10 October 2006
A soldier who killed his friend’s father with a pair of garden shears during a psychotic attack induced by cannabis was jailed for 10 years last night.
Laurie Draper, 31, a paratrooper who had served in Iraq, plunged the tree croppers into the head and body of his victim, 53-year-old Paul Butterworth, in March after smoking homegrown cannabis given to him by his victim.
He was sentenced at St Albans crown court yesterday after admitting manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. A charge of murder was dropped after medical evidence proved that Draper was suffering from hypomania – a condition which can be triggered by drug-taking – when he lunged at Mr Butterworth at the teacher’s home in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.
The sentence is likely to stir further debate over the reclassification of cannabis, which was downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004. The former home secretary Charles Clarke resisted calls to overturn his predecessor’s decision to reclassify the drug after fresh concerns emerged about its side effects.
The soldier also admitted assaulting Mr Butterworth’s son Ashley, a lifelong friend, at the same time.
Ann Evans, prosecuting, said Draper initially seemed “euphoric” after smoking a pipe with the two men. But after a second pipe packed with a larger dose of the drug, he stripped naked, threw his clothes into the fire and began “frantically” washing himself in the kitchen.
He punched Mr Butterworth several times in the face as he tried to restrain him. “Draper then grabbed hold of some long-handled tree loppers that were lying against a chair in the hallway. He took hold of them and lifted them above his head and struck downward at a 45 degree angle towards Paul Butterworth’s head.” She added: “Ashley described the defendant as psychotic and frenzied, his face was blank. Throughout this time the defendant had never said a word, his eyes staring ‘as if he wasn’t there’, as Ashley describes it.”
Sentencing Draper, originally from Leicester but based at the Colchester garrison, Judge Findlay Baker QC told him: “Your conduct became at first strange, then alarming, then delusional. Resisting attempts to calm you down, you attacked Paul Butterworth.”
He added that Mr Butterworth’s son was forced to flee for his life. “He did what he could to protect his father – no one could have expected him to do more,” he said. “Some of the blows landed on him and fearing for his life he desisted, leaving you to beat the brains out of his unfortunate father and eventually to drag his body, mutilated and barely recognisable, to the living room sofa.
“This was an appalling attack of extreme and persistent violence. And I have no doubt it would not have happened if you had not consumed cannabis. Anyone who unlawfully takes a dangerous mind-altering controlled drug and who then finds that his mind is altered in unexpected and undesired ways must take responsibility for his subsequent actions.”