Norton man Graham Richardson found guilty of murdering antiques dealer Peter Battle

Gazette & Herald: Whisker Cottage, where Mr Battle was killed Whisker Cottage, where Mr Battle was killed

The “callous” and “despicable” killer of antiques dealer Peter Battle will spend at least 27 years in prison after a jury convicted him unanimously of murder.

Graham Richardson, 27, showed no emotion throughout a day of high drama during which one of Mr Battle’s daughters confronted him across the courtroom.

Lisa Battle told Richardson, of Riverside View in Norton: “He should still be here”.

Speaking in a voice shaking with emotion and looking directly at where the murderer sat in the dock, she said: “If all you wanted to do was to rob my dad, why didn’t you wait until he was out and then break in when he wasn’t there? “You have totally ripped my heart out and that piece that you have ripped out will never grow back.

“How would you feel if someone had done this to your mum in the same way you he done this to my dad and taken advantage as much as they could, like you have done.”

Richardson showed no emotion and looked down at his lap for much of the time while she was speaking.

Ms Battle is one of the first in the country to be able to address the court under the new Victims’ Code. The code, which came into effect this month, allows victims or their relatives to address offenders to explain how a crime has impacted them. Previously, judges read such statements in private.

Mr Battle’s family wept and one whispered “thank you” as the jury declared Richardson guilty of murdering Mr Battle after more than four days in retirement.

Passing a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years, Mr Justice Stephen Males said Richardson had killed the 56-year-old former York businessman in a “vicious and sustained” attack on a “defenceless and unconscious man” whom he had already stabbed and put to the ground in the victim’s Full Sutton cottage near Pocklington.

Earlier, Ms Battle had told the judge how she had great difficulty recognising her father because of the injuries to his face and head.

The judge told Richardson: “You demonstrated extreme callousness by leaving his body to lie for five weeks before it was found.”

Richardson had earlier admitted taking and selling jewellery from the cottage.

The judge said: “The ransacking of a dead man's home with his body lying there is despicable conduct, made worse by the way in which it was repeated over an extended period...the way in which you used your own mother to dispose of some of the stolen property shows the depths to which you were prepared to stoop.”

Richardson had been motivated solely by greed and had been on bail at the time for luring gold dealer Michael Cleaver to York to be robbed.

He had then lied under oath to the jury that his co-accused in the robbery, Darren Archer, had killed Mr Battle.

The judge paid tribute to the dignity of Mr Battle’s close relatives who had sat throughout the trial, and the way they had spoken movingly in court after the verdict.

“Their courage, love for their father and genuine feelings contrast starkly with your cowardice, selfishness and lies,” he told Richardson.

The killer showed no reaction as he was jailed for life with concurrent sentences of nine years and one year for robbing Mr Cleaver and stealing Mr Battle’s property respectively.

The jury also convicted Darren Archer, 43, formerly of Nunnery Lane, York, of the York robbery and acquitted Archer’s cousin, Peter Egan, 47, formerly of Walmgate, York, of the same charge.

Both had denied the charge. They also acquitted Richardson of possessing illegal drugs with intent to supply them to others.

Archer was remanded in custody while probation officers prepare a report on the danger he poses to the public.

He has previous convictions for robbery and attempted robbery. He will be sentenced next month.“You have totally ripped my heart out and that piece that you have ripped out will never grow back.

“How would you feel if someone had done this to your mum in the same way you he done this to my dad and taken advantage as much as they could, like you have done.”

Richardson showed no emotion and looked down at his lap for much of the time while she was speaking.

Ms Battle is one of the first in the country to be able to address the court under the new Victims’ Code. The code, which came into effect this month, allows victims or their relatives to address offenders to explain how a crime has impacted them. Previously, judges read such statements in private.

Mr Battle’s family wept and one whispered “thank you” as the jury declared Richardson guilty of murdering Mr Battle after more than four days in retirement.

Passing a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years, Mr Justice Stephen Males said Richardson had killed the 56-year-old former York businessman in a “vicious and sustained” attack on a “defenceless and unconscious man” whom he had already stabbed and put to the ground in the victim’s Full Sutton cottage near Pocklington.

Earlier, Ms Battle had told the judge how she had great difficulty recognising her father because of the injuries to his face and head.

The judge told Richardson: “You demonstrated extreme callousness by leaving his body to lie for five weeks before it was found.”

Richardson had earlier admitted taking and selling jewellery from the cottage.

The judge said: “The ransacking of a dead man's home with his body lying there is despicable conduct, made worse by the way in which it was repeated over an extended period...the way in which you used your own mother to dispose of some of the stolen property shows the depths to which you were prepared to stoop.”

Richardson had been motivated solely by greed and had been on bail at the time for luring gold dealer Michael Cleaver to York to be robbed.

He had then lied under oath to the jury that his co-accused in the robbery, Darren Archer, had killed Mr Battle.

The judge paid tribute to the dignity of Mr Battle’s close relatives who had sat throughout the trial, and the way they had spoken movingly in court after the verdict.

“Their courage, love for their father and genuine feelings contrast starkly with your cowardice, selfishness and lies,” he told Richardson.

The killer showed no reaction as he was jailed for life with concurrent sentences of nine years and one year for robbing Mr Cleaver and stealing Mr Battle’s property respectively.

The jury also convicted Darren Archer, 43, formerly of Nunnery Lane, York, of the York robbery and acquitted Archer’s cousin, Peter Egan, 47, formerly of Walmgate, York, of the same charge.

Both had denied the charge. They also acquitted Richardson of possessing illegal drugs with intent to supply them to others.

Archer was remanded in custody while probation officers prepare a report on the danger he poses to the public.

He has previous convictions for robbery and attempted robbery. He will be sentenced next month.

 

'Dodgy' ex-salesman was desperate for money

Court reporter MEGI RYCHLIKOVA looks at the events which led to Graham Richardson murdering antiques dealer Peter Battle

Graham Richardson would sell anything to anyone. He preferred to do it legally, to avoid prison sentences and confiscation of his money, but if the rewards were high enough, he crossed into illegal territory.

A clever man, he could blag like the dodgiest dealer in the world and get people eating out of his hands. He lied to girlfriends, to his mother, to anyone.

He learned the legal basics of salesmanship at a motor accessories business in his home town of Norton. He became a manager, but he wanted his own business.

At 22, he began buying and selling for himself. It didn’t raise enough money, so he went back into employment, in telesales. Again he quit to be his own boss.

This time, he did better, selling legal highs over the web. According to him, he had an annual turnover of £400,000 and profits of £200,000 – using a mark-up of 50 per cent and very low overheads. At 24, he had a nice car and all the trappings of success. But in 2010 his world crashed around him.

One of his stock drugs, m-Cat or mephedrone, became illegal. He mixed his stock with other drugs and sold it, without telling his customers. Then police found out and he was jailed for 12 months. He had involved his then girlfriend, Kimberley Smithson, and she was given a community order.

Despite her criminal conviction, his girlfriend kept in touch with Richardson when he came out of prison. He repaid her by cheating on her, spending the night after he murdered Peter Battle with another woman.

After prison, he started wheeling and dealing again but ran into financial troubles. He knew Michael Cleaver, a Mancunian gold dealer who paid in cash, was coming to York. Richardson recruited Darren Archer, who had a history of robbery.

Robbing Mr Cleaver netted Richardson £1,000, but created a trail of emails and text messages. Within hours he was arrested and police were searching his home, just as a large drugs shipment arrived.

On bail, penniless, facing years in jail and with his supplier chasing his money, Richardson was desperate.

He had approached Mr Battle about a deal before the robbery. Now he saw him as the solution to his problems.

 

Victim’s quiet village life

Peter Battle, 56, lived a settled life around auctions and the quiet village home where he ran his business. He was a father and a grandfather who was on good terms with his neighbours.

He was reasonably well-off and unafraid of letting others know it. He went to sales in Hull, York and elsewhere, regularly buying in cash from a well-stuffed wallet. Sometimes acquaintances and customers called at Full Sutton to buy or sell, invariably finding him at the computer in his living room.

He advertised on ebay and did his internet transactions by PayPal. He also kept purchases for himself, some stowed under his bed, and his living room was stuffed with antiques and items that his long-term girlfriend Sarah Czartowski didn’t even attempt to sort out.

In the months before his death, Mr Battle was single, his relationship having broken up a couple of years earlier. There was a woman from Liechtenstein in his life. Friends said she had been to his cottage, he had been to her country. In the run-up to Christmas he was talking about going away.

Mr Battle was old-fashioned, insisting on seeing the buyer’s money before handing over jewellery. He was not swayed by Richardson’s impassioned pleas to let him have gold on credit, but he was prepared to see him at his home to do business properly. That decision cost him his life.

 

No remorse after killing

On December 30, Mr Battle was at his desk as usual when Richardson arrived. He had decided to get Mr Battle’s jewellery, come what may. He saw the 56-year-old as someone who wouldn’t put up a fight. He was wrong. Mr Battle fought back, but he was up against a desperate man in the prime of life who had already used violence and wasn’t going to let anyone stand in his way.

After the murder, there was no remorse. Richardson had goods to sell and provided he did it gradually he thought the police wouldn’t come knocking. He put a note in the door to deter visitors, neighbours and police, and covered up any window that could enable them to see the body. He took the laptop containing a trail of emails from himself and, once home, sent an email to Mr Battle to make it look as if he had never seen him that day. He also took jewellery which he pawned next day to buy a car, which he registered in a false name and address, to use it coming and going to Full Sutton. Even if it was seen, it couldn’t lead to him.

He made visit after visit to the cottage. What he took, he sold on or gave away. Sometimes he got his mother or others to sell items for him, so the jewellers wouldn’t be suspicious. He didn’t tell his helpers they were handling stolen goods.

Richardson made mistakes. He initially left the cottage lights on, so that one neighbour wondered why it was lit up in the middle of the night. He left his DNA in the house and on Mr Battle’s trousers where he dragged him out of sight. Eventually Mr Battle’s absence aroused concerns and the police found his body late on Thursday February 7.

By the weekend, it was all over the news. Richardson panicked, trying to kill himself with a diazepam overdose, but his mother and grandfather found him at Castle Howard estate. After arrest, he kept silent, hoping the police didn’t have enough to charge him. They did, but there was a handy scapegoat, who had served prison sentences for robbery and attempted robbery of vulnerable people: Darren Archer. As he awaited trial, Richardson constructed yet another web of lies, this time putting the hapless Archer at the head of a fictitious gang of robbers. The jury saw both in the witness box: Richardson, a plausible, self-confessed liar who considered everything he said, and Archer, a drug-addicted criminal whose words tumbled out as he called himself all sorts of names, but was adamant that he wasn’t a murderer.

The jury weren’t fooled. They believed the drug addict and not the liar.

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