Elderly man found murdered in house near Colchester, Essex

Police have launched a manhunt after a pensioner in his 80s, described as the ‘sweetest man’ by neighbours, was found dead at a house in an Essex village.

The victim, named locally this afternoon as Donald Ralph, 83, is thought to have been murdered in a burglary gone wrong at his bungalow in Aldham, near Colchester. 

Sources suggested that his shotgun and his blue Volvo car on his driveway may have been stolen in the suspected raid. It is believed there were signs that he had been beaten.

Retired farm worker Mr Ralph is believed to have lived alone at the house 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.

Officers, who were all wearing face masks, remained at the scene today, 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.

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 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.

One local said: ‘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 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.

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

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

‘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.

‘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.’

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’

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.’

An Essex Police statement said: ‘Detectives have launched a murder investigation after being called to a property in Aldham.

‘We were called to a house on Halstead Road shortly after 1pm on Tuesday December 29 following reports that a man inside the property was unresponsive.

‘Sadly, the victim, a man in his 80s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

‘We are keen to hear from anyone who was in the area from 3pm on Monday December 28, and may have witnessed anything suspicious.

‘We’d also like to hear from anyone who has doorbell footage, dashcam footage or CCTV in the local area.’

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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