A MAN who battered a neighbour senseless before setting his caravan on fire with him inside has been jailed for life for a minimum of 25 years.

Darren Smith, 43, attacked 52-year-old Richard Grenfell Thomas at the Beeches Residential Caravan Park in Magor near Caldicot, where they both lived, in the early hours of December 20, 2021, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

The two had been drinking in the victim’s caravan when a row began and Smith violently assaulted his neighbour.

He then deliberately started a fire with petrol which he knew Mr Thomas was incapable of escaping from.

A neighbour who saw the blaze rushed to the victim’s aid and raised the alarm, but he died of his injuries in hospital that night.

Smith denied murder, claiming Mr Thomas - known to friends as Shrew - had started the blaze himself after a drunken fight between the two, but was convicted after a two and a half week trial last November.

Detective Chief Superintendent Nicky Brain of Gwent Police said after today’s sentencing: “Darren Smith has shown no remorse for his crime and actively tried to mislead officers as they investigated the circumstances of Richard Thomas’s death.

“The catalogue of evidence gathered by the investigation team and presented to the jury ultimately led to Smith being found guilty. 

“During this trial the family have heard distressing details about their loved ones’ death and our thoughts remain with them. I hope the conclusion of the case brings them some closure.”

The family of Richard Thomas released a statement following today’s sentencing, which said: “Richard was a much-loved son, father, brother, brother-in-law, nephew, cousin, uncle, and a fond, firm friend to many, locally and much further afield.

“No one can adequately put into words the disbelief, pain and anguish we have suffered as a family following Richard's death, a horrific period of our lives that is with us daily and will stay with us for the remainder of our days. We’ve no doubt the effects will last for several generations of the Thomas family.

“Richard’s untimely passing has left us broken, the man responsible will never be able to comprehend the impact that his actions and moronic behaviour is having on our family and Richard’s many friends.

“Our lives will never be the same again. There is but a modicum of comfort in the knowledge that this violent and dangerous individual is behind bars and will not be able to inflict the pain and heartbreak we feel, on another soul.”