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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 16:05 GMT
Life for killer exposed by wife
Slyne Road filling station
Charles Gunn supplemented his pension at the garage
A man who beat a pensioner to death with a claw hammer 24 years ago has been jailed for life.

His role in the killing came to light when his wife went to the police on the day they divorced.

Brian Garrity, 45, of Woodacre Road, Preston, Lancashire, admitted murder and theft when he appeared at Preston Crown Court.

He killed Charles Gunn, a petrol pump attendant, with three blows to the head in 1977.

Brian Garrity
Brian Garrity: Jailed for life

Speaking outside the court, his wife Janet said: "It has been on my mind for the last 20 years.

"I am glad to get it off my chest and now I want to get on with the rest of my life."

Mr Gunn, 72, had been working at the Dutton Forshaws filling station on Slyne Road in the Beaumont area of Lancaster when he was robbed and attacked.

He died in hospital four weeks later, leaving a wife, a son and a stepdaughter.

False alibi

The crime baffled detectives who conducted interviews across the country in their search for the killer.

Mr Gunn had been working at the garage to supplement his pension at the time he was attacked.

After the murder Garrity had forced his wife, who was 18 at the time, to act as his alibi for the night of the killing.

She told detectives the pair had spent the night at home, Preston Crown Court heard.

But eventually, DNA samples taken from the defendant linked him to the crime.

Charles Gunn
Mr Gunn was hit with a hammer

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Openshaw QC said: "I well remember the shock and outrage that this offence caused in Lancaster.

"You must expect to serve very many years in prison before even being considered for release."

Garrity, was 21 when he went to the garage on 6 November 1977.

It was accepted by the prosecution that he had gone there with the intention to steal money and not to rob.

He did not expect to see Mr Gunn, an elderly petrol pump attendant and he "panicked".

Fearful secret

Mr Gunn had been closing the garage, taking cash to the safe and was leaving the keys to the property at a house opposite when he was attacked.

He was found by a cleaner the next morning.

She described the elderly man as "still moving as though he were trying to get up".

Janet Garrity had seen her husband leave their house that November night with her father's claw hammer.

Several hours later he returned home covered in blood, clutching a bag of money and no claw hammer.

Paul Reid QC, defending, said Garrity had long been terrified that his wife would reveal their secret.

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