‘Callous’ killer tortured and murdered pensioner who refused to give up PIN number

A crack cocaine addict who murdered a pensioner has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

John Swannack, 59, was given a life sentence at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday (March 15) for the murder of 79-year-old Bill Howard in Accrington, Lancashire, last August, a police spokesman said.

Lancashire Police officers were called to Mr Howard’s flat on James Street just before 2pm on August 28 and found him with serious head injuries and a number of stab wounds.

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A force spokesman said Mr Howard, who was pronounced dead at the scene, had been subjected to a sustained attack, including having accelerant poured on him.

Police said Mr Howard was last seen alive on August 24 and later that day Swannack was captured on CCTV leaving the pensioner’s property with a black bin bag and walking stick.



Undated handout photo issued by Lancashire Police of John Swannack, 59.

Investigations led the police to Swannack, a known killer who was already on license for life after being convicted of killing a friend with an iron bar in a fight and a gun point robbery which left a garage cashier in fear for her life.

In the summer of 2021, Swannack befriended a number of vulnerable residents in the Accrington area and tricked them into handing over their bank details, reports Lancs Live.

When Mr Howard refused to give the killer his PIN number he was tortured and killed in a frenzied knife attack. One of the many wounds to his chest penetrated his heart.

By 6pm Swannack was using Mr Howard’s bank card to buy vodka and groceries. He spent just £150 before the card was declined two days later.

Despite the agony he was in, Mr Howard never handed over his PIN, and defensive injuries to his arms and hands showed he tried to fight off the killer.

Mr Howard’s brother Jack said: “Everyone who knew Bill knew what a kind and gentle man he was. I don’t think he had a bad bone in his body.

“Bill wouldn’t hurt a fly and I don’t think he had ever had a fight in his life.

“Bill has done nothing whatsoever to deserve what happened to him, he was just living a peaceful life and spent his days quietly going about his own business.”

Swannack also withdrew money from the accounts of a vulnerable housebound former neighbor and a man with speech and mobility issues, whose wallet he stole, police said.

He pleaded guilty to murder, two thefts and three frauds in January.

DCI Allen Davies said: “Swannack is a callous and manipulative individual who deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable people so he could rip them off to fuel his expensive crack cocaine habit.

“Bill Howard couldn’t have been more different. He was a kind, quiet, unassuming man, who lived a simple life without bothering anybody. I cannot and do not want to imagine what he went through in the final hours of his life at the wicked hands of Swannack.

Joanna White for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “John Swannack ruthlessly targeted vulnerable people and was prepared to go to any lengths, including torturing and killing a man for pocket money.

“We worked closely with Lancashire Police to build a robust prosecution case, which included the examination of many hours of CCTV footage.

“When faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, John Swannack was left with no other option than to plead guilty to all the offenses he faced.”

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