Man jailed for life over murder of millionaire hotelier and bid to kill mother

·5-min read

An aspiring artist has been jailed for life, to serve a minimum of 36 years in prison, for the “cruel and senseless” murder of aristocrat Sir Richard Sutton and paralysing his own mother.

Thomas Schreiber was convicted following a three-week trial at Winchester Crown Court of killing the 83-year-old millionaire hotelier at his Dorset country estate on April 7, 2021, and the attempted murder of 66-year-old Anne Schreiber.

The judge, Mr Justice Garnham, told the defendant: “Your actions have caused utter devastation in the Sutton and Schreiber families.

He added: “You treated Sir Richard’s house and possessions as if they were your own.

“You had repaid his generosity with ingratitude, discourtesy and ill-temper.”

Thomas Schreiber court case
Sir Richard Sutton and Anne Schreiber (Family handout)

“You showed neither him or your mother any respect, instead during your time in their home you displayed a breath-taking sense of entitlement, at times you left Sir Richard feeling like a prisoner in his own home.”

The 35-year-old defendant admitted carrying out the “horror show” knife attack on the pair on the eighth anniversary of the death of his alcoholic father, David Schreiber, after he said his mother shouted at him for being “drunk like his father”.

He told the court: “I just went completely crazy, I completely snapped and I just launched for her and began attacking her uncontrollably.”

Sobbing and shaking, Schreiber’s sister, Rose McCarthy read her victim impact statement in court directly to the defendant, saying: “You took a knife to our world. In doing so you took away Richard, you took away the most innocent and kindest of men in the most brutal of ways. He never stood a chance.

“You also killed our mother, you took her life away and left her trapped in a body she can’t use and is in constant pain.

“She can’t even wipe away her own tears. You destroyed everything, Mum can’t even hold her own grandchildren, she can’t give me a hug.”

With the defendant crying in the dock, she added: “Tom, I love you but I struggle so badly with what you have done, what a waste of all these lives for a moment’s anger.”

Their sister, Louisa Schreiber, added in her statement: “I miss my mother’s touch most of all, it pains me when she asks me to put her arms around me.

“She is now very fragile, my children will never know the feeling of my mum’s arms around them.”

Thomas Schreiber court case
Thomas Schreiber listening to his mother Anne Schreiber, who appeared via video link (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

As she said: “Where did it all go so wrong I ask myself, I am full of disbelief that my own flesh and blood could do such a horrific thing, my little brother who I adored has become a stranger to me,” the defendant called out: “I am sorry.”

During a break in proceedings, Schreiber, sobbing, spoke to his sisters from the dock, saying: “I am so sorry, I really am, I love you.”

In a letter to the judge, the defendant spoke of his “heartfelt shame and total disgust” at his actions, and added: “All I wish to do is travel back in time to that terrible day so I can change everything and bring Sir Richard and my mother back to life.”

Expressing his wish that he had sought help for his mental health, he added: “I have been a coward, hugely arrogant and selfish in my behaviour. I am so sorry for this and wish I had the clarity of thought I have now, I remain in total shock and horror that I could be capable of such actions.”

He added: “This was not the actions of a demonic monster but someone in need of help and intervention.”

Sir Richard’s daughter Caroline Sutton said in a statement read to the court: “My father was the kindest and most generous man you’d ever meet.

She added: “His life was ended so abruptly and in such an unimaginably cruel manner by an individual that he welcomed into his home as a member of his family for years.”

The victim’s son, Sir David Sutton, told the court: “This was a senseless act that has taken away the life all too early of a generous, loving, elderly man who only wanted to enjoy his twilight years.”

The attack happened at Sir Richard’s Moorhill estate near Gillingham, Dorset, which he shared with the Schreiber family following the separation of the defendant’s parents.

The trial heard that the defendant was angry with his mother for “abandoning” his father, who suffered from depression, to move in with Sir Richard and accused her of being a “gold-digging bitch”.

Schreiber, an aspiring painter, also felt that Sir Richard treated him unfairly compared to his two sisters despite him receiving a £1,000 monthly allowance and £100,000 towards buying a house.

The court heard that family arguments descended into violence on three previous occasions including once when Sir Richard hit the defendant with his walking stick in November 2020, causing the cane to shatter and leaving Schreiber “humiliated”.

The defendant blamed lockdown for worsening his mental health by forcing him to remain in the “toxic pressure boiler” environment of Sir Richard’s estate.

And in March 2021, he had written to a friend: “I’m so sad to report that my mind is consumed with hatred of the very worst kind towards my family.

“They really hurt me betrayed me and destroyed all trust. Simply put I contemplate murdering them all morning day and night. It’s not what I want to think about but it’s the truth. I want them to suffer.”

Ms Schreiber – who listened to the sentencing proceedings by videolink – suffered up to 15 separate injuries including wounds to her head and body including a partially severed spinal cord which has left her paralysed.

Sir Richard, a father-of-two and grandfather-of-five, suffered three deep wounds to his face and five to his chest, up to 12cm deep.

Schreiber was also sentenced for driving a Range Rover dangerously when he failed to stop for armed police in a 135mph pursuit following the killing before he was detained in central London where he stabbed himself in the chest and shouted at officers to shoot him.

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