Couple jailed for Wembury murder of autistic man

A Plymouth couple have received life sentences for murdering a vulnerable autistic man in his South Hams home

By Edward Davenport   |   Court Reporter   |
Friday 27th May 2022 1:56 pm
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Jodie Swannick and Lee Chugg
Jodie Swannick and Lee Chugg (CPS )

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A couple have been jailed for life for the ‘savage and brutal murder of a vulnerable autistic man who was kicked to death in his own home.

Lee Chugg and Jodie Swannick kicked and stamped on charity shop volunteer Stephen Fogg and caused appalling and fatal injuries to his skull, face and chest.

Mr Fogg, aged 60, had learning difficulties and may have been targeted by the two drunken attackers because of false rumours that he was a paedophile.

Chugg and Swannick were each jailed for life with minimum terms of 20 and 18 years respectively by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

The prosecution described the killing as sadistic and the Judge told the killers their attack had been savage and brutal and that they had tried to save their own skins rather than answering the dying man’s pleas for help.

The judge said the motive for the attack remains unclear but he was sure they both intended to kill Mr Fogg because they had not called an ambulance as they left him in a pool of blood on his kitchen floor.

He described Mr Fogg as someone who wanted to be everybody’s friend and posed no threat to anyone.

Chugg and Swann had been drinking vodka and taking drugs together before they went to his door at 9 pm on Monday December 14, 2020, apparently hoping to drink with him.

They both joined in a savage attack in his kitchen which left him with a fractured skull, a shattered jaw, 35 injuries to his face, and 19 broken ribs, eight of which were fractured in more than one place.

A bloodstained print from Chugg’s size eight trainers was found on Mr Fogg’s shirt, showing that he must have stamped on his face before moving on to his chest.

The injuries to his ribs were severe enough to have killed him on their own and were delivered with such force that they broke his ribs despite him wearing seven layers of clothing.

Mr Fogg was barely capable of living independently and received several visits a week from a team of carers at his bungalow in Hawthorn Drive, Wembury.

His only money was a £7.25 daily allowance which he spent on cider at the village shop where Chugg lived in an upstairs flat. He was a hoarder who was well known for keeping his Christmas decorations up all year.

One of Mr Fogg’s eccentricities was wearing multiple layers of clothing, which included three sets of joggers and three different Plymouth Argyle shirts at the time of his death.

Chugg and Swannick blamed each other for the killing but the forensic evidence showed they acted together, which Swannick leaving a shoe mark on the dead man’s face.

A fingerprint on Mr Fogg’s cooker hob showed that Chugg has steadied himself on it as he jumped on the helpless victim.

They fled the scene without calling an ambulance and remained at large until police found them hiding out at a house in Plymouth eight days later. Chugg threw his bloodstained trainers onto a rail line and they were never found by police.

Chugg, aged 42, of Knighton Road, Plymouth, and Swannick, aged 32, formerly of Stoke Road, Plymouth, but now of no fixed address, both denied murder but were found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.

They were both jailed for life by Judge Peter Johnson who set a minimum tariff of 20 years from Chugg and 18 for Swannick.

He told them: “You were both found guilty of the brutal murder of Mr Fogg, who was well known as somebody who wanted to be everyone’s friend. He will be missed by all those who knew him.

“In the 42 minutes you were at his home, he was subjected to a savage and murderous attack in which you both took part, kicking and stamping on him and injuring him catastrophically.

“He survived for at least 30 minutes after he suffered the brain injury and it is possible he was still breathing when you left him in a pool of his own blood.

“You did not have the common decency of informing the authorities, even anonymously, because your only interest was saving your own skins. You were held together by a grizzly bond of knowing what you had done to Mr Fogg.

“There was a sustained attack in which you both used your shod feet. Your intent to kill him is clear from the fact that you made no attempt to summon help. He pleaded for his life as each of you rifled his pockets.

“The victim was a particularly vulnerable man who was attacked in his own home. You were under the influence of alcohol and the attack was particularly brutal as shown by his injuries. You used your shod feet as weapons.”

During a trial earlier this month, the court heard how Chugg and Swannick had become a couple three months before the killing when she moved into his flat above a corner shop in Wembury.

She was a heroin addict who had been a victim of sexual violence while she was funding her habit through prostitution. Chugg had moved to Wembury in the hope of being allowed custody of his young daughter by giving up drugs.

He returned to heroin use when Swannick moved in and also started drinking heavily. He has a long history of drunken violence including robbery of a taxi driver and a brutal attack on a former partner.

Swannick paired up with Chugg after finishing a short jail sentence for carrying a blade in public and their relationship became toxic with foul-mouthed arguments which were loud enough to be heard in the shop downstairs.

They blamed each other for the murder. Chugg said Swannick had tried to stab Mr Fogg with scissors before stamping on him. Swannick said Chugg carried out all the stamping and she only joined in with three kicks at the end.

Swannick claimed that Chugg had accused Mr Fogg of being a paedophile as he stamped on him, asking ‘why is it that paedophiles never die’. The accusation was completely false and seemed to have been based on Mr Fogg’s eccentric behaviour and odd appearance.

Mr Fogg, who worked as a part time volunteer at the Red Cross shop in Plymstock, got to know Chugg because he bought cider every day at the shop beneath the couple’s flat.

Mr Ignatius Hughes, QC, and Mr Richard Smith, QC, for Chugg and Swannick, said the murder was not pre-meditated and there was not enough evidence to conclude it was either the result of an attempt to rob the victim or motivated by hostility towards his presumed sexuality.

Mr Smith said the killing was the result of an argument getting completely out of hand and leading to an outpouring of spontaneous anger. They said both their clients had lived difficult lives.

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