A son who bludgeoned his mother to death with a hammer and left her decomposing body in her home over Christmas has been jailed for life.

Dale Morgan, 43, killed Judith Rhead, 68, after she found out he had been stealing money from her.

Weeks before Christmas last year Morgan hit her with a hammer 14 times and left her body in the bloodstained bedroom of her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Morgan then pretended to his mother’s friends and neighbours that she was either isolating at home because of Covid-19, was ill or in hospital.

Mrs Rhead’s decomposing body was not discovered until February 20 when police went to her home having been contacted by her concerned friends.

Paul Lewis QC, prosecuting, said the evidence suggested Morgan killed his mother on a date between December 11 and 18.

“It is plain the defendant bludgeoned his mother repeatedly with a hammer,” he said.

“She was slumped in a kneeling position against the bed and her right hand and forearm were on the bed and she was partially clothed, and a plastic bag had been placed over her head and had been tied in place with an electrical cable.

“There was bloodstaining on the bed and at the foot of the bed officers found a hammer.

“It was clear to the officers that the body of Mrs Rhead had been there for some time and her body had started to decompose.”

Judith Rhead was bludgeoned to death by her son Dale Morgan.
Judith Rhead was bludgeoned to death by her son Dale Morgan.

A note written by Mrs Rhead said: “Huge lies ie car, work had been furloughed, stealing money, stealing medication. ? drug addiction, opiates.”

Mr Lewis said: “It is clear from the note that prior to her death she had concerns about the defendant taking money from her.”

Bank records show from December 3 to February 11, Morgan transferred £2,878 in 11 transactions from his mother’s accounts to his own. Shortly after he withdraw the money in cash.

Mr Lewis said: “Only the defendant knows why he killed his mother, and he has never ventured an account.

“Another possible theory is that his mother confronted him because he was stealing, and in order to prevent her from taking steps, he killed her. We simply do not know.”

Mr Lewis described the attack as “ferocious” and “sustained” and said it was aggravated by Morgan leaving his mother’s body for two months and lying about her whereabouts.

A post-mortem examination found she died from blunt force trauma head injuries.

Morgan, of Honeyborough Green, Neyland, Pembrokeshire, had previously pleaded guilty to murder.

John Hipkin QC, defending, offered no personal mitigation but said Morgan should be given credit for his guilty plea.

“Over the previous year the defendant and his mother had spent a substantial period of time together and both regularly carried out tasks for each other,” he said.

“There was a mutual interdependency.”

In a victim impact statement, Mrs Rhead’s niece Gemma Phillips said: “We cannot believe her son, who she was so close to, has hurt her, yet alone kill her.

“Judith loved Dale and stuck up for him throughout his life. He betrayed her in the most horrendous way.

“What Dale did to Judith was evil. We will never understand why he did this. We will never know the details of Judith’s final moments, but it is something we constantly think about, and this will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

Judge Paul Thomas QC jailed Morgan for life and told him he would serve a minimum of 21 years and six months before he could apply for parole.

He said he believed Morgan killed his mother after she confronted him about stealing money.

“You were your mother’s only child. She adored you, she stuck up for you even when you stole from her on a previous occasion,” the judge said.

“She tried to help you with your problems. She worried about your substance misuse, and she let you live with her despite the disruption and anxiety your presence in the house no doubt caused her.

“In short you were pretty much her life. You repaid those 43 years of devotion by bludgeoning her to death with a hammer. Not once, not twice, but no fewer than 14 times to the head, intending to kill her.

“She was, on that day, when you had that hammer in your hand, entirely at your mercy.

“Although she probably begged you for it, you showed none. It was a savage, sustained attack on a defenceless, vulnerable woman – your own mother.

“Even after you had killed her, your callous attitude continued, and you tied a plastic bag around her head and left her lifeless body slumped in the bedroom.

“You did not even afford her the dignity of a timely burial. You just left her to decompose while others fretted about her whereabouts.

“To cover up what you had done you spun a web of lies as to her fate, fobbed off those that were concerned for her, and told various stories.”