A “KILLER and coward” who butchered his friend’s body has been convicted of murder.

A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday unanimously found Lee Clarke guilty of the murder of 59-year-old Phillip Lewis, known in Harlow as Scottish Phil.

Forensic officers confirmed a suspicious item found by a member of the public at Oakwood Pond in Harlow was human remains on December 31, 2022.

Clarke will be sentenced at the same court on March 12.

Power tools and splatters of blood were found by police officers at 56-year-old Clarke's home in Wedhey, Harlow, Essex Police said.

Further searches by specialist officers, including from the force’s marine unit, uncovered further remains belonging to Mr Lewis, a dad who was well-known in the town.

Specialists from the Environment Agency also assisted with the searches to ensure wildlife was protected while officers searched the pond centimetre by centimetre.

During the four-week trial, Clarke claimed the blood found at his home was caused by a broken mirror which the victim helped him clear up.

Epping Forest Guardian: Well-loved - Phillip Lewis, known in Harlow as Scottish PhilWell-loved - Phillip Lewis, known in Harlow as Scottish Phil (Image: Essex Police)

Det Supt Rob Kirby said the trial proved Clarke “to be a killer and a coward”.

“Despite being arrested over a year ago, Clarke has refused to tell anyone why he killed Phil,” he said.

“He has also refused to disclose where he disposed of the rest of Phil’s body, which has added to the suffering inflicted on Phil’s family.”

Mr Kirby thanked the community for supporting the force’s investigation.

He added: “Residents in Harlow were patient and compassionate whilst our officers carried out inquiries.

“I can confidently say that without the support from Harlow assisting our hard-working officers, this result would not have been possible.”

After completing inquiries including analysis of phone records to establish when Mr Lewis went missing, Essex Police believes he was killed on November 12, 2022.

Mr Kirby praised his colleagues for quickly identifying the victim which was “crucial in establishing what had happened”.

The murder trial started on February 7 and ended on Friday when jurors convicted Clarke of the murder of Mr Lewis.