Neill Buchel trial: Victim looked like ‘something out of Star Wars’

Neill Buchel

Neill Buchel - Credit: Archant

The wife of Neill Buchel, whose body was found in a Dagenham lake in April, described her estranged husband as looking like “something from Star Wars” just a month after he moved in with one of the men accused of murdering him.

A heavily pregnant Sharon Buchel told Blackfriars Crown Court how her husband worked as a hydraulic technician with Powertech and a landscape gardener with Greensync before his drinking problems prevented him holding down a job.

The pair married in South Africa in 1998 before moving to the UK three years later through the citizenship of Neill’s English mother.

After living in various places, the family moved in with one of Sharon’s work colleagues, David Atkinson, in Braintree Road.

The Buchels later moved out to Ilford together after six months and lived in a few more houses before Neill moved back to Atkinson’s Dagenham flat alone.

But after a while Neill, who had been attending alcohol treatment sessions, moved in with next-door neighbour Scott Hunt – known as Gary – something Sharon was concerned about at the time.

Sharon told the court she had ended up paying between £50 and £75 for Neill’s rent each week, in addition to regular packets of food and cigarettes.

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But in December 2013, less than a month after he moved in, Sharon became concerned for her husband’s life. She called the house to let Neill know she was coming over but the phone was answered by Scott.

“He said Neill was sleeping, but I told him I needed to come and see him and give him some money and food.

“Gary said he was happy to give it to him but I said I needed to see him first so Neill came on the phone.

“He wasn’t making sense. I know he was an alcoholic but he could always make up words – but he was slurring.”

After visiting Atkinson next door, Sharon knocked on Hunt’s door.

“I went to the door and there were what looked like drops of blood outside his door,” she said.

“When I knocked Gary answered and opened it slightly ajar, not fully.

I asked him where Neill was, he said: ‘He’s in the bath’.

“I said I had his money and food and needed to see him but he kept saying he’d give them to him. I told him I needed to see Neill.

Gary started getting little bit aggressive. He said: ‘You never come around here; what the eff are you doing here?’

“Neil came to the door, wearing only a shirt wrapped around him, that was covered in blood.

“He looked terrible. He looked like something from Star Wars. His skin was like a watermelon. His face was black around the eyes and the whites of his eyes were bleeding and he had no facial hair.

“He normally had a goatee but he had no eyebrows and it looked like his eyelashes had been singed off.

“Part of his goatee and moustache looked like they had been burnt off too.

“I started to cry and said: ‘What have they done to you?’

“Gary told her he had fallen through a table.”

Hunt became aggressive, Sharon added, pulling Neill back into the house and slamming the door behind them, leaving Sharon outside screaming.

“I went back to Dave’s and told him to lock the door. I was worried Gary was going to come for me.”

But Neill, who had managed to escape, was at the front door, dripping blood from the mouth and left hand.

Sharon said when she spoke of calling the ambulance and police he told her: ‘Please don’t’.

He went into his old bedroom and climbed into bed where he drifted in and out of consciousness, occasionally throwing up blood and telling Sharon: “Promise me you’ll look after the girls.”

The trial continues.