A prolific burglar who murdered an elderly woman in her own home has been sentenced to life in prison.
Aaron Fyle, 29 (18.10.90), of no fixed address was convicted of the murder of Eulin Hastings, a 74-year-old retired nurse, following trial at the Old Bailey on Thursday, 19 December.
On Friday, 10 January at the same court, he was sentenced to serve 31 years in prison.
The court heard how on 10 January 2017, a neighbour had noticed smoke coming from Ms Hastings’ home in Birchanger Road, SE25.
The neighbour called London Fire Brigade (LFB) at 15:15hrs and on arrival they forced entry through the locked front door.
Ms Hastings was found lying in the hallway. LFB immediately removed her from the premises and began first aid.
LFB also extinguished the fire, which was centred on the area of the staircase.
London Ambulance Service (LAS) and London’s Air Ambulance attended, but Ms Hastings was pronounced dead at the scene.
After extinguishing the flames, firefighters noticed the house was showing signs of having been burgled.
Police attended and found that Eulin’s bedroom had been ransacked and other rooms had been subjected to an untidy search.
In the living room a coffee table had been smashed and a knife was found on the floor.
The house appeared to have been entered by someone who had broken the glass on the rear French doors with a stone or rock. The doors were then opened by a key that had been left in the lock.
A post-mortem examination took place on 11 January and it was noted that although Ms Hastings had burns to her body, there was no evidence to indicate that she had been breathing when the fire started.
In fact, the cause of death was found to be a traumatic head injury, and the number of injuries indicated the wounds had not been sustained in a simple fall. It was the opinion of the pathologist that the injuries had been inflicted on Ms Hastings during the course of an assault.
On the same day, shortly after the murder had been discovered, a burglary was reported in nearby Davidson Road, SE25.
The female occupant was at home when she saw a burglar forcing entry into the rear of her home. The woman fled the house with her young child and called police.
Police were patrolling locally and officers were on the scene within six minutes.
When police arrived the burglar, who was armed with a knife, was pursued by officers across rooftops and through gardens.
The officers closed in on the armed suspect who made his way onto a conservatory roof.
The suspect was seen to destroy his mobile phone and only after the intervention of a trained negotiator did he surrender himself when he was subsequently arrested by police for the burglary at Davidson Road. He gave a false name, but was later identified as Aaron Fyle.
Owing to the proximity of Davidson Road and Birchanger Road, Fyle immediately became of interest to the investigation into the death of Ms Hastings. He was then further arrested on suspicion of the murder of Eulin Hastings.
A full investigation was launched by homicide detectives from Specialist Crime South.
The detectives were able to locate CCTV that showed Fyle walking in the direction of Birchanger Road at 13:31hrs and walking away from Birchanger Road at 14:46hrs.
Later CCTV evidence then placed Fyle at Davidson Road at around 15:07hrs, where he had been seen by the occupier to force entry into the premises.
The mobile phone that Fyle had attempted to destroy was also recovered and it indicated he had been in the area around Birchanger Road around the time the fire started.
Significantly, DNA evidence from Fyle was recovered from underneath Ms Hastings’ fingernails and her DNA was found on the jacket Fyle was wearing when he was arrested.
Lastly the MO of using a stone to effect entry is one that has been used by Fyle in some of his many previous burglaries.
As a result of the evidence, Fyle who had been remanded to prison for other burglary offences, was charged on 8 August 2018 with murder and one count of burglary.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Leonard, of Specialist Crime (Homicide), said: “Eulin Hastings was a retired nurse, well liked in the local community and an active member of the church. Her life had been spent looking after others and it is tragic that such a caring person should have been murdered in her own home, a place where she should have been safe.
“In contrast Fyle is a serial offender with an horrendous criminal record. This predator roamed the streets browsing homes to identify targets for larceny. He was a prolific offender and, after committing an offence would carry on roaming the streets looking for the next target to burgle.
“I have no doubt he burgled this poor woman’s home, fatally assaulted her and then set her home on fire to cover up his actions. It shows the depth of this man’s depravity that just a short while later, he was burgling another home. Fyle has shown no remorse whatsoever and I am thankful that he has been convicted and the long sentence is fully justified.”
Ms Hastings’ family said: "There is no waking from this nightmare it continues every moment - it disturbs our sleep and disrupts our daily lives.
"Our mother was a pillar within the community and spent her life helping others. She was loved by everyone who knew her.
"Mum worked as a midwife for over 30 years delivering 100s of babies at St Thomas’s and St George’s Hospitals. Our mother’s final moments will play on our minds and these thoughts will haunt us for the rest of our lives.
"Aaron Fyle you are a parasite who has preyed on vulnerable people who have worked hard for their possessions.
"We believe you to be an evil, monstrous individual who killed a defenceless elderly woman, our mother. You destroyed our family home and all our mother’s treasured belongings and possessions.
"You, Aaron Fyle, have destroyed our lives, you have taken away our beautiful mother and grandmother’s precious life, leaving us with only her badly burnt body lying naked on the floor of her home.”