‘Gentle’ pensioner tortured and murdered at home after refusing to give PIN code

John Swannack, 59, tricked vulnerable Accrington residents into handing over their banking details and killed Bill Howard, who refused to hand over his pin

John Swannack, 59, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 30 years in prison at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday
John Swannack, 59, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 30 years in prison at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday

A killer tortured and murdered a pensioner in a frenzied knife attack after he refused to hand over his pin number.

John Swannack, 59, will spend at least 30 years behind bars for the brutal murder of Bill Howard, 79, who was found collapsed on a sofa with severe head and chest injuries.

Despite the pain, Mr. Howard never turned over his PIN and the injuries to his hands and feet indicate he was trying to fend off the killer.

His apartment, in Accrington, Lancs, reeked of cleaning products and fly spray while his clothes were decorated in white.

Swannack is a known killer who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of killing a friend with an iron in a fight and a gun robbery, reports Lancs Live.

He attacked again last August, killing Mr Howard, whose brother alerted the police when the pensioner failed to show up at their usual rendezvous to go to the pub.

Pensioner Bill Howard was brutally killed


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His brother called the police when he didn’t show up at the pub



Judge Robert Altham said the puncture wounds to Mr Howard’s eyelids would have been “serious” and that he had clearly lost control, whether from restraint or fear.

In the summer of 2021, Swannack befriended some vulnerable residents of Accrington and tricked them into handing over their bank details.

But when Mr. Howard refused to give the killer’s PIN number, he was tortured and killed with one of his many penetrating chest wounds.

By 6pm, Swannack had used Mr Howard’s bank card to buy vodka and groceries and spent £150 on the card before it was declined two days later.

Further investigations revealed that Swannack also drugged a disabled man to steal his bank card. Another man was also used by the killer.

Young Bill Howard



Judge Robert Altham, Preston’s honorary registrar, upheld the verdict. He said: “This is clearly a murder of interest. There was gratuitous violence used to torture Mr. Howard.

“Mr. Howard is very vulnerable due to his age and infirmity. Defendant has prior convictions for murder and self-interest.”

A statement read on behalf of Jack, Bill’s brother said: “Bill and I grew up in a family of four brothers. I’m the oldest and Bill and I have always been the closest people throughout our childhood, a relationship that continued throughout our lives.

“Everyone who knows Bill knows what a kind and gentle man he is. I don’t think he has a bad skeleton in his body. He was never a person to endorse. Bill wouldn’t hurt a fly and I don’t think he’s ever had a fight in his life. Bill did anything to deserve what happened to him, he just lived a peaceful life and spent his days quietly about his own business.

“Unfortunately, Bill never had that easy in his life, none of which was his fault. His wife died at a young age, leaving Bill to raise his teenage son alone. Bill never remarried and worked hard to raise his son alone. We have tried to support him as best we can during this difficult time.

“Sadly, Bill suffered another tragedy when his son died at an early age. Bill, by this time, had moved to a nearby town, where he lived a simple life alone in his apartment.

“Even though we live miles apart, we still keep in touch. We will meet twice in a week in town. Bill will wait for me to sit on a bench.

“We would shake hands or fists and call each other ‘Amigo’, then walk down the street to the pub. We would sit together and just talk. We would chat about things and discuss things. concerns we face.

“I have never felt as alone with my problems as I have known [to] talk to Bill. We never argued about anything, if I said I didn’t like someone on TV Bill would say he didn’t like it either. Those good times are now gone.”

Swannack is a cocaine addict who keeps his habits secret from his wife, exploiting vulnerable people during the pandemic to make him addicted to Class A drugs.

Joanna White for CPS said: “John Swannack ruthlessly targeted vulnerable people and was ready to act at any time, including torturing and killing a man for pocket money.

“We worked closely with Lancashire Police to build a strong prosecution case, including examining hours of CCTV footage. When faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, John Swannack had no choice but to plead guilty to all the charges he faced.

“Our thoughts are still with Mr. Howard’s family and friends along with all those affected by John Swannack’s despicable actions.”

DCI Allen Davies, of the Force’s Primary Investigations Team, said: “Swannack is a callous and manipulative man, deliberately targeting the elderly, frail and vulnerable so he can tear them apart to destroy them. fueled his expensive cocaine crack habit.

“Bill Howard couldn’t be more different. He is a kind, quiet, humble man who lives a simple life that does not bother anyone. I cannot and do not want to imagine what he went through in the final hours of his life at the evil hands of Swannack.

“I welcome the verdict given by the Judge, which reflects the seriousness of Swannack’s offense and the danger he poses to vulnerable people in Hyndburn.

“However, my thoughts remain with Bill’s family, especially his brother Jack.

“I would like to commend my colleagues for their hard work and dedication in this unfortunate incident. Thanks to a high-quality investigation and overwhelming evidence, Swannack has no choice but to fully admit what he did. ”

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