Retrial guilty plea to West Yorkshire killing

Paul Maxwell.
Paul Maxwell.
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A man who has served 13 years for the violent murder of a vulnerable 85-year-old man yesterday admitted carrying out the killing.

Paul Maxwell, 47, pleaded guilty to murder and two offences of robbery on the day of his retrial over the attack on brothers Bert and Joe Smales at their home in Wakefield in October 1996.

The attack on the reclusive elderly brothers sent shockwaves far beyond the tight-knit community of Stanley, in Wakefield.

Joe, 85, and 68-year-old Bert, who was also badly injured in the attack, had lived all their lives at their cottage on Moor Road, topping up their pensions by selling eggs they kept.

Maxwell and his brother Daniel Mansell, now 41, were convicted of murder and two offences of robbery after a trial at Leeds Crown Court in 1998.

A decade later, in December 2009, Mansell and Maxwell had their convictions quashed by Appeal Court Judges.

Mansell was “discharged” by the court and told he would not be re-tried. Maxwell was told he faced a re-trial on the murder and two counts of robbery

But he pleaded guilty to all three offences when he was brought to the court for the first day of the new trial. Mr Justice Butterfield told the waiting jury: “That’s a surprise to everybody. The trial was going to occupy you for six weeks.”

He will be sentenced today.

At their trial in 1998, a jury was told how the brothers’ quiet existence was shattered in June 1996 when their attackers barged through the door, threatening Bert with scissors and getting away with £7,000.

Tragically, the brothers did not report the robbery because they did not like making a fuss. Four months later they were targeted again.

Joe was beaten so badly that he died in hospital three weeks later.

Bert survived his injuries and gave evidence at the trial that ended with Mansell and Maxwell being sentenced to life.

After Joe’s death, his sister, 82-year-old Lena Grainger, said: “Nothing will ever wipe out the shock and horror of when we saw Bert and Joe after the attack.”

Bert took his brother’s death badly and did not return to the home in Stanley.

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