A homophobic man with a long-standing obsession with extreme violence has been found guilty of murdering a man with a hammer at a cemetery in Mile End.

Erik Feld, 37, hid in the shadows behind a monument before launching himself on unarmed Ranjith Kankanamalage in the early hours of August 16 2021, the Old Bailey heard.

Ranjith was hit 12 times in the face and head with the hammer, causing “catastrophic” injuries.

The 50-year-old victim was found by a member of the public on a path in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park later the same day.

Jurors were told that Mr Kankanamalage was a regular visitor to the “spooky” cemetery.

It was suggested in Feld’s defence that the defendant got “the wrong end of the stick” and hit out in self-defence after the victim made a pass.

Under cross-examination, the defendant embarked on a homophobic rant about the victim, who has a family in Sri Lanka and was in a relationship in Britain.

Afterwards, prosecutor Paul Cavin KC told jurors that Feld had “dark places in his soul” that were “not in the darkest recesses but very near the surface”.

He added: “The evidence clearly demonstrates that prior to that evening, he had a deep-seated, long-standing serious interest in extreme violence using a hammer and that was an urge that could have been visited, perhaps, on anyone.”

The Old Bailey jury deliberated for three hours and 23 minutes to unanimously find Feld, of Tredegar Road, Bow, guilty of murder today (March 23).

East London Advertiser: Ranjith KankanamalageRanjith Kankanamalage (Image: Met Police)

Mr Justice Bryan adjourned sentencing for a psychiatric report to be prepared on the defendant who has a personality disorder.

Det Ch Insp Joanna Yorke said: “From the outset, we have tried to ensure Ranjith’s extended family and friends, both in the UK and Sri Lanka, and the wider LGBTQ+ population in Tower Hamlets were at the heart of our investigation. I hope they can all feel some sense of justice now that Ranjith’s killer has been convicted.

“Erik Feld is a dangerous and violent man. While he has never disclosed why he attacked Ranjith with such force, he is clearly someone who is driven by an all-encompassing hatred.

"He will now quite justly spend a considerable amount of time behind bars."

Previously, Mr Cavin had told how Feld’s interest in extreme violence first emerged during a mental health assessment in 2017.

The defendant revealed he used to go out “with a hammer, screwdriver or razor blades, hoping to catch someone unawares … down alleys”.

Feld was arrested on August 20 2021 as he was awaiting sentence for waving a claw hammer outside a Poundland store two days after the killing.

A search of his home in Tower Hamlets uncovered mallets and a sledge hammer.

Feld was released on bail after declining to speak to officers or provide access to his mobile phone, jurors heard.

He was re-arrested in January 2022 after his DNA was found on bloodstained nail clippings from the left hand of the victim.

In a fresh search of his flat, police found another hammer and a cut-throat razor by Feld’s pillow.

Mr Cavin told jurors the contents of the defendant’s smartphone revealed his “deep interest in violence with the particular theme of attacks with hammers”.

An analyst also recovered two photographs of Feld posing with a claw hammer.

While on remand at Belmarsh prison, Feld had “confessed” to the offence of a “random killing committed against an unknown man” in a letter handed to a prison officer.

Police also retraced the victim’s last movements on CCTV, tracking him from his home in Whitechapel to his last sighting at 3.55am heading towards the cemetery.

Camera footage also captured the defendant walking from the cemetery at around 4.13am as he headed home after the murder.

Giving evidence in his trial, Feld claimed he had taken the hammer to hit trees for stress relief.

When he came across the victim, he became frightened he was going to be attacked and hit him in the back of the head with the hammer, jurors were told.

He claimed he swung out with the hammer several more times after he was pinned down on the ground.

His lawyer, Isabella Forshall KC, told jurors the defendant did not hit Mr Kankanamalage because he was a “homophobe” but because he “got the wrong end of the stick”.

However, Mr Cavin dismissed Feld’s version of events as “inherently unlikely”, pointing out just one blow with the hammer would have incapacitated the victim.

Reporting by PA.