Man who murdered landlord with frying pan jailed for 21 years

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Zhulev struck his victim with a frying pan before tying his victims ankles. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Zhulev struck his victim with a frying pan before tying his victims ankles. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A MAN who murdered his landlord by battering him to death with a frying pan has been jailed for a minimum of 21 years.

Nikola Zhulev, 31, murdered Alan Gardner after the jeweller gave the homeless drifter a room in his home in Balbeggie, Perthshire in April 2015.

The Bulgarian citizen once claimed that Mr Gardner was “like a father” to him. But the heroin addict planned on taking Mr Gardner’s life shortly after moving into his home.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Thursday how Zhulev struck his victim with a frying pan before tying his victim’s ankles.

The criminal then wrapped Mr Gardner’s remains in a duvet and dug a grave in a bid to avoid detection for the crime.

• READ MORE: Lodger beat Perth landlord to death in planned attack

But police managed to find enough evidence to bring Zhulev to justice and a jury convicted him last month at the High Court in Livingston on charges of murder and attempting to defeat justice by disposing of evidence.

Sentence had been deferred until Thursday for the court to obtain a report on Zhulev’s character.

On Thursday, judge Lady Rae heard Zhulev’s defence advocate Mark Stewart QC say his client had expressed remorse for his actions to a court appointed social worker.

But Lady Rae refused to accept that the guilty man’s sorrow was genuine.

Jailing Zhulev for life, Lady Rae said: “I note that you appear to express some remorse to the social worker. However that is based on your wholly false account of what happened and I find it impossible to accept that a man who plans to kill a defenceless, vulnerable man after admittedly stealing from him is truly remorseful for his crime.

“You are clearly a deceitful, calculating and callous individual.

“In respect of charge one, the murder charge, there is only one sentence which I can impose and that is life imprisonment.”

During proceedings last month, jurors heard that Zhulev, who had a £100-a-day heroin habit, was living in Perth and working as a kitchen porter when he got to know Mr Gardner.

Zhulev failed to pay his rent and promised his landlord, who ran a jewellery business from home, that he would get money in a few days.

He then did a series of Internet searches on his phone, including “how dangerous is a hit to the head?”

After the killing, Zhulev tried to pawn jewellery and sell Mr Gardner’s car.

He later confessed his crimes to a friend.

During proceedings, jurors saw how a wound on Mr Gardner’s head bore the pattern from the base of a frying pan in the kitchen.

At the end of the 17-day trial, the jury at the High Court in Livingston took 90 minutes find Zhulev guilty of the two charges.

On Thursday, Mr Stewart told the court that his client had expressed sorrow for his actions during the interview for the report into his character.

• READ MORE: Police investigate ‘attempted murder’ of man in Fife

Mr Stewart added: “Mr Zhulev appears to be genuinely remorseful for his offending behaviour.”

However, Lady Rae said that evidence available to the court showed that Zhulev’s supposed claims of remorse weren’t genuine.

She added: “Having regard to the evidence led in this trial, I find your so-called explanation entirely incredible. This was, in my view, a planned premeditated killing.

You made a number of what I would describe as ‘chilling’ searches on the Internet, commencing four days after you moved in to the deceased’s home.

“In the course of these researches you sought information on various ways of causing injury or killing, including, use of a knife, breaking someone’s neck, hanging, blunt force injury to the head and finally suffocation.

“I sentence you to life imprisonment and in view of the nature of this killing, the surrounding circumstances all as disclosed in the evidence, the level of planning involved and your attempts at covering up your crime, the punishment part I intend to impose is 21 years.”

Lady Rae also imposed a two year sentence for the charge of attempting to defeat justice. This sentence will run concurrently with the murder sentence.

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