An undercover TV researcher who brutally tortured and murdered a cannabis dealer and went on the run for 16 years has been put behind bars, with a minumum sentence of 24 years.
Christopher Guest More was convicted of the murder of Brian Waters at Chester Crown Court on Monday, more than 18 years after the killing.
He was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm to Suleman Razak, who worked at the cannabis farm.
On June 19 2003 Mr Waters was tortured and killed at Burnt House Farm in Tabley, close to junction 19 of the M6. The court heard he was hung upside down by his ankles and beaten, strangled and burnt in front of his family for hours on end at the cannabis farm where he worked.
A Home Office post-mortem investigation of Mr Waters recorded a cause of death of multiple injuries, including fractured ribs, a broken nose and breastbone, a bleed on the brain and bruising to the heart.
Evidence of strangulation was also found, while he had suffered burns to his back from a “caustic substance”. He had also been attacked using the staple gun across his head and body.
Farm worker Suleman Razak, who survived the four-hour ordeal, was also tied up and suspended from rafters before being beaten, and dropped in barrels of liquid.
The pair were also burned with melting plastic and were assaulted with a metal bar.
Police photos from the scene show a green barrel filled with dirty water, which is believed to have been used to submerge Mr Waters’ head, and a blue rope which is still attached to the rafters, from which Mr Waters was hung.
The court heard the killing was carried out because of a £20,000 drugs debt owed to John Wilson, who has already been convicted of the murder along with two other men, Otis Matthews and James Raven.
When police arrived at the scene, following a call made from a phone box by Wilson’s driver David Moran, they found a bag containing cigarette ends, drinks bottles and even a bag of faeces which all had traces of More’s DNA.
The 43-year-old was arrested in 2019 in Malta, where he had been living under the name Andrew Lamb, after being on the list of Europe’s most wanted people.
In early 2020, he was extradited back to the UK and pleaded not guilty to murder as well as conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Mr Razak.
A jury in a previous trial, held at the same court earlier this year, then failed to reach a verdict.
Sentencing More on Friday, judge Sir Peter Openshaw described the case as one of “sadistic and gratuitous violence”.
He said: “The attacks on both men were more than an attempted extortion with menace. The sustained barbarity and sadism of the attack was intended to deliver a clear message not just to Brian Waters, but also to others, that if you crossed John Wilson, and failed to pay what he considered was due, there would be very serious consequences.”
The court heard Mr Waters was tortured for three hours before his death and suffered 123 external injuries during the ordeal.
The attack happened front of his daughter Natalie, who had just turned 21, and son Gavin, then 25, while his wife, Julie, was whisked away from their home in Nantwich and driven to the farm.
In a statement read to the court, Ms Waters said: “Every single day I have memories of what happened flash into my head.
“Whenever I think about my dad and try and remember happy childhood memories I always see the image of him sitting in the chair in the barn, suffering.”
Gavin and Mrs Waters were in the public gallery of court for the sentencing.
More, who used his surveillance and investigative skills to track down Mr Waters’ cannabis farm, fled to Spain two days after the killing.
He claimed he had befriended drug dealer John Wilson, one of three men already convicted of the murder, because he thought he could sell a story on him being a police informant to the media.
He thought he might lead him to a cannabis farm which he could film for a Dispatches documentary, he said.
He was one of Europe’s most wanted criminals when he was arrested in 2019.
Sir Peter said: “I have no doubt that going on the run for 16 years, with warrants for his arrest in force, is a seriously aggravating factor.
“During all that time the family of Brian Waters – and indeed Suleman Razak – were denied justice.”
During his trial, More, who had done undercover TV work including with journalist Donal McIntyre, claimed he had befriended Wilson because he planned to sell a story on him being a police informant and thought he may lead him to a cannabis farm he could film for a Dispatches documentary.