Lodger beat Perth landlord to death in planned attack

Nikola Jhulev bludgeoned Perthshire jeweller Alan Gardner to death with a heavy frying pan and stole from him in his home in Balbeggie. Picture: Google

Nikola Jhulev bludgeoned Perthshire jeweller Alan Gardner to death with a heavy frying pan and stole from him in his home in Balbeggie. Picture: Google

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A Bulgarian immigrant has been found guilty of murdering a man who befriended him and gave him a home.

Nikola Jhulev bludgeoned Perthshire jeweller Alan Gardner to death with a heavy frying pan and stole from him, the High Court at Livingston heard.

He then cocooned the body in a duvet in Mr Gardner’s Balbeggie bungalow, bought a spade from Homebase in Perth and dug a makeshift grave in the woods.

At the end of a 17-day trial the jury took just 90 minutes to return unanimous verdicts finding him guilty of murder and of attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Judge Lady Rae called for background reports and deferred sentence until 5 May.

She told the 31-year-old pizza chef: “This was on any view a cold, calculated killing of a vulnerable man, a man who gave you accommodation because you had nowhere to go.

“All you did was take advantage of him and then, when he was going to go to the police, you killed him. There can only be one sentence and that will be life when I deal with you.”

The prosecution case stated that Zhulev carried out the elaborately planned attack to rob Mr Gardner of money and valuables to pay for his £300 a week heroin habit.

The weekend Mr Gardner is thought to have been killed, he searched for ‘A hit on the head with blunt object’ and phrases such as ‘How dangerous is a hit to the head?’

He was staying at Mr Gardner’s home at 4 Croft Park, Balbeggie, when he made the sinister searches in the early hours of the morning. T

he prosecution said Mr Gardner was probably killed on Sunday 19 or Monday 20 April.

Police found his body on Friday, 24 April, in bed with a wound on his forehead imprinted with the pattern from the base of a 1.5 kilo frying pan recovered from the kitchen.

He then locked the house and put the landline handset and Mr Gardner’s mobile phones in a storage box in the garden so that even if Mr Gardner roused he couldn’t call for help.

He later bought a spade and dug a shallow grave in nearby woods to hide the body, but police found it first after the self-employed jeweler was reported missing by his worried family.

Zhulev confessed to a friend that he’d killed the father-of-one “in a panic” because Mr Gardner had found out he had stolen £50 from him and threatened to call the police.

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