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Launceston man stands trial accused of murdering his grandfather

By CG_News  |  Posted: June 25, 2013

  • Tom Lang

  • Tom Lang

A 20-year-old North Cornwall man has denied murdering his grandfather in his flat in the early hours of the morning but has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Stephen Lang, of Queen Elizabeth Road, Launceston, is alleged to have put his arms around the neck of 91-year-old Tom Lang at his sheltered flat at Trecarn Close in the town and held him in a headlock before throwing him to the ground.

The grandfather told his son Keith Lang, who was called to the flat by the warden, that Stephen had taken £300 from his wallet before leaving.

Truro Crown Court heard yesterday how the pensioner was taken to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth but died three days later from pneumonia which the prosecution alleges occurred because of the injuries to his neck and throat caused in the attack.

Prosecutor Simon Laws QC told the jury that his guilty plea to the manslaughter of Thomas Lang was not acceptable. The trial for murder is expected to last the rest of the week.

Mr Laws told the jury that Thomas Lang lived alone in his flat and his grandson was a regular visitor.

In the early hours of April 17th last year he went to his grandfather’s flat and violently attacked him, breaking his neck and injuring his throat.

Mr Laws said: “The motive appears to have been robbery. He stole a few hundred pounds while his grandfather was left on the floor unable to move.”

Stephen Lang was arrested the next day and, alleged Mr Laws, told a series of lies insisting that he had not laid a finger on his granddad.

He later confessed there had been some physical contact between them and he had stolen some cash from him but said he could not really remember what had happened.

Toxicology tests revealed that Lang, then aged 19, had taken ecstasy, cannabis and drunk alcohol during the night of the brutal attack.

Mr Laws said his guilty manslaughter plea meant “he has accepted that he killed his grandfather.

"It is agreed that it is this defendant's assault that caused Thomas Lang's death."

He said it was for the jury to decide whether Stephen Lang, now 20, intended to cause really serious harm to his grandfather and that was the difference between murder and manslaughter.

The jury heard the pensioner was housebound and lived alone in his sheltered accommodation flat. There was a warden and Mr Lang received four visits a day from carers who washed and fed him. He walked with a trolley but had no history of falls.

He wore a life line alarm in case he needed help, and this was how he alerted the warden.

His GP said he was frail but relatively independent and enjoyed relatively good health, was mentally alert and was friendly and talkative.

Mr Laws said he had a habit of keeping money in a wallet under his pillow and had a secret safe in a wardrobe which contained his life savings of between £8,000 and £10,000.

He said the Langs were a large family and Stephen was a regular visitor and there was no trouble between them and Thomas spoke warmly about his grandson to other people.

At 1.44am on April 17 the old man activated his alarm and his son Keith - Stephen's uncle - raced around to the flat and found his father on the floor.

Mr Laws said: “He told his son what had happened.”

He said he had been grabbed around the neck and told Keith that he thought Stephen had been trying to “break his neck” as he had one arm round the front of his neck and other round the back.

The trial continues.

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