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Man admits inflicting fatal stab wound after charge reduced to manslaughter

PUBLISHED: 10:56 27 January 2018

Joseph Pearce was found dead at a house in Burnhams Churchill Place last July.

Joseph Pearce was found dead at a house in Burnhams Churchill Place last July.

Archant

A 21-year-old has admitted inflicting a fatal stab wound on a man from Burnham – but will be sentenced for manslaughter instead of the original murder charge he was facing.

Dominic Lacey had been scheduled to go on trial for the murder of Joseph Pearce at Exeter Crown Court at the end of January.

Mr Pearce, aged 40, was found dead at a house in Burnham’s Churchill Place on July 10, last year. He had been stabbed once.

However, out-of-court talks between prosecution and defence legal teams saw the Crown Prosecution Service drop the more serious charge of murder in favour of one of manslaughter – and Lacey pleaded guilty during a specially-arranged hearing in Exeter on Friday.

A second man – James Hobbs, aged 43, of Churchill Close, Burnham – has denied a related charge of assisting an offender in relation to Mr Pearce’s death, was not present in court and his case will be dealt with at a later date.

Lacey and Hobbs had been due to stand trial together at the Exeter court, but now Hobbs will instead face jurors alone on January 31.

Police found the body of Mr Pearce after being called to a disturbance at Hobbs’ home just before midnight on July 10. One of the attending officers described the killing as ‘a horrific crime’.

A 22-year-old man and three women, aged 24, 38 and 54, were arrested during the initial investigation into Mr Pearce’s death, but were subsequently released without charge.

Kate Brunner QC, prosecuting, said the Crown had been notified in advance of 21-year-old Lacey’s plea and it was considered acceptable.

Judge Geoffrey Mercer QC, said: “I understand and endorse that decision on my reading of the case.”

He adjourned sentence until February 15 so it can take place at the conclusion of Hobbs’ trial, which is expected to last for six days.

Lacey, whose address was recorded as Newham Place in Patchway, appeared by video link from HM Prison Hewell at Redditch and was remanded in custody until his sentencing date next month.

Richard Smith QC, defending, said Lacey had entered his guilty plea on a basis which will be set out and sent to the prosecution ahead of that date.

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