A 72-year-old man is on trial for murdering his neighbour by inflicting a sustained and forceful attack on her using a claw hammer.

Alan Fare appeared at Preston Crown Court via videolink from Guild Lodge, where he has been since October, following his arrest and subsequent charge in June 2020 over the murder of 58-year-old Mandy Houghton.

Fare, of Victory Close, Nelson, is accused of murdering the mum-of-two on June 3 at her home in the same road.

The pensioner has been deemed unfit to plead and stand trial due to him suffering with dementia, paranoia and psychosis, which is something the prosecution say had been of concern to Ms Houghton in the weeks preceding her death.

Fare's trial is therefore a trial of facts, where the jury can still rule but only by relying on the facts of the case presented to them over the course of proceedings.

On Tuesday, Francis McEntee, prosecuting, opened the case for a jury of eight men and four women.

Mr McEntee said: "The prosecution has brought this case and we have to satisfy you so that you are sure that the defendant killed her.

"You will ask yourself the question - am I sure the defendant killed Ms Houghton.

"If you find you are sure, then we will find he committed the act of killing her."

Mr McEntee told the jury how Ms Houghton and Fare had been neighbours, and that during lockdown last year, she had been looking out for the 72-year-old as she had had some concerns over his mental health.

It was heard how Ms Houghton had told her friend, Nicola Wright, who will stand as a witness in the trial, that she was worried he may have the onset of dementia and that he had been saying some strange things.

Mandy Houghton

Mandy Houghton

Mr McEntee said: "She mentioned that every time it was sunny, she liked to sit outside her flat sunbathing, but when she did, Mr Fare would come down and sit near her and make her feel uncomfortable.

"This was disclosed to Mrs Wright about a week before Mandy's death.

"Mandy had also told Mrs Wright about a comment Fare had made in which he was talking about how he 'needed to hand himself in to the police'.

"There was certainly something heavy weighing on Alan's mind."

LIVE: Trial of man accused of murdering Nelson mum-of-two begins today

Mr McEntee told the court that on the morning of June 3 2020, around 11am, Fare had flagged down a police officer on Parker Lane in Burnley.

He had blood splattered on his clothes and his demeanour had worried the police officer who began to ask him a series of questions, from which arose the name Mandy Houghton.

It was heard that Fare then intimated to the officer that he was concerned for Ms Houghton, but then changed the subject and began speaking about some missing post and the fact he thought someone had been in his house.

Concerned, the officer managed to ascertain Ms Houghton's address and a welfare visit was requested.

Upon arrival officers found the address was locked, and Fare was quizzed on whether he knew the whereabouts of any keys to get into Ms Houghton's property.

Mr McEntee added: "He was able to tell police the exact location of a set of keys and the fact they were on a keyring.

"However, by this stage, entry had been forced to Ms Houghton's property and police found her lying in the hallway with congealed blood around her body near her head, and on the wall was blood splattering and a small hammer was noted nearby."

Ms Houghton was sadly pronounced dead at the scene and a later post mortem revealed she had died as a result of a sustained and forceful attack with a blunt object.

Many of the injuries found on her body were consistent with those that could have been delivered by a claw hammer, similar to the one found at the scene.

Mr McEntee continued: "The fact he directed the police to the key to the locked house where Mrs Houghton was found is a powerful piece of evidence.

"His clothing was splattered with blood, consistent with him having been at the scene.

"And against the background of growing concerns about his behaviour, that he was going to have to hand himself in, all of this must tell you that he did kill Mrs Houghton."