A Polish squatter was found dead in a derelict building in Birmingham after a savage beating by four men who poured paint down his throat.
His attackers fled but were caught before they were able to catch a ferry to France.
Two of them told police they had beaten the victim following a row over a shoplifting expedition.
Jan Samko, 41, Wieslaw Kedziora, 53, Tomasz Tomalak, 28, and Robert Dusza, 40, who all admitted manslaughter, were each jailed for seven years.
Sitting at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Melbourne Inman said they were involved in a sustained attack and the level of violence had been high but he accepted they had not intended to kill the victim and said they were living in abject squalor.
Michael Burrows QC, prosecuting, said: “On January 8 last year these four defendants left Birmingham together by train never intending to return. They left behind the dead body of Andrejz Zareba, a 39-year-old Polish man who they had befriended in Birmingham.
They had beaten him to death in void premises in Essex Street which they occupied as a squat. They hid his body in a cupboard on the second floor having covered it with rubbish, paint and blankets.”
Mr Burrows said the four defendants and the victim had been squatting for some time in the building which they had got into via an insecure shutter.
He said before he moved in Mr Zareba had been sleeping on the streets and that he had a significant alcohol problem.
Mr Burrows said it was not known the day the attack took place and that Mr Zareba’s body was discovered by another squatter on January 13.
The defendants, he said, were arrested two days later in Margate, Kent apparently intending to catch the ferry to France.
A post mortem examination revealed the victim’s death was the result of severe head injuries and the inhalation of paint.
Mr Burrows said although the victim had suffered the injuries to his head he would have been alive but probably unconscious when he swallowed the paint.
He said an examination of the room where the attack took place revealed a “bloody scene” and that the defendants had used weapons including a swivel chair and a broom handle to beat the victim.
When interviewed Samko and Kedziora said they had gone on a shoplifting expedition.
He said violence had later erupted after Mr Zareba was blamed for leaving the store before alcohol had been stolen.
David Crigman QC, for Kedziora said a possible explanation for the paint was that the defendant may have believed that Mr Zareba was already dead and that it was an attempt to hide the body.