A MAN has been sentenced to life behind bars after admitting murdering his victim and leaving his body near Southampton Common.

Tommy Scott, 34, was today sentenced at Winchester Crown Court after previously pleading guilty to strangling 66-year-old Gerald Pragnell, before leaving his body in woodland off Cemetery Road.

Mr Pragnell's body was found on Saturday, November 3, which led to police sealing off the area while they combed through the woodland for clues.

The court heard after killing Mr Pragnell, Scott stole his Mercedes, which he told police he sold to drug dealers.

Scott, of no fixed abode, also admitted breaching a suspended sentence for a previous conviction.

During a plea hearing, Matthew Jewell QC, defending, called on Judge Keith Cutler, Recorder of Winchester, to allow Scott to also appear at the sentencing via video link, however he appeared in the dock for today's hearing.

As previously reported, airport worker Mr Pragnell had been reported missing on November 2, having not been seen since 6.30am on Thursday, November 1.

Following his murder, Mr Pragnell's family, paid tribute to him and said: “Dad was a loving father, grandad, partner, brother and uncle.

“He was a genuine, hard-working and caring family man who was adored by all who knew him.

“He was a natural joker who lit up the room with his mischievous sense of humour.

“We have so many stories and memories that will always remain with us and he will always be hugely missed by us all.

“Dad was taken from us much too soon and we’re devastated that he won’t be part of our future.”

Mr Pragnell, who worked for parking firm APCOA at the airport, lived on a houseboat at Shamrock Quay, near where his son has boat building business.

Judge Keith Cutler sentenced Scott to a life prison sentence, of which he will serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars.

More to follow.