Man found guilty of murder told he will receive life sentence

-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)
-Credit: (Image: Devon and Cornwall Police)


Following a lengthy deliberation, a jury have found Callum Thomas guilty by a majority verdict of murdering his mother, Debra Cantrell.

During his trial at Plymouth Crown Court, the jury heard how Thomas, aged 33, had already admitted to her manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility. However, prosecutors progressed with their case against Thomas, arguing that when he killed his 58-year-old mother Debra Cantrell at her home in Colwill Road, Mainstone, he was of sound mind and knew what he was doing.

While the jury were initially told he was alleged to have fatally stabbed her sometime between May 5 and May 31 last year, evidence suggested that he had more than likely murdered her sometime after May 6 or May 7.

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In her opening statement, prosecutor Anna Vigars KC revealed that in the early hours of May 31 police were contacted by a computer gamer in the United States.

The jury were told that the man explained he had spent a considerable amount of time playing World War Two games online with Thomas and they would have conversations, forming a kind of friendship.

On occasion, Thomas would effectively go offline for a few weeks, but would then return and they would continue their online gaming.

The jury heard that Thomas would occasionally say things which made the gamer wonder about his mental health, such as Thomas stating that he heard "voices" and would not use YouTube or Google because he did not want people to have information about him.

Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road, Estover -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive
Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road, Estover -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive

The US gamer later told police that Thomas appeared to show signs of paranoia and that Thomas would talk about his own relationship with his mother, claiming sometimes it was "tolerable" and other times it was "strained." The gamer also suggested that he thought Thomas had issues "with anger".

The jury were told that on May 8, while he was in a hotel in Richmond, Virginia, the gamer received a message from Thomas that he had "done something bad" and he "didn't think he was going to be around for along time" and that he would "like to hang out with him one more time".

They arranged to meet online later that day and they began online gaming, during which Thomas was "whispering", before saying he "didn't know" why he was whispering because "the problem had been taken care of" and the "situation had been dealt with".

Later in May, a Canadian gamer who had also played with the pair online reached out to inquire about Thomas, saying they had not heard from him in a while. Concerned, the US gamer rang police in the UK. He told them about Thomas' comments about a problem being "taken care of".

Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive
Forensic tent and police at murder scene in Colwill Road -Credit:Carl Eve/PlymouthLive

Police later attended the property and found Ms Cantrell on her bed under a duvet, with a fatal knife wound to her chest and a pillow over her head. The jury were told that forensic entomological examination suggested that the date of death was between one and five days before May 10 or 12.

Thomas was traced to Yelverton where he was found on a bench and arrested. The jury were told that while waiting to be taken away in a police van Thomas' behaviour "changed". One officer said Thomas claimed that people were "out for him" and there was "a £50,000 bounty on his head".

The officer said Thomas's behaviour remained the same on the journey to the police station, but he became "more erratic", especially when he was told he was en-route to Plymouth. He claimed that "everyone is out to kill him" before asking for the officers to kill him.

Judge Peter Johnson thanked the jury for their service, informing them that the sentencing hearing would take place on August 6 at Plymouth Crown Court.

He turned to Thomas to explain that he would receive a mandatory life sentence. He explained that the Crown Prosecution Service and his advocates would provide submissions as to to the tariff - the minimum term Thomas would have to serve before being considered eligible for release.

He adjourned the hearing until that date and Thomas was remanded into custody.

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