IF Daniel Shovelton’s account was to be believed, he was the unluckiest man in the world.

A series of apparently innocuous coincidences had led to the finger being pointed at the former army sergeant over the murder of his friend of 20 years.

Why had he been in the area of Mark Bradbury’s home for nearly three hours at the same time that he was battered to death?

Warrington Guardian:

Mark Bradbury

Because he had taken a cocktail of alcohol and sedatives and fallen asleep in his car.

And why had he been seen in the vicinity three times previously that day?

Being in graveyards helped to ‘quieten his mind’, and there just so happened to be one opposite Mr Bradbury’s bedsit on Station Road South in Padgate.

What of his ‘erratic’ behaviour in the hours afterwards?

The 40-year-old embarked upon a ‘magical mystery tour’ across Warrington after visiting Tesco Extra on Winwick Road – heading to his sister’s business premises on Winwick Quay, his old house on School Road in Orford, the Grappenhall area where his daughter lived and his old route for deliveries while working a courier in Woolston.

READ MORE: Watch the moment murderer shops in supermarket hours after battering man to death

But he had taken this midnight trip to sites that ‘resonated’ with him as he was in a ‘pensive and reflective mood’, and not disposing of evidence as the prosecution alleged.

Having been penniless days earlier, how was he suddenly flush with money?

How did he pay for his shopping at Tesco and £27 of lottery tickets and scratch cards the next day?

Warrington Guardian:

Where did he find the €60 he exchanged for sterling only hours after Mr Bradbury’s death?

Although there was no money in his bank account, he had some cash at home and raided his mum’s holiday purse for the Euros.

How had Mr Bradbury’s blood got on the keys to Shovelton’s parents’ Kia Ceed?

He only had access to this car because his mum and dad were away on holiday in Turkey at the time, surely this was a damning piece of evidence?

But he claimed to have been round to Mr Bradbury’s in this vehicle ‘once or twice’ previously.

Perhaps he had left his keys on the sink where – unbeknown to him – there had been blood, or maybe Mr Bradbury had ingested cocaine from the car key, and somehow bled on it while doing so.

Why could police not find a t-shirt and cap he had been pictured wearing on CCTV days prior to the killing?

He had binned them along with his workwear from his days as a courier with DPD as they were ‘past their best’.

So why did officers find a stash of DPD uniforms in his bedroom?

The uniform he had thrown away was kept in a different area, so these extra items were ‘out of sight and out of mind’.

Why did Shovelton have a gold ring belonging to Mr Bradbury in his possession?

Warrington Guardian:

The gold ring

He had been given the ring months previously, and was told that they would go halves on the proceeds if he pawned it.

How come he had a packet of Lambert and Butler cigarettes, identical to a pack bought by the deceased on the evening of his death?

Warrington Guardian:

The cigarettes found in Shovelton's home

Mr Bradbury had given them to him several months ago as he needed tobacco to mix with cannabis while rolling a joint.

READ MORE: The events which led to the senseless and brutal killing of a doting dad

Why had there been a flurry of searches for the Warrington Guardian website on his phone following Mr Bradbury’s death – including before his body was discovered – when there had been none for nearly two years beforehand?

Initially, he had been looking for jobs after his parents stopped having the newspaper delivered.

After he learned of the murder of a family friend from his mum, he was naturally interested in the investigation.

This interest, he claimed, even extended to searching for the name of the leading officer in the case on Google.

Shovelton had also only professed much of his account for the first time more than a year later.

His memory – affected by undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, a consequence of his two tours of Afghanistan – had had time to recover while locked up in a cell for 23 hours every day during the coronavirus era of the UK’s prison system.

In the words of prosecution barrister David McLachlan, Shovelton must have thought the jury were ‘born yesterday’.

While giving his closing speech to the jury on Monday, Mr McLachlan nicknamed the defendant ‘Desperate Dan’.

And desperate is exactly what he had been for a while – desperate for drugs, desperate for money and, most recently, desperate to get off the hook for brutally murdering Mark Bradbury.

Ultimately, jurors must have concluded that there were too many questions of Shovelton and insufficient answers and found him guilty of murder.

The truth is that he strangled and battered the doting dad for nothing more than a fistful of cash and a few bags of cocaine.

Now he is rightly facing the prospect of spending his foreseeable future behind bars.

Just how much comfort this will bring to Mr Bradbury’s family and friends, who showed incredible dignity and restraint as their loved one’s murderer told lie after lie from the witness box in their presence, is another matter.

But at the very least, they can thankfully now say that – more than a year on from the heinous crime – his killer has been brought to justice.

Senior crown Prosecutor Carolyn Viviani, of the Crown Prosecution Service in Mersey-Cheshire, said: “Daniel Shovelton had a desperate and expensive addiction to cocaine and on the day of the killing was in desperate need of money and drugs.

“Shovelton had been sacked from his job as a courier in May, he had borrowed from almost everyone around him, his house had been repossessed, he was living with his parents, the bailiffs were knocking at the door and he still had an expensive drug habit to feed.

“Mark Bradbury was the answer to his problems, a small-time cocaine dealer who was likely to have both cash and drugs at his property.

“An addiction to cocaine and the debts it had caused drove Daniel Shovelton to become a killer.

“Mark Bradbury’s small-time drug-dealing made him a target.

“This case has been a dreadful insight into the appalling and dangerous world of drugs.

“It has been a difficult case for the Crown Prosecution Service to build as there were no witnesses to the killing and Mark Bradbury’s body was found a few days after the murder.

“There were 8,500 items of used and unused material in this case – 585 statements and 1908 exhibits.

“The Crown Prosecution Service has worked hard with Cheshire Police to bring this prosecution and we hope Daniel Shovelton’s conviction helps the family and friends of the victim in some way at this difficult time.

“Our thoughts remain with them.”