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Lodger killed flatmate in 'brutal attack' then lived with body for weeks 'as if nothing happened'

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Kristian Smith, left, and Antoinette Donegan, right. (Met Police)

A lodger killed his ‘vulnerable’ flatmate then lived with her body for weeks as he plundered her bank account.

Kristian Smith, 42, stayed in the council flat in Battersea, west London, in February 2019 as Antoinette Donegan, 52, lay dead in her bedroom.

Police found her decomposing body in March after the alarm was raised over her welfare, the Old Bailey heard during his trial.

A jury found him guilty on Monday of manslaughter, by a majority vote of 11 to one, having cleared him of murder.

He had previously admitted fraud and preventing the lawful burial of a body, but denied murder. He is due to be sentenced at a later date.

During the trial, prosecutor Louis Mably QC said Ms Donegan appeared to have been assaulted.

He said: “There was blood on the floor by her head, and there was blood on furniture in the bedroom. And she had cuts to her head.”

Antoinette Donegan. Photo issued by Met Police

He told jurors that officers noticed clothes had been pushed against the door as a makeshift “draught excluder”.

Mr Mably said: “It obviously wasn’t Antoinette Donegan who had done this – she had died inside the bedroom. Someone else had done this.

“And the implication was that someone had done this in order to conceal the smell coming from the bedroom – the smell of her decomposing corpse.

“So, there was someone who knew she had died, but rather than calling the police, had tried to prevent the body from being discovered.”

Ms Donegan and Smith both had a drug addiction, the court heard, and attended the same drug recovery centre.

She was last seen on February 1, 2019, but her bank card was still being used and her benefits were still being withdrawn, the court was told.

CCTV showed Smith using her bank card after her death. The Met said he withdrew money with it on five days in February, and had also used her SIM card on his phone.

Smith, who had been leaving in the flat since November 2018, became the Met’s prime suspect and he was arrested in Battersea in March 2019 carrying Ms Donegan’s card, SIM and some of her jewellery.

Kristian Smith. (Met Police)

Blood traces on his shoes were matched to Ms Donegan, and a post-mortem showed she had suffered head injuries caused by a broken mug officers had found in her bedrooms. She also had seven fractured ribs.

Mr Mably said during the trial: “(Smith) must have taken the bank card and mobile telephone from the flat, knowing that Antoinette Donegan was dead.

“And he continued to live there, pushing clothing up against the bedroom door to contain the smell of her decomposing corpse.”

Detective Chief Inspector John Massey, the officer in the case, said: “This is a tragic case in which Antoinette’s generosity in allowing Kristian Smith to stay in her flat has been abused in the worst way possible.

“Antoinette was a vulnerable individual who was battling addiction herself.

“We will never know what instigated Smith’s brutal attack on Antoinette.

“But, what we do know, is that he then carried on with his life as if nothing had happened.

“He stole her bank card and withdrew money, presumably to buy drugs. Despite knowing she was dead, Smith did not tell anyone and simply blocked up the bedroom door to conceal any smell.

“The injuries on Antoinette’s body were numerous and it was clear that Smith did not kill her in self-defence. I am glad the jury has seen through his lies and he now faces a long period in jail.”