Homophobic attacker with hammer guilty of murder in cemetery

A homophobic man with a longstanding obsession with extreme violence has been found guilty of beating a man to death with a hammer in a dark graveyard.

Erik Feld, 37, hid in the shadows behind a monument in east London before pounced on an unarmed Ranjith Kankanamalage in the early hours of the morning, the Old Bailey heard.

Mr. Kankanamalage was struck 12 times on the face and head with the hammer, causing “catastrophic” injuries.

The 50-year-old victim was found by a member of the public on a path in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park later on August 16, 2021.

Jurors were told that Mr Kankanamalage was a regular visitor to the “creepy” cemetery, known as a “cruising” hotspot.

In Feld’s defense, it was suggested that the defendant took “the wrong end of the stick” and struck in self-defense after the victim’s “Gaydar missed” and he made a pass.

During cross-examination, the defendant went on an astonishing homophobic tirade about the victim, who has family in Sri Lanka and had a relationship in Britain.

Subsequently, prosecutor Paul Cavin KC told the jury that Feld had “dark places in his soul” that “were not in the darkest corners but very close to the surface”.

He said: “The extraordinary homophobic outburst is obviously something you won’t forget.”

Regarding the motive for the murder, the prosecutor said: “Was he going there because he knew that there would be people there that he could attack? Was he going there to attack someone who thought he might be gay? Who knows.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that prior to that night, he had a serious, deep-rooted and longstanding interest in extreme violence with the use of a hammer and that was an impulse that could have been visited, perhaps, by anyone. ”.

The Old Bailey jury deliberated for three hours and 23 minutes to unanimously find Feld guilty of murder.

Judge Bryan deferred sentencing in order for a psychiatric report to be prepared on the defendant who has a personality disorder.

Previously, Cavan had recounted how Feld’s interest in extreme violence first emerged during a mental health assessment in 2017.

The defendant revealed that he used to go out “with a hammer, a screwdriver or razor blades, hoping to catch someone off guard… in the alleys.”

He said he would sometimes go out with a weapon “for example, a hammer” in case an “opportunity” presented itself.

Feld was arrested on August 20, 2021 while awaiting sentencing for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the murder.

A search of his home in Tower Hamlets, east London, uncovered two sledgehammers and a sledgehammer in a hallway cupboard, and a third sledgehammer in a sitting room cupboard.

Feld was released on bail after refusing to speak to officers or provide access to his mobile phone, jurors heard.

He was arrested again in January 2022 after his DNA was found in blood-stained nail clippings from the victim’s left hand.

In a further search of his apartment, police found another hammer and a razor next to Feld’s pillow.

Cavin told the jury that the contents of the defendant’s smartphone revealed his “deep interest in violence with the particular subject of hammer attacks.”

He said: “In the weeks leading up to August 16, he repeatedly visited websites containing videos of people being attacked with hammers, some of whom were beaten to death.”

An analyst also recovered two photographs of Feld posing with a claw hammer.

While remanded at Belmarsh Prison, Feld had “confessed” to the crime of “random murder committed against an unknown male” in a letter delivered to a corrections officer.

In the note, Feld complained that his prison wing was “irritating me to the extreme,” writing: “I’m fantasizing about killing one of these pieces of shit.”

Police also tracked the victim’s latest movements on CCTV, following him from his home in Whitechapel until his last sighting at 3:55am in the direction of the cemetery.

Camera footage also captured the defendant walking from the cemetery at around 4:13 a.m. on his way home after the murder.

Giving evidence at his trial, Feld claimed that he had taken up the hammer to hit trees to relieve stress.

He described being drawn to “creepy” gothic places, saying: “I decided to challenge myself, to walk in the dark.

“I kept looking over my shoulder, not expecting to see anyone.”

When he encountered the victim, he got scared of being attacked and hit him on the back of the head with the hammer, jurors were told.

He claimed that he struck with the hammer several more times after he was pinned to the ground.

His lawyer, Isabella Forshall KC, described him as a sad man “cut off” from society who fantasized about “being happy and normal”.

She told the jury: “Mr. Feld has walked into a scary place, he’s lost his way. It is night.

“He did not know why Mr. Kankanamalage was coming and Mr. Kankanamalage reasonably believed that Mr. Feld was there for the same reason.

“The only way the antisocial Mr. Feld can explain this to himself is that it’s the start of a physical attack.”

She told the jury that the defendant did not hit Mr. Kankanamalage because he was a “homophobe” but because he “had the wrong end of the stick”.

However, Mr Cavin dismissed Feld’s version of events as “inherently improbable”, noting that a single blow from the hammer would have incapacitated the victim.

Jurors were not told Feld had 10 prior convictions for 18 crimes between 2002 and Aug. 19, 2021, including criminal mischief, sexual assault, assault and possession of an offensive weapon.


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