MURDER TRIAL: Identification dispute at start of Weybread double murder suspect’s trial

Sylvia and Peter Stuart
Sylvia and Peter Stuart

The trial of a man accused of killing two Weybread pensioners has today begun.

Ali Qazimaj, 43, allegedly used “severe force” to stab Peter Stuart, 75, nine times before attempting to hide him in tarpaulin in a water-filled ditch near to his home.

Ipswich Crown Court

Ipswich Crown Court

He is also charged with the murder of Peter’s wife, Sylvia Stuart, 69, even though her body has never been found.

Ipswich Crown Court was today told Qazimaj murdered the couple some time between May 29 and June 3 last year.

During the opening of the case, jurors were told Qazimaj, who identifies with two other names, had gambling debts and borrowed money from friends and colleagues.

He denies being Ali Qazimaj, and instead claims to be a man called Vital Dapi, but jurors were told he is lying.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Karim Khalil QC, said: “On June 3 police searched and found the concealed body of Peter Stuart in shallow water in woodland nearby.

“His body showed signs of being stabbed to death, he had presumably been murdered.

“Sylvia Stuart’s body has not been found. We say she has obviously been murdered too, but has been hidden more successfully.”

The court was told the couple have one daughter, Chrissy, who married a man called Steven Paxman and took his surname.

Steven’s father, Sidney Paxman, who lives in Grays, Essex, had a wife called Nellie and Qazimaj used to be her carer.

Following her death a few years ago he became Sidney’s carer after a hip replacement and the court was told the pair had a close relationship and Qazimaj called Sidney “dad”.

Over the years he worked as a carer, the court was told, Sidney had given Qazimaj the best part of £10,000.

Sidney had also told Qazimaj the Stuarts were “millionaires” and that Chrissy and her husband owed them money.

Mr Khalil said: “Qazimaj told him (Sidney) that he had been to Serbia the back end of 2015 and on his return he told Sidney that he had carried out a contract killing.

“On another occasion while Ali Qazimaj and Sidney were driving by the marshes by the estuary of Tilbury, Qazimaj made comments to the effect that it would be a good place to dispose of a body.”

Jurors were told the Stuarts and their daughter and son-in-law had a “fraught” relationship after falling out over the sale of a property they had shared.

Chrissy and Steven Paxman had an interest in breeding dogs and wanted to have their own kennels but they needed help off the elderly couple to fund it.

They lived together in a cottage which they renovated, with the Stuart’s living in an annex, and a declaration of trust was made that they would share a profit if parts of it were sold.

Later on the Paxmans decided to sell the cottage and move to Leicestershire for nearly £400,000, making a profit of £160,000 with £80,000 being owed to the Stuart’s.

The Paxmans paid £40,000 back “pretty much immediately” but said they were unable to repay the rest and it was agreed it would be deferred until May last year.

In May last year Qazimaj’s silver Citroen C3 was spotted on plate recognition cameras making “a series of trips” from his first floor flat in Tilbury, Essex, to the Stuarts cottage in Weybread, Suffolk.

The court was told Peter had been approached by a man on two occasions who said he knew someone who would be interested in buying his home, but Peter said he was not looking to sell.

The Stuart’s were last seen alive on May 29 at a food market on CCTV but days later Sylvia’s Barclay’s bank card was used to withdraw £300.

A further £700 was attempted to be withdrawn but failed due to the 24-hour limit of £300, the following day on May 31 similar transactions were attempted.

The couple were reported missing on June 3 and officers found “no signs of a fight” and “no signs of a struggle”.

Two officers then searched the nearby area and discovered Peter’s concealed body.

Mr Khalil said a pathologist found Peter had damage to major internal organs from nine separate stab wounds.

He said: “Some of these stabs hit cartilage or bone and would have required severe force to be inflicted.”

The jury heard Qazimaj also used the name Marco Costa while he was gambling and would often spend £1,000 on machines.

A jury of six men and six women were told the Stuarts regularly attended line dancing classes, and concerns had grown when they failed to show up.

Qazimaj, of Tilbury, Essex, claimed asylum from Kosovo in 1999 and became a UK citizen in 2005.

He had an Albanian interpreter with him in court, although the court was told he could speak and understand most English.

On June 10 last year he was located at a home for asylum seekers in Luxembourg following a man hunt and was arrested before being extradited to the UK.

He has since denied being Qazimaj.

Mr Khalil said: “At the heart of this case is a dispute about identification. We say that Ali Qazimaj killed these two people.

“The defendant denies being Ali Qazimaj. He claims to be a man called Vital Dapi. We say that is simply a lie.

“But at the end of this case you will have to decide whether you are sure firstly that Ali Qazimaj is the murderer and secondly whether this defendant is Ali Qazimaj.”

Qazimaj appeared wearing a grey top, with dark brown hair and a dark trimmed beard.

The opening to the case was not finished in time for court ending and will be continued tomorrow in the presence of Mr Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith.

The trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks, continues.