Dognapper killer is convicted: Heroin addict who strangled loving father, 45, to death before breaking back into his home to steal pet owner's labradoodle is found GUILTY of murder
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A dognapper who strangled a man to death before breaking into the decomposing victim’s home to take his labradoodle has been found guilty of murder. 

Ian Connell, 39, killed Donald Patience, 45, in a property in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, last August.

Mr Patience’s body was only discovered when police were called to a suspected burglary at the house, after Connell was seen walking away with his victim’s pet dog. 

A postman called 999 on the morning of August 22 when he saw a male figure climbing through a rear window of the property in Ashworth Road and heard a noise like someone trying to force entry.

The same man later emerged from the back garden with a ‘medium-sized, fluffy’ white dog on a lead – believed to be the victim’s beloved dog Layla.

The body of Donald Patience, 45, (pictured) was discovered underneath a duvet cover at the bottom of his stairs by police who responded to reports of a burglary at the end terrace house

The body of Donald Patience, 45, (pictured) was discovered underneath a duvet cover at the bottom of his stairs by police who responded to reports of a burglary at the end terrace house

Police were called to reports of burglars trying to steal a labradoodle from the home. Pictured are labradoodle puppies posted on Donald's Facebook

Police were called to reports of burglars trying to steal a labradoodle from the home. Pictured are labradoodle puppies posted on Donald’s Facebook

Mr Patience's body was only discovered when police were called to a suspected burglary at the house, after Connell was seen walking away with his victim's pet dog

Mr Patience’s body was only discovered when police were called to a suspected burglary at the house, after Connell was seen walking away with his victim’s pet dog

The 45-year-old’s body was found at the bottom of the stairs by police, underneath a duvet cover, after Connell had tried to move him upstairs.  

A pathologist said it was likely that Mr Patience, who was described as a ‘much-loved son, brother and father’, had died two days before officers eventually discovered his body.

Connell, who told police that he ‘loved Mr Patience like a father’, denied murder but was found guilty following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.

After jurors had left court, Connell told the judge: ‘I’m not guilty of this offence, Your Honour.’

Mr Patience was originally from Alness, Scotland but moved to Greater Manchester for work.

He later turned to alcohol and painkillers after a car accident in 2015 left him unable to work.

Connell, a heroin and crack cocaine addict, said he became friendly with Mr Patience and would carry out work for him. 

He described Mr Patience as his ‘boss’, and said he would give him money.

But prosecutors said that people including Connell would ‘prey upon’ Mr Patience’s ‘good nature’ because he had access to ‘family money’ from property. 

They argued that Connell had killed Mr Patience following a row over money, after he had stopped giving him cash.

Prosecutor Michael Hayton KC told jurors: ‘Mr Patience was beginning to lose patience with Mr Connell, and was not as perhaps as receptive to requests for funds as he had [been] in the past. 

Neighbours said that he was last seen three days before he was found dead

Neighbours said that he was last seen three days before he was found dead

A postman called 999 on the morning of August 22 last year when he saw a male figure climbing through a rear window of the property in Ashworth Road

A postman called 999 on the morning of August 22 last year when he saw a male figure climbing through a rear window of the property in Ashworth Road

Forensics at the scene of the murder

Forensics at the scene of the murder

‘The Crown say this is the most likely reason that today Mr Patience is no longer with us.’

Mr Patience’s driving licence and library card were in Connell’s pockets when he was searched by police. 

When questioned at the scene, Connell initially claimed that Mr Patience was in Scotland.

He told an officer that the dog belonged to his ‘mate Donald, who he worked for’.

Connell claimed that he had spoken with Mr Patience, and that he had ‘told him to break in’ after his key had snapped after trying to gain access to the property to walk the dog.

At trial, Connell claimed that he’d woken up in Mr Patience’s home after taking drugs, to find him dead, lying on a sofa. 

Jurors heard that Connell had ‘confessed’ to the killing on August 20 during a phone call with an associate.

A witness who overheard the call said he heard the man Connell was speaking to ask him: ‘You think you killed your boss?’ A jury rejected Connell’s case and found him guilty.

Connell from Bolton, is due to be sentenced on March 6. 

The labradoodle – puppies of which can sell for between £700 to £1,500 – is now being looked after by a relevant authority, Greater Manchester Police said.

MailOnline also revealed that the father-of-three had been the victim of a previous break-in months earlier, which saw thieves ransacking his humble end-of-terrace house in Radcliffe, Manchester.

His ex-wife Kirsty (pictured here with Mr Patience), with whom he shared three children, also paid tribute, hailing him an 'incredible man'

His ex-wife Kirsty (pictured here with Mr Patience), with whom he shared three children, also paid tribute, hailing him an ‘incredible man’

The father's death has left his family heartbroken. Mr Patience is pictured with three youngsters in one of the last photos he shared before his death

The father’s death has left his family heartbroken. Mr Patience is pictured with three youngsters in one of the last photos he shared before his death 

Mr Patience – who was hailed an ‘incredible’ father by his heartbroken family – had returned home last December to find several televisions, a child’s bike and his brother’s car had been taken.

The details were revealed in a heartbreaking note by Mr Patience sent to his neighbours in January which read: ‘I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year.

‘I recently returned to my house to find all my stuff had been stolen. It included several TVs, my child’s pit, bike, gaming chair, hover and my brother’s car, a grey Mercedes C220 amongst other things.

‘The car was used to remove items. This happened round about the start of November and the house was locked from the inside so I suspect it was a guest.

‘I heard a girl and two males were seen removing items but could be misinformed. It would probably look like I was moving out and I was wondering if anyone saw anything?’

Police confirmed the report, adding that ‘unfortunately no suspect was identified after conducting a number of enquiries’.

A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Detectives are continuing to investigate the death of Donald Patience which includes reports made to police previously.’

Mr Patience’s loved ones said he was ‘a much loved son, brother and father’ who ‘will be sorely missed by many’.

His ex-wife Kirsty, with whom he shared three children, also paid tribute, hailing him an ‘incredible man’ who ‘adored his children’.

‘This breaks my heart to have to write this,’ she wrote on social media. ‘As a lot of you may have already seen, this week we lost an extremely incredible man.

‘Despite whatever happened between us, Prentice was an amazing father and adored his children.

‘We are all truly heartbroken at this news and we are all struggling to come to terms with his death.’

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