Did revenge mob murder man accused of snatching a girl of 14 Probe launched after 32-year-old is found dead days after appearing at courtJohn Roberts was accused of abducting a 14-year-old girlHis body was found by police at his Gateshead home on Sunday
He did not enter a plea during Thursday's hearing in NewcastleHis lawyer said he would be entering a guilty plea
23:27 GMT, 17 December 2012
'Murdered': John Roberts, 32, was found dead at his home three days after appearing court
A loner was battered to death in his home after he appeared in court accused of abducting a young girl, police have said.
John Roberts, 32, suffered fatal head injuries during the attack in his home on a run-down estate.
Detectives are investigating the possibility that his murder was connected to the allegation against him. They are also examining his lifestyle and associates.
Neighbours described Roberts as ‘an oddball’ whose home was often visited by teenage children.
One said he was a drug dealer who had been seen handing things to youngsters from his front door.
His body was found by police on Sunday evening. The last confirmed sighting of him was last Thursday.
Roberts had appeared in Newcastle Crown Court over the alleged abduction of a girl of 14 on September 15 and his barrister indicated he would be entering a guilty plea.
The neighbours also claimed that he was known for selling counterfeit cigarettes and fake replica football shirts.
One of them, mother-of-four Nikki Hodgson, 38, said: ‘He was called Badge, because of the fake Newcastle United badge on his T-shirts.
'He was not a nice man. I did not like living across the road from him and I didn’t want him anywhere near my children.
‘He was a drug dealer. I have seen him giving drugs to teenagers. You often saw them knocking on his door and him handing them things.’
She said Roberts had removed the downstairs floorboards from his two-bedroom house in the Winlaton area of Gateshead.
‘I went round one day and when he opened the door, his head only just popped up above the bottom of the door frame,’ she added. ‘It was bizarre.
‘He lived entirely on the first floor. I’m not surprised something like this has happened, I’m only surprised it didn’t happen sooner.’
Search begins: Roberts was found dead at his terraced house just after 6pm on Sunday
Goodbye: Tributes were left at the home of the distinctive-looking Roberts, who was well known in the area
Gemma Ellis, a tourism and travel
student at Newcastle College who lived opposite Roberts, said: ‘He was a
bit of a loner. He was nice enough, but there was something a bit odd
‘There were a few people at his house quite often, they were of a similar age to him, maybe a bit younger.
‘You would often see him sitting
outside his house speaking to people who were passing. He hung around
with people who were in trouble with the police.
‘You kind of expected something to
happen, although perhaps nothing as serious as this. Young girls would
come and go from his house. They were maybe 17 or 18.’
Crime scene: He was found dead with head injuries after a hearing over whether he abducted a 14-year-old
Another neighbour, who did not wish
to be named, said: ‘There had been rumours going round that he had been
involved in an abduction.
'He was known to be seen with young girls in his house.
‘He would also hang around with undesirables.’
A section of the street has been
cordoned off by police since Sunday night and forensic scientists were
seen entering Roberts’ home yesterday.
Vanished: Roberts had not been seen since the day of his court appearance in Newcastle
Later a white tent was erected outside the run-down terrace house and two police cars were parked outside.
Lakhvir Kaur, 32, who works part time
at a nearby newsagents, said: ‘He was not very clean. His clothes were
ripped and he had long hair.’
Detectives are appealing for anyone
with any information to contact them by calling Northumbria Police on
101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Detective Chief Inspector Christina
Barrett said: ‘Officers discovered John Roberts’ body inside his home
address on Sunday evening.
Investigation: A white tent was set up outside the run-down terraced house while police conducted inquiries
'His last confirmed sighting was on Thursday, December 13, and we need to trace his whereabouts since that day. We are keen to speak to anyone who
may have see Mr Roberts or spoken to him since Thursday, or anyone with
any information that could help us track his movements since he was last
'He is well known in the local area and quite distinctive looking due to his long hair and long beard. If anyone thinks they may have seen him since Thursday then I’d ask them to contact us.
'We have extra officers in the Winlaton area carrying out inquiries and speaking to residents. If anyone has any concerns or information that they wish to pass on face to face to officers then please speak to them.'