The killer of a barman who was found naked and tied up in his Kensington flat in 1980 is facing a life sentence after confessing to the crime. John Paul, 61, from Notting Hill in west London, beat Anthony Bird, 42, with pieces of wood, before he strangled him in his flat in Bentley Court, Kensington Square. 41 years later, on May 5 2021, Paul walked into Hammersmith Police Station and reported his acts to an officer. Asked what he had done, Paul simply said: “Murder”.
Later on, the killer described how he had tied Mr Bird’s ankles, hands and arms with a cord, all while the victim was naked. Despite confessing to the murder, Paul later denied the crime, as well as an alternative charge of manslaughter – but an Old Bailey jury yesterday found him guilty, with judge Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb to set the date for his sentencing later.
The court heard that when he was asked what happened, Paul told one officer: “I see a man, he approached me and he’s just speaking to me and just talked me into having sex with him. He took me back to his place. I tied him with cord. I think the cord was black I’m not sure. I tied him with a cord, his ankles, his hands, his arms, on the bed naked.
“There was a piece of wood, a piece of wood, I used the piece of wood to batter him. Knocked him unconscious.”
The court heard that officers then investigated their records for the unsolved killing of a man at the time and location Paul had indicated.
The 61-year-old would later be arrested for the unsolved killing of Mr Bird. The following day, Paul was admitted as an inpatient at Hillingdon Hospital, as police took to investigating the crime.
Prosecutor John Price, KC, said, told the court: “Mr Bird lived in that flat alone. He was a homosexual man, and it was known amongst his friends that he would frequently pick up men in the street and pay them for sex. His next-door neighbour whom the police took a statement back during the first investigation spoke of frequent male visitors to his flat.’
“Amongst those who knew him, Tony Bird was never to be seen alive again.”
The landlord of Railway Tap pub became concerned when Mr Bird failed to show up for any of his planned shifts that week. Knocking on his front door, a member of staff received no reply – prompting them to call the police.
Mr Price said that after “using a sledgehammer” to force the door open, police found the room “in a dishevelled state as if, so it seemed to them it had been ransacked”.
He added: “There was a sideboard with nothing on it, though they noted that there were patterns in the dust marks which indicated that objects…had recently been moved.
“They went into the bedroom. On the bed, they found the lifeless body of Tony Bird. He was naked. He was lying on his side. His knees were tucked up and his legs were crossed. There was black electrical flex bound tightly around his left wrist and around his left ankle. There was also the mark of a cord around his right wrist.
“There were numerous marks and apparent bruising to a number of places on his body.”
A post-mortem, performed in 1980, found multiple instances of blunt force injury on Mr Bird’s body – including bruising on his head, jaw, chest, thighs and the base of penis. He had also suffered a neck bone fracture.
According to pathologist Rufus Crompton, these injuries were consistent with the use of “billets of wood”. Dr Crompton also believed the cause of death was “manual strangulation”.
There were also fingerprints taken from the scene which at the time had been unattributed – but were discovered to match Paul’s prints. On May 27, 2021 – 22 days after he confessed his crime to the police – Paul was charged with the murder.
It was claimed in court that Paul’s confession to the killing was not reliable, and that even if he was responsible he did not intend to do Mr Bird serious harm.
The jury deliberated for half a day before finding Paul guilty of murder.