Man with ‘deep interest’ in extreme violence accused over cemetery hammer murder

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A man with a “deep interest” in extreme violence battered a man to death with a claw hammer in a cemetery, a court has heard.

Erik Feld, 37, allegedly hit Ranjith Kankanamalage repeatedly in the face and head in the early hours of the morning, leaving him with “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 the morning of August 16 2021.

Prosecutor Paul Cavin KC told jurors the injuries were so bad that paramedics at first thought they were gunshot wounds.

Jurors were told Feld had a long-standing interest in “extreme violence” which was revealed in a mental health assessment years before.

In 2017, the defendant allegedly told the assessor that he used to go out “with a hammer, screwdriver or razor blades, hoping to catch someone unawares … down alleys.”

He said he sometimes went out with a weapon “for example a hammer” in case an “opportunity presented itself”, the jury was told.

Mr Cavin said: “Obviously, the Crown say that is in fact what happened on the night in question.”

Feld was arrested on August 20 2021 as he was awaiting sentence for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the killing, the court was told.

He had produced the weapon after an argument with a security guard who suspected him of shoplifting, the court heard.

Following his arrest on suspicion of murder, a search of his home in Tower Hamlets, east London, uncovered two mallets and a sledge hammer in a hallway cupboard and a third mallet in a living room cupboard.

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

He was re-arrested in January 2022 after DNA results from bloodstained nail clippings from the left hand of the victim allegedly provided a match to the defendant.

In a fresh search of his flat, police found another hammer and a cut-throat razor by Feld’s pillow, the prosecution alleged.

Mr Cavin told jurors: “As well as the DNA match, by the time of his second arrest and interview technicians had managed to break into the defendant’s smartphone that had been seized back in August the year before, after his first arrest.

“A download of the contents indicated that the defendant had a deep interest in violence with the particular theme of attacks with hammers.

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

On August 4 and 5 2021, Feld had searched a particular website five times using the word “hammer”, with what the prosecutor said were disturbing results.

Outlining some of the material for jurors, Mr Cavin added: “If you put hammer into this website you do not get any search results as to where the nearest DIY store is.”

Old Bailey stock
Erik Feld appeared at the Old Bailey where he denied murder (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

Mr Cavin told jurors that while on remand at Belmarsh prison, Feld had “confessed” to the offence of a “random killing committed against an unknown man” in a letter handed to a prison officer.

In the note, Feld allegedly complained his prison wing was “irritating me to the extreme”, and wrote: “I’m fantasising killing one of these pieces of shit.”

Mr Cavin said that one of the first things investigators had done after Mr Kankanamalage’s body was found was to retrace his last movements on CCTV.

Officers established that he had left his home in nearby Whitechapel at about 10pm and taken a Tube from Aldgate East to Mile End.

At 3.55am he was picked up heading towards Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park where he met his violent end.

Mr Cavin told jurors it was not known why the victim had gone there at that time but it was not a question that mattered in relation to the case.

Camera footage also captured a figure – now accepted to be the defendant – walking away from the park at around 4.13am and later tracked to the road where Feld lived.

The prosecutor told jurors that Feld admitted the killing but claimed it was in “lawful self defence”.

In a defence statement, Feld claimed he had taken a hammer to “strike some trees in the park in the hope this would tire him, ease his tension and help him sleep”.

According to the defendant, he came across a man in the park and, thinking he was about to be attacked with a weapon, hit him to the back of the head with the hammer.

He claimed he swung out with the hammer several more times after he was pushed and pinned down on the ground as he was unable to “shake the man loose”.

After weakening the man’s grip, Feld said he pushed him off, got to his feet and ran towards the exit.

Mr Cavin suggested Feld’s version of events was “inherently unlikely because he has had to weave around the evidence against him”.

Just one of three severe hammer blows identified by the pathologist would have put the victim “out of action” and rendered him unconscious, he said.

The prosecutor added: “It would be an incredible coincidence that of all the people that the deceased happened to come across at 4am in an east London park – and apparently decided to attack – he had the misfortune to have chosen a man with an unhealthy interest in the infliction of extreme violence particularly with a hammer, and who by chance was armed with a hammer that night.”

Feld, of Tredegar Road, Tower Hamlets, has denied murder and the trial at the Old Bailey continues.

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