A 49-year-old man has been found guilty of the murder of his lodger before cutting up his body and dropping packages of his dismembered limbs along Bournemouth seafront.

Benjamin Atkins was convicted by a jury at Winchester Crown Court of the murder of 49-year-old Simon Shotton whose legs were found in packages on the Manor Steps Zig Zag footpath in the Boscombe area of the Dorset seaside resort in August 2023.

His girlfriend, 39-year-old Debbie Pereira, was acquitted of murder but convicted of perverting the course of justice.

Simon Shotton (Family handout/PA)

Atkins had previously admitted perverting the course of justice and both defendants had admitted preventing the burial of a corpse.

Atkins admitted in court to killing Mr Shotton at the couple’s home and dismembering his body, but said he had acted out of self-defence.

He told the court that Mr Shotton had been staying for a short period in their house and providing them with drugs in lieu of rent.

Atkins added that the lethal argument had started over the victim demanding payment of a debt.

Paul Cavin KC, prosecuting, told the court that Atkins was recorded after his arrest by a secret microphone in a prison van telling Pereira that “if he admitted that he cooked Simon’s head up and ate his cheeks, would it get me off the hook?”

Benjamin Atkins and Debbie Pereira court case
Bodycam footage of Benjamin Atkins’ arrest (CPS/PA)

He was also recorded as responding to a question by his co-defendant on whether he had any regrets by saying: “I’ll look ‘em straight in the eye and say: ‘Yeah. I’d do it again and again and again. If you let me go today, I’d find another one and do it again.’

“‘Drug dealers, and pushers. Kill, decapitate, and eat the f******.”

The trial heard that after killing Mr Shotton, Atkins and Pereira sold the victim’s mobile phone in a Cash Creators shop in Boscombe which police used to track down the pair.

Atkins then went on to cut up Mr Shotton’s body using a hacksaw in the couple’s garden under a makeshift tent before burning the victim’s head on a fire.

Describing his actions to dismember the body, Atkins said in court: “I won’t deny it, I used copious amounts of various drugs.

“I pulled his body into the garden, covered him up. Later in the evening, when Debs was asleep, I went into the garden and I cut him up.

“I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t under the influence, I wouldn’t have cut him up, I was scared, I was traumatised, I was panicked, I was under extreme stress as well as under the influence.

“What I done was truly awful, it’s horrendous what I have done and I deserve to be punished for what I have done.

“I am sorry to his family, I am sorry to my family. It’s difficult for me to be remorseful to a man who was trying to kill me in my own house.”

The judge Mrs Justice Stacey adjourned the case for sentencing to take place on July 26 and remanded both defendants in custody until then.

Thanking the jury, she told them: “We gave you a terrible job and you have risen to the challenge absolutely magnificently.

“You had to sit through some of the most jaw-dropping evidence that anyone could hear, to hear of Mr Shotton’s death and what happened to his body afterwards and the grim scientific details of how a body decomposes.”

Kirsty Gordon, a Senior Crown Prosecutor with CPS Wessex, said: “This was a truly disturbing case which shocked the residents of Bournemouth and its surrounding towns.

“Atkins and Pereira’s cruelty and lack of humanity is laid bare – after Mr Shotton was murdered by Atkins in cold blood over a minor dispute, they robbed him of the dignity of a proper burial.

“We worked closely with Dorset Police, whose meticulous investigation work greatly aided our ability to deliver swift justice in an incredibly complex case where evidence continued to unfold months after the defendants were charged.

“Our thoughts remain firmly with Mr Shotton’s family and we hope today’s verdict will, in time, be of some comfort to them.”