Peterborough triple murder trial: Criminal past of giant accomplice Gary Stretch

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Wednesday 3pm: Killer Joanne Dennehys’ accomplice Gary Stretch was career criminal.

Until he was charged over his involvement in Dennehy’s killing spree, Gary Stretch was known as a bungling criminal.

Standing at 7ft 3ins, Stretch - who changed his surname from Richards by deed poll in recognition of his stature - would tell friends his height meant he was “not a very good burglar”, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

In 2003, he was jailed for two years at Peterborough Crown Court after pleading guilty to burgling a house. He was caught after neighbours recognised his huge frame and called police.

Stephen Ferguson, mitigating, said it had been an amateurish effort, the Peterborough Telegraph reported.

“Mr Stretch is extremely distinctive and the flat he burgled was almost next door to where he was living,” he added.

While serving another jail term in 2009, he was accused of playing a part in killing another inmate at HMP Peterborough.

Brian Haynes, 33, died of a heart attack in his cell the previous year following a beating.

Prosecutor John Farmer told Norwich Crown Court Stretch acted as the look-out while others carried out the attack.

He added: “He is the biggest man in the dock. If you have got Mr Stretch as a sentry, he could warn you of a prison officer coming and prevent anyone thinking about interfering.”

Two men were convicted of manslaughter but Stretch was cleared.

Cambridgeshire Police launched a nationwide manhunt to find Stretch and Dennehy after the discovery of Kevin Lee’s body in Cambridgeshire in March last year.

Two further bodies – those of Lukasz Slaboszewski and John Chapman – were later found in Thorney Dyke, near where Stretch had briefly lived in 2005.

Officers said the pair were very recognisable - especially if they were together - but warned the public not to approach either of them.

During the trial at Cambridge Crown Court, jurors were shown CCTV footage of Stretch and Dennehy holding hands and laughing together while on the run.

The 47-year-old, who has three children with former wife Julie Gibbons, gave a no comment interview when arrested by police and chose not to give evidence during his trial.

Prosecutors told the court he helped dispose of all three bodies before assisting Dennehy in randomly selecting two men to attack in the street in Hereford and acting as her driver.

Peter Wright QC said Dennehy had “cast a spell” over Stretch.

But he added: “Joanne Dennehy may have been the killer but Gary Stretch was able to act as her willing accomplice in disposing of their bodies and was comfortable in her company.”

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