Former soldier denies murder of 83-year-old grandfather in East Harling

Peter Wrighton, 83, from Banham near East Harling.
Peter Wrighton, 83, from Banham near East Harling.

A former soldier has pleaded not guilty to stabbing an 83-year-old grandfather to death.

Alexander Palmer, 23, appeared via video link at Norwich Crown Court today, charged with the murder of Peter Wrighton.

The retired BT engineer was found dead in woodland near the village of East Harling, Norfolk, on August 5.

A Home Office post mortem found the grandfather, from Banham, had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck and head.

Palmer, who was dressed in a blue, short sleeved T shirt, spoke only to state his plea and thank Judge Stephen Holt during the short six-minute hearing.

He was remanded in custody at HMP Belmarsh to stand trial at Norwich Crown Court on February 12 next year.

Adjourning the case, Judge Holt said: “Mr Palmer, I have to give you one formal warning that all which all defendants who are in custody get, which is for you to give as much information as you possibly can to your legal team.”

Mr Wrighton’s body was found by another dog owner, 50 yards from where he had parked his red Skoda Fabia at Harling Woods.

His dogs, Dylan and Gemma, were found near his body which was so badly injured, it was initially thought he had been attacked by an animal.

Paramedics raced to the wood, but Mr Wrighton was declared dead at the scene.

His nine-year-old Scarteen Harrier and 13-year-old Trailhound cross, were found unharmed near the pensioner’s body.

A manhunt, involving more than 100 officers was launched after a pathologist ruled Mr Wrighton had died from “incised” wounds.

His wife Ann, 76, described Peter, originally from North London, who volunteered for the Dogs Trust, as a “lovely, gentle husband, dad and grandfather”.

His family also paid tribute to the 83-year-old’s “kind nature” and his “love of walking his dogs and chatting with people to pass the time of day”.

It’s understood the couple, who had been married for 59 years, moved to the area 30 years ago after Peter retired from his 35-year career with British Telecom.

Palmer, from Cringleford, who served in the Army for five years until 2015, was remanded in custody until his trial next year.