Stepson admits South Yorkshire Christmas Eve killing

Blaze: Fire broke out after death of Andrew Massarella at Callender Court, Cantley
Blaze: Fire broke out after death of Andrew Massarella at Callender Court, Cantley
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A STEPSON with a violent past faces life imprisonment after strangling the man he once called ‘dad’ at a South Yorkshire flat.

Jay Griffiths, 26, pleaded guilty to murdering Andrew Massarella on Christmas Eve, 2011.

His mum Zena Hancock, 45, and great uncle Richard Denby, 62, could also be sent to jail after admitting attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the pair plotted to cover for Griffiths, who previously served a ‘lengthy custodial sentence for violence’, after he killed Mr Massarella at his home on Callender Court, Cantley, Doncaster.

Emergency services were later called to the flat after it caught fire in a blaze thought to have been caused by a cigarette end.

Firefighters said the cigarette butt was most likely to have been discarded accidentally by Mr Massarella during his fatal struggle with Griffiths.

Griffiths, who was known as Jonathan Hancock before a recent name change, had been drinking heavily when he went to confront his mother’s abusive ex-partner, the court was told.

The court heard how the pair got into a row which led to 40-year-old Mr Massarella being choked with electrical cord.

Graham Reeds QC, prosecuting, said that Zena Hancock knew what happened, and that she and her uncle Richard Danby concocted a plan to get him out of the area.

Mr Reeds said: “The defendant’s estranged girlfriend Michelle Parry in Scarborough was told to come to Doncaster.

“Mr Danby told her ‘Jay will tell you what happened in his own time. Keep your mouth shut. If anything comes out we will be coming for you’.”

Soon after Griffiths fled the flat in Callender Court, Cantley, on the night of the murder it became engulfed in flames.

Firefighters found the charred body of Mr Massarella with the ligature looped twice around his neck. A post-mortem revealed he had died before the fire broke out.

In mitigation, defending barrister Nicholas Campbell told the judge, Mr Justice Coulson, that Mr Massarella and Hancock had been in a ‘volatile’ relationship when Griffiths was growing up.

Even after the pair split in 1998, the defendant continued to live with his stepdad.

But the men’s affectionate relationship soured over the years and Griffiths subsequently accused him of violence and neglect, the court was told.

Griffiths, of Highbury Avenue, Doncaster faces a minimum of 15 years in jail. He is due to be sentenced along with Danby, of Dentons Way, Kirk Sandall, and Hancock, of Cantley, today.