Killer who knifed stranger in the heart jailed for life

Killer who knifed stranger in the heart jailed for life

79-year-old Gerald Wickes died in February 2023

A teenage killer who walked into a house and stabbed a stranger in the heart in a “chilling” attack has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 25 years.

Daniel Rounce was ordered to remain in handcuffs in the dock at Leicester Crown Court as a judge described the inexplicable and “merciless” killing of 79-year-old Gerald Wickes as a “truly wicked” offence.

Rounce, of The Green, Markfield, near Leicester, was found guilty by a jury on Monday after offering no account of how and why he killed Mr Wickes at the pensioner’s former partner’s house.

The 18-year-old claimed through his barrister at his sentencing hearing that he had acted out of panic while intending to rob Mr Wickes, after following the victim’s former partner into the house in Queens Park Way, Eyres Monsell, on February 22 last year.

Five dock officers flanked Rounce as he was sentenced, after previous episodes of violence involving the teenager, who kicked out at security staff and had to be restrained on the first day of his trial.

Passing sentence, Judge Timothy Spencer KC said the murder was aggravated by significant levels of planning and premeditation, and the fact that an elderly victim had been targeted in what should have been a safe place.

The judge told Rounce that he believed he had feigned mental illness in an effort to manipulate the justice system.

Judge Spencer told the teenager: “This killing took place in the living room of what in effect was his own home – a home that was invaded and violated by you.

“This was a truly wicked act.

“You were, in my judgment, deliberately targeting the elderly.”

Rounce faced a trial of facts hearing at the same court last October after being ruled unfit to enter a plea, but was later judged to be fit to face a jury.

Accusing Rounce of wanting “to see what you could get away with” by tricking psychiatrists after the “chilling” murder, Judge Spencer told him: “I reject your explanation offered this morning that this was a killing in panic. It was not.

“You were in control of events.

“As soon as you were close enough to him, you plunged the knife into his chest. That was merciless.”

Rounce, who immediately fled the area and was arrested several hours later, had the presence of mind to dispose of the murder weapon in undergrowth, the judge said.

He added: “When you were arrested by the police you said nothing. And that is a policy that continued right to the end, all the way to the jury’s verdict.

“The jury saw through it all. Until this morning you have not expressed a word of explanation and you have never expressed any show of remorse whatsoever.

“Your explanation that out of panic you intended to rob, perhaps to get some food, has a hollow ring to it.

“Ultimately this killing actually defies any explanation.”

Rounce is highly intelligent, the judge said, having passed an entrance exam for a high-performing grammar school, but since the age 12 had chosen not to co-operate with figures of authority.

The judge continued: “I have seen your violence, particularly when you appeared on the video-link (at a previous hearing) and also on day one of this trial.”

Rounce was not mentally ill and had made an admission that he had sought to manipulate the process of psychiatric assessment, the court heard.

After Rounce was taken away to begin his sentence, the judge addressed senior dock security officers to formally commend them.

Judge Spencer said: “Daniel Rounce was one of the most difficult, manipulative and potentially disruptive prisoners that I have experienced.

“You have all displayed the highest standards of professionalism and expertise. You are an absolute credit to yourselves and the Prison Service.”

Leicestershire Police said initial inquiries showed Rounce had been in a wooded area near the house prior to going into the address.

A search for Rounce continued into the evening, leading to a police officer spotting him in the Aylestone Road area of Leicester at around 11.15pm and he was subsequently arrested.

Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector David Greenhalgh, from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “This was a devastating incident which resulted in a 79-year-old man losing his life in a horrendous way because of the actions of a teenager who was unknown to him.

“We will never fully know why this happened and my thoughts very much remain with Mr Wickes’ family.”

The family of Mr Wickes paid tribute to him as a “doting” father, granddad and great-granddad.

His son Garry Wickes said in a statement: “My dad was generous and kind and I know he brought happiness to a lot of people all through his life. He will always be remembered by people as one of life’s helpers.

“I know so many people are struggling to come to terms with losing dad. We miss him so much but he will forever be a memory in so many people’s hearts.”

In a separate statement, the grandchildren of Mr Wickes said: “If anyone ever needed help or advice, Granddad Gerald was the first person to be there. This is the kind of person he was, not just as a granddad, but to all the community.”

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