A HALESOWEN man brutally battered a close friend to death in a town centre churchyard and stole his £1,000 gambling winnings - a court heard this week.

Father of three Paul Hadley suffered "colossal" head injuries in the attack in which he was repeatedly beaten with a metal object leaving his skull "fractured and fragmented."

Richard Latham QC prosecuting told Wolverhampton Crown Court Mr Hadley, a carer for a blind and deaf man and a known gambler and drinker, had earlier been "flashing" his winnings.

Mr Latham said: "He went into at least one bar where he was buying people drinks from a roll of cash."

He alleged the killer was 41-year-old carpet fitter Stuart Alsop who, after the killing last November, left flowers on railings outside St John the Baptist Church with a card which contained the message: "I don't know what I am going to do without you mate. You are the best mate anyone could have asked for."

Mr Latham told the jury police found a pair of bloodstained black shoes and trousers in the churchyard.

Forensic experts found they contained cellular material which matched Alsop's DNA.

The evidence proved Alsop was a "cunning" liar who, when confronted by detectives, chopped and changed his story, said Mr Latham.

Alsop told police he had been with his daughter at the time of the murder but CCTV proved he had been by the churchyard and after the murder had called a taxi to take him home.

The carpet fitter then got changed before going back into town where he joined his daughter and two friends for drinks.

The following morning he was seen watching police activity in the churchyard.

Mr Latham told the court when he was arrested, Alsop, of Worcester House, Hill Street, had £315 in his possession.

The day after his arrest detectives visited his daughter's home after discovering Alsop had been there on the night of the killing.

He had been in the bathroom and Alsop's former partner Jacqueline Grocutt, who lives with his daughter in Old Lane, Halesowen, said she realised the bathroom carpet had been tampered with and when she pulled it back she found £660 in £20 notes.

Police discovered one of the notes bore Mr Hadley's fingerprint.

Alsop, when questioned, said Mr Hadley, a divorcee who lived in Islington, Halesowen, had cleared a debt he owed him and had paid for work he was carrying out fitting new carpets in his flat.

Alsop denies murdering Mr Hadley and his trial, in front of Judge John Warner, is expected to last three weeks.