An angry tenant with a criminal past who killed his landlord with a single punch has been jailed after he tried to hide camera footage of the attack.
Harrow Crown Court heard how scaffolder Damien Lenihan, 37, of Hillingdon Hill, Uxbridge, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his live-in-landlord Marek Smalec.
The victim, a dad of two, was found unresponsive by a third resident of the flat, Mr Toleda, on the morning of July 5 – after he heard an altercation between the pair the evening before.
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Lenihan, a scaffolder and father-of-one, returned to his first-floor flat on the evening of July 4 to discover that Mr Smalec had removed the television from his room, in a bid to get him to vacate the property.
Prosecution lawyer Pavlos Panayi told the court how landlord Mr Smalec had been asking Lenihan to move out of his home in the weeks leading up to his death.
He said: “There was a clear tension in this flat. The victim had installed three cameras in the property amid suspicions that Lenihan had been stealing possessions of his flatmates.
“The defendant was difficult to live with and was sometimes quite aggressive, but had never been physically violent to either of his flatmates in the past. T his is not a man of good character.”
The court also heard how Lenihan had been in trouble with the law before for crimes including a caution for battery back in 2015, as well as shoplifting.
Fellow flatmate Mr Toleda told police officers that he heard what sounded like a ‘punch’ and ‘a large thud’ at around 10.15pm – but that he was too scared to leave the room.
It wasn’t until the next morning that he discovered his landlord’s body, and called for paramedics who pronounced him dead at the scene.
A post-mortem examination revealed that Mr Smalec had suffered a bleed to the brain and cardiac arrest after sustaining injuries consistent with ‘one single punch’.
After knocking his landlord out cold, Lenihan did not call the emergency services – instead he fled the scene and went to his girlfriend’s house – where he proceeded to drink a significant amount of vodka, the court heard.
He also removed some of the cameras that his landlord had installed in a panicked attempt to hide evidence of the altercation.
After attempts to evade police, he was arrested at a Travelodge in Telford while he was asleep a few days later, after police discovered he had taken steps to find a new place to live.
A victim statement from Mr Smalec’s daughter Eileen highlighted the devastating effects that her dad’s death has had on her family, including her mum and her little brother.
She said: “My dad was a kind-hearted person who never wanted to hurt anyone. He was well-loved by everyone and would do anything to help people.
“He was a very cheerful person and if anyone was feeling down, he would try and lift them up. He would give time to anyone who needed it.
“My dad’s death has had a huge impact on my education. I have emotional outbursts often and I am unable to take part in conversations on my course that involve murder or violence.
“The loss of our dad has been huge both emotionally and financially on our family. I miss his voice and his advice – sometimes I forget that he has gone.
“He will never get to see me grow up and see what I accomplish in my adult life. My dad was patient and kind and was a great support to me, my brother and my mum.”
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In mitigation, defence lawyer Giles Cockings said that Lenihan was genuinely remorseful for his actions, and that he should be entitled to a reduction in his sentence for pleading guilty at an early stage of the legal proceedings.
He added: “The defendant did not intend for this to happen, and he has admitted that he was wrong to take the black cameras. He did it out of panic.”
During sentencing, Judge Rosa Dean told Lenihan: “This is a case where you pleaded guilty to manslaughter this morning (Thursday, November 4) on the basis of an unlawful act.
“You have been in trouble before for a range of offences, y ou told lies about your location and you gave police the run-around to a very significant degree.”
He was sentenced to six years in prison, but was told he would likely get out after serving half of the sentence.
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