A man has been jailed for 22 years, after a jury at Hove Crown Court found him guilty of the murder of Lewes woman Nicola Stevenson.
A jury heard how Richard Canlin, 41, had been living in Nicola's flat in Stansfield Road, Lewes, before and after attacking and killing her with a hammer. After a two week trial, he was found guilty of her murder and jailed for 22 years.
Nicola’s body was discovered on November 13, 2019 in a wheelie bin, in shrubbery, on the edge of the Landport Recreation ground on the Landport estate in Lewes. She had suffered extensive head injuries.
Police launched a murder investigation, and through extensive enquiries identified that she was killed more than a month earlier during the afternoon October 10. It is believed her body had been at the recreation ground since that time, which had gone undiscovered, including during a large public gathering for the annual Lewes Bonfire and fireworks display.
Police attended her home address where Richard Canlin was present. He had reportedly adopted Nicola's lifestyle, making the property his own, changing the lease and utility bills into his name and telling friends Nicola had gone away to Scotland. Forensic examinations of the address revealed that Nicola was attacked in her home, with Canlin making an attempt to tidy up and hide evidence. The suspected murder weapon, a claw hammer, was recovered by police in a dustbin at the property.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Friday of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, who led the investigation, said: “Our thoughts at this time are with Nicola's family and friends and we hope that we have provided some answers as to how Nicola met her death, and crucially who was responsible. Ultimately, we sought to identify who committed what is the most serious crime of all. I would like to thank the jury at Hove Crown Court for their time, commitment and due diligence in bringing about this verdict.
"Canlin killed Nicola in a brutal attack. She had allowed him to stay at her address, and when she asked him to leave he took advantage of her kindness, and attacked her about the head with a hammer, killing her in her own home. He then disposed of her body in a callous way, dumping her in a bin, in the nearby park. Unbelievably, he then carried on as if nothing had happened, assuming Nicola's life, spending her money on things for himself, living in her property and telling friends she had gone away.
"Despite substantial circumstantial, financial and forensic evidence against him, he continually lied to police during interviews about his whereabouts during October and chose to blame another man for her murder, for which police could find no evidence.
"From the moment that Nicola's body was discovered, this has been a fast moving and dynamic investigation, where my team worked tirelessly over many days, to maximise the amount of time we could hold Canlin, whilst securing evidence to charge him. I would also like to recognise the courage of the witnesses who came forward to support us in achieving this result.
"Nicola was a well-known figure in the local community and Canlin took advantage of her good nature and sought to exploit it, whilst looking to blame others.
"The murder of Nicola remained my focus throughout and I would like to acknowledge the huge effort that has been made by my team in achieving this. Particular mention should go to the case officer, Detective Constable Dawn Robertson' for her professionalism and dedication to this case. All involved in achieving this result have demonstrated their commitment to the investigation, making personal sacrifices, of which I am very proud of them all."
The parents of Nicola Stevenson have said: "We wish to thank Sussex Police and their colleagues in the forensic services for all their hard work and painstaking investigations which allowed the Crown Prosecution Service to bring forward a successful prosecution and provide justice for Nicola.
"We are also very grateful for all the support provided by the Police and, of course, by all our family and friends throughout a long and difficult year since Nicola’s death."
A new initiative has been launched to help tackle knife crime and raise awareness of the dangers of knife possession.
Officers, with the aid of a specially-designed van, will be visiting local communities, including schools, high streets and supermarkets, across Sussex to engage, inform and educate about the serious risks of knife possession.
Members of the public will hear real-life stories of people whose lives have been impacted by knife crime and receive information and advice on where they can get help.
This forms part of a wider campaign to combat knife crime after Sussex Police secured additional funding from The Home Office's Serious Violence Fund for 2020/21. Other tactics include targeted days of action, increased patrols, knife sweeps, test purchasing activities and a multi-agency awareness campaign.
This week the van has been taken through Lewes, with officers from the Lewes Neighbourhood Policing Team speaking to youngsters in the Cliffe, as well as raising awareness and speaking to parents; sharing videos of real life accounts of both victims and suspects of knife crime.
Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: "Carrying a knife can change your life forever.
"Not only does it put you and those around you at an increased risk of harm, but getting caught with one can result in serious personal and legal consequences.
"We want to help young people make the right choices by educating on the risks of knife possession and helping them get the support they need to live knife free."
Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “It is vitally important that real-life stories are shared with young people so they can understand the life-changing consequences this could have on them.
“I’m pleased to see Sussex Police being so proactive in their response to serious violence, putting early intervention methods in place to educate and protect our young people from getting caught up in criminality.
“The message is clear: lose the knife, not a life.”
Knife amnesty bins are available in police stations across Sussex- safely dispose of knives with no consequences and no questions asked.
Sussex is a safe place to live, and we take any reports of knife crime seriously in Sussex so it continues to be.
If you're concerned or have information about knife crime, you can report online or via 101. In an emergency always dial 999.
Victims of hate crime in Sussex have shared their experiences to raise awareness and encourage others to come forward.
Sussex Police is marking Hate Crime Awareness Week (October 10 – 17) by highlighting the impact of the crime, and urging people to report it so offences can be investigated and victims can be supported.
A hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender’.
It doesn’t always include physical violence – someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you, or posting abusive comments or messages online, can also constitute a hate crime.
Charlie Cressey was a victim of hate crime in Hove in May. While volunteering for a beach patrol team helping vulnerable people during the night time economy, Mr Cressey and a friend approached an intoxicated man to offer support.
The man became abusive and started shouting homophobic insults at the victim. He was arrested for homophobic-aggravated public order.
In agreement with the victim, the man was issued with a community resolution requiring him to write a 500-word apology letter to the victim and to make a donation of £60 to the Brighton Beach Patrol the victim was volunteering for.
Mr Cressey said: “This experience has helped me realise than any form of hate crime is not acceptable and people do not have to be living with the fear of being a victim of it.
“There are so many people that will look out for you if you speak out. For myself, Sussex Police was a great support and helped me through it all.”
Rexha Besnik was also a victim of hate crime in Bexhill in April. He was on his way to work when he was nearly involved in a collision with another vehicle.
The occupants of the vehicle attended the victim’s workplace and verbally abused him, making reference to his race. One of the women also damaged a pair of sunglasses the victim was wearing.
In agreement with the victim, the two women were both given a caution for racially-aggravated public order. One of the women was also given a caution for criminal damage.
Mr Besnik said: “I am glad that I reported the matter to police. The hope is these people will not do the same again.
“I have found reporting the incident a positive experience and was offered victim services which also helped me.
“I am happy with the police, they were quick to respond and I was kept updated of the outcome.”
A man was also convicted in August after racially abusing a police officer at Brighton’s custody suite. The defendant was given an eight-week sentence suspended for 12 months, was ordered to complete 90 hours of unpaid work and rehabilitation activity, and pay a victim surcharge of £122, £350 costs and £50 in compensation.
Superintendent Rachel Swinney, Sussex Police’s hate crime lead, said: “Hate crime is damaging, disrespectful and creates fear and humiliation. This can impact not only on those directly exposed to it, but also the wider community.
“It’s not okay to be targeted because of who you are, or because of who people think you are. If you have been a victim of hate crime, remember it is not your fault and help is available. By reporting to us, you may be able to prevent it from happening again to yourself or to another.
“Our officers and staff are trained to deal sensitively and professionally with reports of hate crime. They understand that it can sometimes be difficult to explain what has happened, but they are there to help you and can provide details of other support services that may be available.
“We take hate crime very seriously and we want to hear about incidents so we can respond effectively. Make the right call and report to us via our website, our 101 non-emergency number, or if it’s an emergency through 999.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne allocated £123,000 of her victim’s budget to set up the new Sussex Hate Incident Support Service, which provides emotional and frontline support to complex, high risk and vulnerable victims of hate crime.
Mrs Bourne said: “In its first six months of operation the Sussex Hate Incident Support Service has offered support to 1,557 victims of hate crime – 50% more than the service was expecting.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have seen people across all communities come together and show an immense amount of kindness towards each other. However it saddens me that, during this time, we have also seen a significant rise in crimes driven by hatred and I’m concerned that these figures may just be the tip of the iceberg.
“I’m pleased that Sussex Police and partner agencies are reassuring residents of their determination to stamp out hate crime.
“If you come forward you will be believed, you will be taken seriously, and I will continue to ensure that you receive the help and support you need.”
During the daytime of the 8th October a property off Mill Brooks, South Chailey had their shed and garden accessed. Unknown suspects have used forced to gain entry to sheds taking various tools. (0543 of 9/10 relates)
A motorcycle was stolen from a property off Brighton Road, Newhaven during the daytime of the 9th October. (0571 09/10 relates)
Damage was caused to a property off Cliff Road, Peacehaven overnight on the 12th October, unknown suspects have caused damage to doors in an attempt to gain entry. (222 of 13/10 relates)
There have been no further reports of burglaries across the Lewes district this week.
For a range of crime prevention advice, support and tips to keep you and your property safe can be found here.
If you have been the victim of a burglary, please report online, or by calling 101 – always dial 999 in an emergency/burglary in action.
Action Fraud scam watch
Did you know scams cost the UK economy £5-£10 Billion a year, with over 50% of people over 65 having already been targeted by scams; and only 5% of all scams reported?
This week’s scam and fraud warnings from Action Fraud:
With more stores reopening, and online shopping slots becoming available, please take the time to refresh your online security, only trust known websites, and remember offers that sound too good to be true generally are. More support and advice here.
NHS Track and Trace scams, if you're contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service, please know, that you will not be asked to provide any passwords, bank account details or pin numbers.
Find out more about how NHS test and trace works here, and how to spot emails and text for legitimacy.
Action Fraud’s top tips
Although fraud and cybercrime comes in many forms, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Follow Action Frauds’ personal safety checklist to keep you and those around you safe from fraud here.
Help us keep Sussex safe
If you saw or heard anything, or have any information about any incident in this message please contact us online, or call 101, quoting the reference number provided.
Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
You can also visit our website at www.sussex.police.uk where you can find our easy to use online forms to report all non-emergencies to us.
You can also find police advice to keep you safe and help you understand the law, and also browse our crime prevention pages for first-hand knowledge, industry best practices and practical crime prevention advice from officers and specialist teams all across the police.
Have you ever had a policing question that doesn't actually require direct police involvement to answer?
Ask the Police is a great online source of information for the most frequently asked policing questions, visit www.askthe.police.uk/ for more information.
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