Heggarty (left) Bennett (right)
Heggarty, a salesman, bundled Derek Bennett's body in a rug, put it into a car, and set fire to both in a Cardiff car park. Sentencing Heggarty, the judge His Honour Mr Justice Roderick Evans described him as a "dangerous man". "You are a resourceful and manipulative liar. This was a brutal and very violent killing." The judge told Heggarty he was too dangerous ever to be allowed out.
In July2004 at Swansea Crown Court, the jury heard how the close friends had spent the evening together at a party after drinking in a city pub in April 2003. The court was told details of Heggarty’s history of violence. His previous convictions include attempted murder and several violent robberies in which he targeted elderly people.
CCTV footage showed the friends driving in convoy from the Cardiff International Arena car park - where Mr Bennett had earlier left his car - in the direction of Heggarty's home.
The jury was told Mr Bennett's blood was found inside Heggarty's flat at Clare Road in the Grangetown area of Cardiff, and on clothes he was wearing on the night of the killing. Heggarty's fingerprints were also discovered in the blood on a wall in the cellar of the flat. The court heard that forensic tests had determined that the murder weapon, which has never been found, was a hammer-type object.
Greg Bull QC, prosecuting, said splashes of blood on Heggarty's settee were consistent with the attack having been carried out with the victim lying on it. Mr Bennett may have been "asleep or dozing or with his back to his attacker" at the time, he said.
Firefighters discovered Mr Bennett's remains in the rear of his blazing Renault Laguna in the car park of the Earl Haig British Legion Club in Whitchurch, Cardiff, two days after the murder. The body was so badly burnt, Mr Bennett, who lived with his partner, step children and young son in St Mellons, could only be identified from dental records, the court heard.
During the trial the court was told Mr Bennett was known to have been carrying up to £3,000 in cash and illicit drugs worth about £10,000.
After his arrest, the jury was told Heggarty was found to have paid off £1,500 of debts on the same day as the murder. A cache of drugs was also discovered at his girlfriend's home.
Mr Justice Evans said the recommended starting point of 30 years for a crime like Heggarty's was "inadequate". The judge told Heggarty: "There is no doubt he enjoyed your company that night, drinking, taking drugs and going to an all- night party."Within hours of that coming to an end, you bludgeoned him to death, hitting him about the head with a blunt object, shattering his skull into 23 pieces. He took one and a half hours to die. I have no doubt your motive was robbery."