THE LAYABOUT IN THE LOFT

by Peter Stubley

Daniel Dighton was a crime-obsessed fantasist who never really grew up.

When sober he was as quiet and withdrawn as a shy schoolboy, only able to make conversation with adults about football.

Dighton never had a proper girlfriend and his sexual experiences were limited to a brief fling with a friend’s former partner and visits to a prostitute during a family holiday to Thailand.

Ashamed of his sexual inadequacy, he drank heavily at his local pub, The Folly, in Selsdon Road, south Croydon where he was known to spin incredible yarns after drinking Jack Daniels and coke.

Dighton was thought by regulars  to be an ‘intellectual’, a gentle giant and a ‘nice bloke.’

He was given the name ‘Duckfish’ – a reference to the card player ‘Devilfish’ – because always lost money at poker.

Members of his card school were completely unaware he lived at home with his parents and had a lower than average IQ.

Dighton dismally failed to match the successful teaching careers of his former headmaster father Barry, 61, and mother Elizabeth, 60.

He spent most of his days lying in bed, watching TV programmes about notorious killers and pilfering alcohol from their drinks cabinet.

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC told jurors: ‘He had struggled to make anything of himself and although his parents loved their son dearly they worried about him. Perhaps he felt their disappointment in him.

‘Away from his parents he had another life altogether. To his friends he was something of a personality.

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Victim…Barry Dighton

‘There was however an element of fantasy about this. He was also capable of telling whopping lies.’

HAND AND FOOT

Dighton’s parents tried their best to help their only child and were said to wait on him ‘hand and foot’.

They set him up with his own flat but he was forced to move back home after his mother ended going round every day to tidy up and collect his washing.

He was also given a job at the prep school, first as a caretaker and then as a teaching assistant.

But in 2008 he decided his dream was to go travelling, and signed up for an online course to teach English in Thailand.

Even though he was not guaranteed a place after finishing his course, he resigned from his school job at the end of the summer term.

On his final day there was a leaving presentation held for him and he showed friends pictures of the flat he would be living in.

But his parents’ fears were confirmed when he found out that Thailand only accepted teachers with degree qualifications.

Determined not to lose face with his friends at the Folly, Dighton pretended he still had a job to go to and they threw a leaving part for him on July 12.

To back up his lies he sent them texts about the weather in Thailand and boasted of having a girlfriend.

FAKE SUNTAN

Four weeks later Dighton unexpectedly turned up at the pub with a fake suntan and claimed he had to come back early because his mother had died.

His mother later moaned to his grandmother than he had bronzed himself so much the sheets were stained brown.

Dighton sobbed as he informed regulars them there would a funeral service in Shirley in Croydon and a wake at Coombe Lodge on August 10 and invited them to attend.

The regulars held a whip round to buy Dighton a wreath but were unable to find the right church to deliver it.

A group of friends from The Folly then travelled to Coombe Lodge but found there was no booking in the name of Dighton.

That night Dighton turned the pub in a dark suit and told his friends it had ‘gone as well as could be expected.’

He said he would be returning to Thailand the next day and later sent a text message to a friend claiming it was ’80 degrees and he was off to see his girlfriend’.

Two weeks later Dighton returned to The Folly claiming that the job was not what he expected and he had given it up.

His mother was aware of some of the lies but had no idea he was using her death as an excuse for being in England.

‘A LARGE NICE WOMAN’

Dighton described his parents as ‘more jazz than rock and roll’ and his mum as a ‘large, nice woman, bubbly, slightly nervous’.

According to uncle David Dighton, ‘Liz got a bit frustrated with Daniel’s failure to take responsibility for himself.’

His father Barry, was worried that his son did not have any ‘drive’ and had to make sure the school sent his P45 so Daniel could claim benefits.

He said in an email to the bursar at Elmhurst: ‘His dream has burst and he is reluctant to do anything.’

Rather than find a job, Daniel Dighton spent his days sleeping in late before heading to the pub at 4pm to drink Jack Daniels and coke until closing time.

He also began stealing his parents’ money from their wallets and raiding their drinks cabinet, forcing them to leave a notes among the bottles stating: ‘Please don’t take any more of our drinks Danny.’

At lunchtime on September 29, mother, father and son took grandmother Olive Dighton our for lunch at the local Harvester pub.

During the meal Barry discovered that £80 had gone missing from his wallet and all eyes turned to Daniel, who pretended not to notice.

Olive said in a statement: ‘I suspected Daniel had taken the money because this had been a problem for quite some time.

‘Barry and Elizabeth kept their cash locked up at home because Daniel had taken money in the past.

PLAYING POKER

‘Liz suspected that Daniel had been involved in playing poker. If he was I suspect he could have been taken to the cleaners.’

It may be that Dighton snapped after his parents finally confronted him about his lies, his fantasy life and the missing money.

He told Dr Peter Stephens that his mother was angry because he hadn’t packed for their family holiday to France and had lay in bed nursing a hangover.

When he told his mother he had been out late the previous night she asked: ‘Where are you getting the money?’ and then added: ‘F***ing idiot’ as she walked away.

Mr Dighton said followed her saying: ”What did you say?”

He was to tell a psychologist: ”I don’t know what it was but I went crazy.”’

He stabbed his mother 28 times.

When she screamed and begged ‘What are you doing Daniel, I love you’, he replied: ‘I know, I love you too.’

His father tried to intervene but was stabbed four times and slumped back on to an armchair in the living room.

IN THE ATTIC

Dighton then ran upstairs to the attic and smoked cigarettes until the police arrived in response to a neighbour’s 999 call.

Detectives later found he had written a ‘Poem for mum’ which began: ‘I love you. My heart is full of love that is true. You tore my world apart, what do I do?’

At around 12.15pm neighbour Suzanne Hall heard a woman screaming ‘Barry, Barry’ and ‘no, no’ and called the emergency services.

She also heard a male voice making a ‘growling noise’ and some banging before everything fell silent.

Police arrived within minutes and found Mr Dighton slumped in an armchair in the living room and his wife lying on the floor. Two bloodstained knives were in a carrier bag nearby.

Officers followed a trail of blood from the lounge, along the hallway, in to Dighton’s single room and up a set of stairs leading to the loft which had partly been adapted in to an office.

Dighton was hiding behind the chimney breast smoking a cigarette.

The layabout’s fantasies continued at Highdown Prison, where he offered £10,000 to his cellmate – a convicted fraudster – to help him feign insanity.

He wrote in a letter: ‘After I KMP [killed my parents] I felt a kind of relief. I never had this kind of satisfaction before. Joy. I will not let them get to my mind.

‘When I thought of KMP I resisted, but then no, it had to be done to better my future in every way.’

‘IT’S NOT IMMORAL’

Another read: ‘You said you would never engage in KMP plan but you are not me and believe me if you think about it it’s not an immoral or bad plan, it’s just a thought process.

‘But the way I did it is the best. Stop doubting me.’

He also wrote a series of letters to an unknown woman called ‘Cassie’ about claiming his parents’ inheritance.

One said: ‘Dear Beloved. I remember the good times we had together especially in Thailand. I hope we will go back again and fulfill our dreams.

‘I am waiting to see the psychiatrist who will make a report in my favour and they cannot stop me from coming out.

‘When I come out we will have everything we ever wanted. No financial worries. It’s just a matter of time.

‘Stop worrying about my parents. We are better off without them anyway.

‘They won’t be able to do anything once we have the report from the shrink. I spoke to the solicitor about the inheritance and all of it comes to me.’

But Dighton had revealed the truth about the killings as he was led away from the scene by police.

He told the officer: ‘It is just an argument that got out of hand. I don’t normally lose my rag like that. I wish I could turn back time.’

THE VOICE OF A CHILD

PC Michael Matthews said: ‘His voice appeared like that of a child who had done something wrong.’

While he was on trial Dighton occupied his time in the dock by reading a book called ‘1001 Ridiculous Ways to Die.

Dighton was cleared of murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He stared blankly as he was jailed for at least 15 years.

Judge Timothy Pontius passed an indefinite imprisonment for public protection for what he described as ‘an appalling act of deeply horrifying savagery.’

The judge told Dighton: ‘The full horror of your actions that day and the devastating consequences to the rest of your family are likely to remain with you very heavily on your conscience throughout the rest of your life.

‘This is not a case of an ill-treated child, unloved and neglected for years finally snapping after years of endless mental and physical abuse.

‘Rather, the evidence demonstrate that yours was always a loving and close knit family.

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Arrest…Dighton is led away

‘Your parents were affectionate, generous and caring to the extent you were regarded by some as a spoiled child.

‘Both were thoroughly decent people much loved by the family and friends, highly regarded and deeply respected by their colleagues.

‘They provided you with all a child could expect and wish for in the way of education, material comfort, affection and encouragement in life.

‘YOU FELL SHORT OF THEIR EXPECTATION’

‘You undoubtedly lacked their motivation and self-confidence and no doubt fell short of their expectation.

‘It seems you simply lost enthusiasm and preferred to lead an indolent life, content to remain at home supported by your parents.

‘It is hardly surprising your parents felt at the end of their tether when they returned from shopping to find you only just getting out of bed.

‘What then happened must remain unclear. The only available account is yours to which I am unable to attach very much credibility.

‘What is clear is that unprovoked and wholly unjustified you picked up two knives and used them repeatedly to stab your parents until both were dead.

‘Whether prompted by your mother’s words and actions I don’t know. Even if she had reprimanded you and thrown a book at you, her understandable frustration cannot justify your ferocious attack.

‘Plainly you have no mental disorder which would justify detention in hospital for treatment. Prison is the only realistic course open to me.

‘I must conclude that your future behaviour remains wholly unpredictable.

‘For someone without obvious violent tendencies in the past it is the very nature of these offences which requires me to impose an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment.

‘I must leave it to the parole board to decide when you can safely be released.’

Dighton has already spent 385 days in custody.

‘THE LOSS SUFFERED BY US ALL’

His uncle David Dighton said in an impact statement read out in court: ‘No words can convey the hurt, devastation and loss that has been suffered by us all.

‘We are a large, close family and it has devastated us and it will continue to affect us all, none more so than our mother who although being 93 years of age is fully independent.

‘Barry and Liz were her main life. It is devastating for her, she is bereft, especially given the circumstances with Daniel’s involvement, their only child on whom they lavished so much love and care.

‘The loss and impact goes beyond our own family because of their involvement and complete dedication to their work with children.’

Joel Bennathan QC, defending, said: ‘The person who above all depended on the love, guidance and support of Barry and Elizabeth Dighton was this defendant.

‘For the rest of his life he will have to live knowing he has destroyed a significant part of his own life.’

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