A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Maundy Relief volunteer Raich Alcock.

Christopher Singleton, formerly of Derby Street, Accrington, was found guilty after a two-week trial at Preston Crown Court and must now serve a minimum of 16 years behind bars.

The 37-year-old launched a violent attack against the defenceless Mr Alcock at the victim’s flat on Arnold Street in Accrington.

Mr Alcock was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital and then later transferred to Royal Preston with ‘serious head injuries’.

He passed away 10 days later on September 16 last year – the day of his 52nd birthday.

Prosecutors said Singleton repeatedly hit Mr Alcock on the face with a ‘clenched fist’ and that he was ‘incapable of fighting back, incapable of defending himself and incapable of putting up any resistance whatsoever’.

Raich Alcock

The court heard that Mr Alcock had been drinking in Accrington town centre with several ‘friends and acquaintances’ and that at one point Mr Singleton ‘took offence’ to him being ‘loud’.

The defendant was also left ‘angry’ after Mr Alcock was seen to push Singleton’s left arm, the court was told.

Prosecutor Gordon Cole QC said that Singleton became ‘aggressive’ towards Mr Alcock and then decided to follow him back home ‘with one aim in mind and that was to inflict violence’.

The jury was told that when Mr Alcock arrived at the back door to his house Singleton punched him once to the face, which caused him to bang his head on a wall and ‘knocking him to the ground’.

Singleton then carried Mr Alcock into his kitchen and ‘dropped him onto the floor’, before mistaking ‘snoring’ noises for ‘Mr Alcock laughing at him’.

Mr Cole told the jury that Singleton then stood over Mr Alcock, grabbed him by his top and punched him with a clenched fist so he ‘banged his head on the kitchen floor’.

Police on Arnold Street in Accrington

He said: “He did that on more than one occasion, picking him up, hitting him and knocking him back.

“It must have been completely obvious, whatever stage of inebriation you are in, that Mr Alcock was incapable of fighting back, incapable of defending himself and incapable of putting up any resistance whatsoever.

“To do that to somebody, repeatedly hitting them to the face, when he was clearly unconscious reflects at the very least an intention on the part of this defendant to inflict really serious harm.”

The jury was told that no ambulance was called until Mr Alcock’s friend Peter Cornish found him at 10.30am the next morning ‘semi-conscious slumped on his kitchen floor’.

Shock and sadness as two murder inquiries launched in Accrington

A post-mortem examination carried out by Home Office pathologist Dr Naomi Carter found Mr Alcock suffered a subdural haemorrhage and contusions to the brain ‘consistent with blows to the back of his head’.

Mr Cole said Mr Alcock also suffered a ‘large fracture running round the base of the skull’ and fractures to both plates of the bones above the eye sockets which are ‘consistent with the blows caused by the defendant’.

When Singleton was arrested and interviewed by police he said he had only punched Mr Alcock once on a car park and it was in ‘self-defence’.

'Mr Alcock could never have envisaged the shocking level of violence he was about to suffer'

Police on Arnold Street in Accrington

Following the sentencing, Det Insp Tim McDermott, of Blackburn CID, said: “This was a complex investigation in which initially it was unclear if any criminal offence had taken place.

“Through the assistance of medical staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital, information from the community and enquiries made by officers, it became clear Mr Alcock had in fact been attacked.

“He had been out with friends in Accrington when one of the group, Christopher Singleton, took exception to him. The pair had a disagreement, but Mr Alcock could never have envisaged the shocking level of violence he was about to suffer.

“Singleton followed the 52-year-old to his home before carrying out a vicious attack, continuing to assault the victim despite him obviously being unable to defend himself.

“Singleton showed complete disregard for Mr Alcock’s welfare and inflicted injuries which were to prove fatal.

“We welcome today’s conviction. I would particularly like to thank Mr Alcock’s family for the dignified way they have conducted themselves throughout the trial and thank the witnesses in the case, who have showed great character in giving their evidence in the face of the defendant’s total refusal to accept responsibility.”