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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Man, 21, jailed for tramp murder
Alan Payne
Payne made a last-minute admission of the murder Mr Jones
A 21-year-old man has been jailed for life for the murder of a popular tramp in south west Wales.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Alan Payne from Ystradgynlais - who admitted the charge - had a serious drink and drugs problem.

It is believed to have killed Phil Jones, 66, with an axe in the summer after an argument over a drink.

Mr Jones was found beaten to death near a wooden hut where he used to sleep on the outskirts of the town.

Police said his death brought the largest public response ever to a murder case in South Wales.

Judge Mr Justice Nigel Davies said Payne, who had been due to stand trial at Swansea Crown Court before changing his plea last Monday, must serve at least 12 years for the "dreadful" crime.

Mr Jones' body was found on 23 July last year on ground near the A465 Neath flyover. He had suffered serious head injuries.

Philip Jones
The reaction of the community was unprecedented and was the largest response to any murder investigation in South Wales
Det Chief Insp Paul Burke

The court heard forensic experts established that he was killed 13 days before.

After the case, Det Chief Insp Paul Burke of South Wales Police said the investigation had been "lengthy and complex".

He said: "From a personal point of view this was a very difficult enquiry and I would like to thank the public for their help and support. The response to our appeals was fantastic and helped us greatly.

"The reaction of the community was unprecedented and was the largest response to any murder investigation in South Wales."

The incident room received 400 calls, while cars were stopped at a check point near where Mr Jones' body was found.

The court heard how Payne drank two bottles of vodka before attacking Mr Jones with the handle or flat side of an axe. He then left Mr Jones to die.

Argument over drink

Paul Thomas QC, prosecuting, said Payne had been seen talking with Mr Jones on 10 July 2004, the day identified as the date of Mr Jones' death.

Payne was arrested after telling friends he had attacked someone and could have killed him.

Mr Thomas said the likely cause of the murder was an argument over drink.

Payne told friends Mr Jones had been "in my face" and that he struck him between two and four times to the head before also kicking him.

A memorial service for Mr Jones is to held at St David's Church in Neath on 17 April.

Rod Rees, of Churches Together in Neath said: "Mr Jones was shown kindness by many people in the town and this service will be an opportunity for them to pay their respects following Mr Jones' private funeral a few weeks ago."

Chief Insp Burke added: "Perhaps now his family and friends will be able to close this awful chapter in their lives, and move on. Our thoughts are with them."

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