Page last updated at 16:41 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 17:41 UK

Men guilty of parents murder plot

Christopher Monks and Shaun Skarnes
Monks (left) and Skarnes will be sentenced at a later date

A man has been convicted of plotting to kill his adoptive parents with a friend he met on the internet.

Christopher Monks, 24, of Chorley, Lancashire, wanted his parents dead because he thought they were over-protective, Preston Crown Court heard.

He persuaded Shaun Skarnes, 19, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, to attack the couple in their family home.

A jury took an hour to find the pair guilty of conspiracy to murder. Both men had denied the charges.

They were remanded in custody for sentencing on a date to be fixed.

Christopher Monks Sr and his wife, Elizabeth, were in court to support their son, who they believe had no intention to kill them.

Meticulous planning

They said Monks suffered from an autism spectrum disorder and had difficulty in separating fantasy from reality.

He had told Skarnes he considered his family "a disgrace" and was "trapped in a cage".

The pair meticulously prepared the killings via messages after meeting online in November 2008, the court heard.

This was an extremely serious crime which ultimately could have ended in tragedy
Ch Insp Andy Murphy
Lancashire police

In one message, Monks wrote to Skarnes: "So you are willing to kill. Just I cannot do my parents."

Skarnes replied: "Yes, I am."

The pair did not meet in person until 7 February when Skarnes visited the house in Preston Road, Clayton-le-Woods. He later pretended the leave, but waited outside. Monks and his parents sat down together with a takeaway to watch a DVD before Monks waited for them to go to bed, and texted Skarnes to return.

Skarnes crept into the bedroom with a knife handed to him by his accomplice, but was foiled when Mr Monks woke up.

In defence, both men argued they were acting as part of role play and that the episode was complete fantasy.

'Incredibly difficult'

Skarnes said he was "astounded" and "shocked" to receive the knife but said he thought Monks was "pushing the role play along to see my reaction".

Skarnes said he was trying to keep the knife away from Mr Monks and denied lunging at him. Mr Monks suffered minor injuries in the scuffle.

Professor Digby Tantam, a consultant psychiatrist and autism expert, said he believed the defendant had an autistic spectrum disorder which could impair his understanding on the outcome of actions and the feelings of others.

Ch Insp Andy Murphy, of Lancashire police, said: "From the outset this was a difficult case to investigate due to the close relationships of the people involved and I appreciate that this has been an incredibly difficult period of time for Mr and Mrs Monks.

"However, I am very pleased with today's verdict as this was an extremely serious crime which ultimately could have ended in tragedy.

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