary and both defendants deny the theft of Mr Ralph’s Volvo.

  • The trial continues.