Leeds man guilty of murdering friend in own flat with screwdriver before taking bath as pal lay dead

David Houlgate
David Houlgate

A man faces a life sentence after he was convicted of murdering a friend by subjecting him to a sustained assault including stabbing him with a screwdriver.

David Houlgate inflicted multiple stab wounds to Robert Milner’s head and body before washing blood from himself in the bath and leaving his victim’s flat taking the CCTV system which covered the address in Leeds.

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

Houlgate, 35 of Bodmin Road, Middleton, Leeds, arranged for his girlfriend to collect him but was later persuaded to dial 999, when he told the operator he thought he had killed someone.

Officers then found the body of 41-year-old Mr Milner, known as Bob, on the living room floor in his flat covered by a towel.

A pathologist concluded he had died from asphyxia caused by breathing his own vomit after suffering head injuries in the assault.

Mr Milner suffered 30 puncture wounds to his head and multiple wounds to his body, hands and arms.

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

Holgate washed blood from himself, changed his clothing and left with the CCTV system which covered the property.

Police went to Mr Milner’s flat where he was pronounced dead at the scene. A turntable was near to the body which was still spinning. The room was in darkness and the blinds were drawn.

A screwdriver was behind the living room door which had Holgate’s fingerprints on the handle.

A jury at Leeds Crown Court took under three hours to reject Houlgate’s account that he had acted in self-defence. The eight women and four men unanimously found Houlgate guilty of murdering Mr Milner on March 9 this year at the flat in Lanshaw Crescent, Belle Isle.

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

The scene of the murder in Lanshaw Crescent

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told him: “As you know the only permitted sentence is one of life imprisonment. I have to give some careful thought to the minimum term you must serve before you are released.”

Houlgate claimed he stabbed Mr Milner in self-defence when he was put in a headlock. He said they agreed to call an ambulance and went to wash himself, and when he returned found Mr Milner was not breathing.

He said he acted in panic when he went into the loft and removed the CCTV system.

After the verdict, Mr Milner’s sister Laura Hodgkinson told the judge his family were “heartbroken” at losing him.

She said: “I will never be able to say goodbye to Robert or say I love him.”

She described Houlgate as a coward for not owning up to what he had done, adding: “He has decided to punish us all further by forcing us all to endure the court process.”

Mrs Hodgkinson said Houlgate also took away from the family what should have been an exciting time for her sister Alice, who was heavily pregnant at the time of their brother’s death and went into labour at the time the family were having to clear his flat.

Mrs Hodgkinson said her parents had been devastated by their loss.

“All this pain caused by one person’s brutal savage attack, by one person Robert believed was his friend," she added.

Houlgate was remanded in custody until September 22.