Elderly man found murdered in house near Colchester, Essex

Police are hunting for a killer believed to have murdered a retired farm worker in ‘a targeted incident’ at his Essex bungalow before making off with the victim’s ‘shotgun’ and Volvo.

Donald Ralph, 83, is thought to have been murdered at his bungalow in Aldham, near Colchester – with his body discovered by a neighbour on Tuesday afternoon. 

Detectives confirmed that Mr Ralph’s blue Volvo V50 was missing from his home. It is believed there were signs that he had been beaten.

Officers refused to confirm or deny if a shotgun had been stolen, as neighbours claim, saying only that checks were being made to establish if anything else was missing.  

Retired farm worker Mr Ralph is believed to have lived alone at the £450,000 house in the idyllic Essex village for at least 40 years. 

A neighbour who had become concerned about him raised the alarm after finding his body in his home at around 1pm on Tuesday.

A pensioner, named locally as Donald Ralph, is thought to have been murdered in a burglary gone wrong at his bungalow in Aldham, Essex

A pensioner, named locally as Donald Ralph, is thought to have been murdered in a burglary gone wrong at his bungalow in Aldham, Essex

A pensioner, named locally as Donald Ralph, is thought to have been murdered in a burglary gone wrong at his bungalow in Aldham, Essex

Police are awaiting the results of a Home Office post mortem examination to establish how Mr Ralph died. 

Today officers, who were all wearing face masks, remained at the scene with the property sealed off with police tape.

One was seen carrying out a search among rubbish at the side of the bungalow near to a lean-to which appeared to be surrounded with weeds.

Police forensic officers in white suits were today searching his concrete-rendered bungalow beside the busy main road between Colchester and Halstead.

Other officers stood guard alongside the cordoned off property and in the rear garden.

Two plastic sheets held down by pieces of rock were visible on the path leading to the front door of the bungalow.

Police remain at the bungalow today, after Mr Ralph was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday afternoon

Police remain at the bungalow today, after Mr Ralph was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday afternoon

Police remain at the bungalow today, after Mr Ralph was pronounced dead at the scene on Tuesday afternoon

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Egerton, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘We are supporting Mr Ralph’s family at this distressing time and would like to thank residents for the support they have given his family, as well as the help they have given our officers.

‘We are progressing our enquiries and from the information we have gained so far, we believe this was a targeted incident.

‘It has been established that Mr Ralph’s car, a blue Volvo V50 registration plate HD08 YFV, is missing and we are continuing enquiries to locate it. We are also checking if anything else is missing from his property.

‘We’d like to speak to anyone who has seen Mr Ralph’s car, or was in the Aldham area between about 3pm on Monday December 28 and 1pm on Tuesday December 29, and saw anyone acting suspiciously, or has dash cam or CCTV footage.’ 

One local said: ‘We’re all just stunned at the moment and trying to get our head around what’s happened.

Police wearing face masks remained at the scene today, with the property sealed off to the public

Police wearing face masks remained at the scene today, with the property sealed off to the public

Police wearing face masks remained at the scene today, with the property sealed off to the public

The bungalow is thought to be worth around £450,000 - sources claim the police are searching for Mr Ralph's blue Volvo that was allegedly stolen from the property

The bungalow is thought to be worth around £450,000 - sources claim the police are searching for Mr Ralph's blue Volvo that was allegedly stolen from the property

The bungalow is thought to be worth around £450,000 – sources claim the police are searching for Mr Ralph’s blue Volvo that was allegedly stolen from the property

‘It’s hard to believe there’s been a murder here in Aldham of all places.

‘I just feel for his family, they must be struggling to understand what’s happened.’

A relative who asked not to be named, choked back tears as he said: ‘I’d like ten minutes with the b****** who did it, that’s what I’d really like.

‘I don’t know why anybody would want to do this. It is beyond my wildest, wildest nightmares.

‘To think there are people in this world who would do something like this. He did various jobs and had been alone for 40 or 50 years.

Neighbours paid tribute to the pensioner, saying the attack was 'beyond my wildest, wildest nightmares'

Neighbours paid tribute to the pensioner, saying the attack was 'beyond my wildest, wildest nightmares'

Neighbours paid tribute to the pensioner, saying the attack was ‘beyond my wildest, wildest nightmares’

‘He was very happy. He was just a lovely man and I loved him. His car has gone and we don’t know why.

‘I had not seen him so often recently because of Covid because he was in a bubble with other relatives. They looked after him and took him round his Christmas dinner.

‘He was just an ordinary fellow living his ordinary life. You hear about this sort of thing in the worse kind of drug-crazed places, but it just doesn’t happen in the countryside.’

Mr Ralph is thought to have been married many years ago and had no children.

A neighbour said: ‘He was the sweetest man and had a heart of gold.’

Another neighbour said today: ‘I last saw him before Christmas when he was going out in his car and waved to say hello as usual. He was just a good old boy.’

‘When I went to take some stuff to my potting shed at around 7am yesterday (Tuesday), I saw his light was on which was very unusual. It registered in my head that Don was up early.’

Police were called out to the bungalow in Halstead Road on Tuesday afternoon. They are appealing for witnesses who may have been in the area on Monday

Police were called out to the bungalow in Halstead Road on Tuesday afternoon. They are appealing for witnesses who may have been in the area on Monday

Police were called out to the bungalow in Halstead Road on Tuesday afternoon. They are appealing for witnesses who may have been in the area on Monday

Anther villager added: ‘I was told that his shotgun was missing along with his car. The police need to find his car and hopefully that will lead them to whoever killed him.

‘I don’t know whether he died when he was attacked or if he was left with injuries and died later.’

A woman who lives nearby said: ‘I knew him as Don. He was quite a keen countryman and was keen on shooting. He used to do rough shooting on local land.

‘I wouldn’t say he was a loner, but he was always alone. It is quite a shock to hear what has happened

‘We used to say hello to each there when he walked past my house and I was in my garden. He also used to have a spaniel dog.

‘The last time I saw him was the day before Christmas Eve when I was going out to post a letter and I saw him driving off towards Colchester in his pale blue Volvo.’

One villager believes the pensioner's car and shotgun were taken during the incident

One villager believes the pensioner's car and shotgun were taken during the incident

One villager believes the pensioner’s car and shotgun were taken during the incident

Another local resident added: ‘We’re all just stunned at the moment and trying to get our head around what’s happened.

‘It’s hard to believe there’s been a murder here in Aldham of all places.

‘I just feel for his family, they must be struggling to understand what’s happened.’ 

A police statement added: ‘We are continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a man in Aldham.

‘We were called to a house in Halstead Road shortly after 1pm on Tuesday 29 December following reports that a man had sadly been found deceased inside. He has been named by Essex Police as Donald Ralph, 83, from Aldham.

We are awaiting the results of a post mortem examination to establish the cause of Mr Ralph’s death.’  

Anyone with information about is asked to contact the Essex Police Major Crime Team on 101 quoting incident 512 of December 29 or email. 

Information can also be given anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111. 

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