Karen Leonard murder: Killer’s chilling warning before violent murder

Michael Heighton issued a plea for help before brutally murdering his girlfriend, Karen Leonard, in 2009, according to a shock report.

July 1987: Michael Heighton breaks into his estranged wife’s house and threatens to kill her with two carving knives. She falls backwards out of the bedroom window sustaining head injuries.

June 1991: The 49-year-old kicks and punches a fellow patient at Middlesbrough’s Hutton Centre after she tried to end their relationship. A sharpened piece of metal is later found under a towel in his room.

November 1999: Heighton is arrested following a domestic dispute in which he threatened his partner’s daughter with a carving knife and slapped her in the face.

In a police cell he is physically and verbally violent, “howling like an animal and smearing faeces”. Police were required to enter his cell with shields in order to try to control the situation.

September 2000: He attacks his girlfriend of seven weeks and threatens to burn her eyes out with cigarettes and kill her two children. He is later charged with threats to kill, common assault, battery and affray.

October 2000: A Public Protection meeting is staged where police report nine incidents of domestic violence.

The report states the meeting confirmed he “was potentially dangerous towards any female he formed a relationship with”.

Later in 2005: He admits having issues with his medication and smoking £5 of cannabis a day.

The panel states: “It seemed to the panel that past risks, and future behavioural triggers were largely being ignored by the care team treating [Heighton].”


Man jailed for attack on girl

Groping pervert Gary Gray has been jailed for a terrifying sex attack on a sleeping schoolgirl.

The 30-year-old launched the dead-of-night assault after knocking back Alcopops, taking valium, and smoking cannabis.

Then he slipped into a room where the 13-year-old girl was already asleep, climbed into the bed, and molested her.

The youngster woke to find Gray beside her and had to fight him off before finally fleeing the flat in South Tyneside to get help.

Gray, from Calver Court, South Shields, was found guilty of indecent assault by a Newcastle Crown Court jury last November and remanded in custody while a psychiatric report was prepared.

The report revealed Gray had been suffering from a mental illness for some time.

But Judge Michael Cartlidge said the assault was too serious to pass anything other than a custodial sentence.

Jailing him for three years and ordering him to register as a sex offender, Judge Cartlidge told Gray: “I accept you didn’t set out that evening to get into bed with the girl, but it is a very serious thing to do what you did.”

The attack was the second time Gray had sparked public outrage.

He was convicted of careless driving and perverting justice during 2000 after an accident in South Shields which left dad-of-one Daniel Arnold, 20, dying at the roadside. Mr Arnold’s family and friends gathered a 10,000 name protest petition after Gray, who had left the accident scene and tried to scrap the car, served just three weeks of a two month prison sentence.

Paul Sloan QC, defending, said Gray was an `emotionally vulnerable’ man who had become the victim of a hate campaign and was suffering post traumatic stress disorder.”


Stoned teenager Mark Kane tortured cat

A STONED teenager who trapped a cat in a bag full of cannabis smoke and swung it round like a lasso was caught after he filmed the “sadistic” act on his mobile.

Mark Kane was busted by police when he had his phone seized after he was arrested for a separate offence and officers found the vile footage.

The 19-year-old stole the defenceless young tabby from a friend before trapping it in the bag and blowing cannabis fumes over its head.

He then tied the bag and sniggered as he said: “This cat is getting stoned off its head,” before swinging the terrified animal around his head, a court as told.

Jobless Kane, of St Aidan’s Road, South Shields, had been smoking cannabis from a water pipe with a friend prior to the attack and got his pal to film it. Clive McKeag, prosecuting, told South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court that Kane’s “wicked” act had taken place around January 3 at an address on John William Street, South Shields.

He said: “These acts were totally gratuitous, they were intentional, they were sadistic, and the prosecution say, they were wicked.”

Mr McKeag said Kane, who could face a spell behind bars, had stolen the cat a couple of weeks earlier from a friend of his girlfriend.

“There was no purpose behind it, except for sheer gratuitous violence. Such was the attack it would cause outrage to any decent member of the public.

“The only reason he could have done it was to take pleasure from causing very substantial suffering to this animal. We can see from the video that the defendant did this as a great joke.”

The RSPCA, who became involved in the case after police referred it, said it was not known what happened to the cat as it disappeared and was never returned to its owner.

Tim Gregory, defending, said Kane was ashamed of what he’d done but thought he was doing a responsible job of looking after the animal.

“He is ashamed of himself and his conscious thought was impeded by cannabis.”

The case was adjourned for two weeks for pre-sentence reports after Kane pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering and administering a dangerous drug to an animal.

RSPCA inspector Claire Hunt told the Chronicle: “I have never seen anything that showed such a complete disregard for an animal’s welfare.”


Newbiggin Hall stabbing teen jailed for life for murder of mother’s new boyfriend

High on drink and drugs, a teenager stabbed his mother’s new boyfriend to death because he didn’t like their relationship, a court heard.

Liam Burke has been jailed for life for the murder of Simon Ramel, who he attacked on the street in front of terrified family members and neighbours on the Newbiggin Hall Estate, in Newcastle.

Burke, who was 15 at the time but is now 17, had taken a dislike to Mr Ramel, who was his mother’s new boyfriend, and the pair had argued at his house on Eastgarth on October 24 last year.

A court heard that, having left the home and then been refused entry back in, furious Burke, who had been drinking and smoking cannabis, went to friend Richard Prigmore’s house nearby and armed himself with a kitchen knife.

The teenager then returned to his mum’s house where he began to scuffle with Mr Ramel on the street before pulling out the blade and plunging it at least four times into the 45-year-old.


Gateshead rapist jailed for vile attack on teen

TWISTED Dennis Gray was today behind bars for a vile campaign of abuse against a teenager which ended in rape.

Gray had already beaten his victim black and blue, even attacking her with vacuum parts.

And after subjecting her to a series of violent assaults he ended up raping her.

Now he has been locked up for five years and two months after pleading guilty to rape, assault and threats to kill.

Jailing him at Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Roger Thorn said Gray’s drug abuse had been part of the problem.

Judge Thorn said: “Your heavy abuse of cannabis is a part explanation for your irrational and excessive behaviour.”

Gray first struck in August 2009, pinning his victim down and choking her then punching her in the stomach even though she was pregnant.

He was then convicted of battery in April last year after strangling her, pinning her against a wall and throwing her around. He got a community order for that attack.

His latest offences began in August when Gray again choked her, leaving her with bruising on her neck.

On another occasion he threatened to kill her with a kitchen knife.

The abuse scaled new heights in October after yet another attack.

The victim managed to calm him but he then raped her. The court heard no force was used but he pleaded guilty on the basis he couldn’t have believed she was consenting.

Initially the woman didn’t tell police but then he attacked her again.

The victim’s baby was crying and he told her either she put it in the cot or he would attack her.

Despite her following his orders he still beat her, grabbing her by the hair, slapping her then hitting her with vacuum tools.

After that the victim told her mother, police were contacted and Gray arrested.

As well as the jail term Gray, 25, of Wilberforce Walk, Redheugh, Gateshead, must sign the sex offender register for life and was given a restraining order to keep him away from the victim when he is released.

Carl Gumsley, defending, said: “He accepts he has problems with violence.”

After the case, his victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “This has been a difficult time for my family and me. The sentencing today brings a small amount of closure and I just now want to move on with my life.”


Thug jailed for violent attacks

Dangerman Thomas Masserick has been jailed for seven years and ordered to keep away from the woman he tormented for life.

Masserick was locked up at Newcastle Crown Court for a string of assaults against the mother and her young daughter.

His former lover broke down and wept with relief after the tall, tattooed 27-year-old was sentenced.

The court heard how Masserick had a tragic family background with the deaths of his parents in childhood and then years later his adoptive sister.

But today his victim said this could never excuse the violence he inflicted on her and her four-year-old child.

Speaking exclusively to the Chronicle she said: “He smirked at me when he saw me walk into court for the sentence.

“I told my mother he can’t harm me any more. I’m going to stay strong no matter what he did to intimidate me, even in court. It was only afterwards I started to cry. I’m so grateful to the judge for giving him seven years.”

Masserick, the adopted son of a former prison governor, is banned for life from approaching or harassing the woman after a judge slapped on an indefinite restraining order.

Judge David Hodson said: “You have been charged with one count of harassment, three counts of threatening to kill and five counts of common assault between July 2004 and February 2005. After you had been arrested for these and were on bail, you committed two further offences of witness intimidation.”

He said that he had taken into account what the defence told the court about Masserick’s tragic family background but he could not overlook the many and violent crimes committed by Masserick.

Masserick’s 26-year-old former partner, who the Chronicle is not identifying, said: “The waiting game is over for him. Now he’s out of my life for good.

“I want to look forward to the future, especially for my daughter, when I get my confidence back.

“He won’t rule my life again. My little girl is settled in school and she’s looking forward to Christmas. I want to start afresh in a new home, but I won’t be driven away from the region.”

The mum, from Newcastle’s West End, told the Chronicle how her attraction for the body-builder turned to fear.

In the eight-month relationship, she became trapped in her own home and was locked into vicious spiral of beatings and demands for sex by Masserick.

She said: “During the time I was seeing him I suffered a split lip; I was kicked, punched and sent flying across the floor and I also suffered a burn with an iron when he knocked it over in a rage. He’d beat me up then demand sex. I was so scared of him because he became a control freak who’d lock me in my home.”

Police found Masserick had shot holes in snapshots of the woman and her daughter, obliterating their heads with airgun pellets. The final straw came when the dope-smoking tormentor turned his anger on the youngster. She managed to eventually flee the house with her little girl when Masserick’s mother came to pick him up and take him shopping.

Masserick, from the West End, had denied child cruelty and possession of a prohibited weapon and ammunition, which were left to lie on file.

Prosecuting Robin Patton told the court Masserick was a violent man with a history of violent crime. He said when Masserick moved in with his then partner and four-year-old child last year he started taking testosterone to build himself up at the gym. He tried to counter its effects on his personality with cannabis.

Masserick had pleaded guilty on August 22 to the common assaults and two offences of witness intimidation and threats to kill. The court heard he intended to kill a witness in a letter to a friend of Masserick’s, already in prison.

Mr Patton told the court that in Masserick’s letter he had said he knew someone in Scotland with a cliff outside their back door. He would take the witness up there, kill him in his friend’s kitchen, then take him outside and throw him into the sea.

Defending, Glen Gatland said Masserick suffered in childhood when his mother then his father were killed. His adoptive sister was later killed in a road accident. Reports said this affected his personality and went some way to explaining his actions.


Gemma Finnigan’s killer Daniel Johnson from Boldon jailed for life

Cannabis smoker and murderer at 15, he killed a woman 16 years later while on licence:

A killer who strangled and stabbed his partner because he believed she was possessed by the devil has been given a life sentence – 16 years after killing another innocent person.

Schizophrenic Daniel Johnson will serve a minimum of 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility three days into his murder trial.

He met his victim Gemma Finnigan, shortly after being released on licence for the 1996 joint murder of David Younes in North Kenton which he committed when he was just 15, but the true nature of his crime was never revealed to the 24-year-old victim or her family.

After weeks of bizarre behaviour, Johnson, 33, struck at 3.30am on Friday, September 13, last year, strangling and beating his partner until she was unconscious. He then walked to the kitchen and collected three knives which he used to stab her in her back and front 14 times in their flat in Church View, Boldon Colliery, South Tyneside.

Johnson then drove to Kenton School, in Newcastle, where he broke in and was found wandering round stripped to the waist, covered in blood.

The defendant had claimed insanity due to suffering psychotic episodes, but on Thursday when three independent psychiatrists agreed his case instead fell under diminished responsibility due to his mental state at the time, he decided to plead guilty.

He will serve his sentence in a prison rather than Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire, where he has been detained since the offence.

A serious case review has now been launched into the death, with the Finnigan family criticising the Probation Service for failing to notify them of Johnson’s earlier conviction.

On November 3, 1996, Johnson and a 17-year-old friend were trying to steal a car in Kenton, Newcastle, when they got involved in a confrontation with passer-by Mr Younes, 32. Johnson struck him over the head with a metal bar while his co-accused repeatedly stabbed him. A year later Johnson was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years for his part, later shortened to 12.

In a statement read to the court, Gemma’s mum Jennifer, who broke down in tears at the conclusion of the hearing, said: “Gemma was a wonderful daughter and special to everyone who same into contact with her.

“She was what I would describe as a ray of sunshine who made everyone around her feel worthwhile. All she ever wanted was to help others and make people happy.

“I feel angry and let down by the Probation Service as they did not tell me or Gemma about his involvement in the first murder. Had Gemma known about this we would never have welcomed him into our home and Gemma would still be here.”

After the sentencing, Gemma’s sister Kristi Allen, 17, added: “20 years is nowhere near enough to make up for what he did to Gemma.”

Meanwhile, consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr James Stoddart, who works at St Nicholas Hospital, Newcastle, told Mr Justice Green that Johnson’s use of drugs like cannabis, which he grew at home, was likely to have exacerbated his psychotic behaviour.

Mr Justice Green, sentencing, told Johnson: “In my view even though your responsibility was diminished you still bear some responsibility.

“You refused to obtain medical assistance. Had you sought help for your condition this terrible tragedy might never have occurred at all.

“This offence was also likely to be drug related and you used extreme violence to obtain knives which were then used upon Gemma, who was utterly defenceless at the time.”

He added: “In my view you pose an extremely serious and potentially lethal threat to society and a threat that is not possible to say will necessarily ever go away.

“You have now committed two acts of extreme violence over a period of 16 years.”

Toby Hedworth QC, mitigating, said his client was full of remorse, having been supported by Gemma and her family after his release from prison.

He said: “He will have to live for the rest of his days with the knowledge that it was he who snuffed out the light of her life.”

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Barron, of Northumbria Police, welcomed the sentence.

He said: “As we have heard during this trial, this means he had a mental illness at the time he killed Gemma.

“Johnson is a violent individual who attempted to argue he was insane at the time of the killing as an excuse for killing Gemma Finnigan.

“It is clear he knew what he was doing and must now accept responsibility for his actions.

“Gemma died in tragic circumstances and our thoughts are with her family at this very difficult time. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the dignity that they have shown throughout our investigation.

“We worked closely with the CPS throughout the investigation and I’d also like to thank them for their support.”


Facebook child groomer who supplied vulnerable 13-year-old with drugs jailed for four years

Child groomer Jed Milburn has been jailed for four years after supplying a vulnerable 13-year-old with drugs in the hope of sexual favours.

The 27-year-old lied about his age and used a false Facebook profile to target the girl online.

A court heard he repeatedly offered to supply the teenager with cannabis, hoping for something in return.

When she said she would bring her friend, he “agreed enthusiastically” and asked for pictures.

Milburn met the girls in Walker Park and they smoked cannabis, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Now he has been locked up after he admitted meeting a child following sexual grooming and supplying cannabis, which a judge said was for sexual advantage.


Murder accused admits killing his ‘best mate’ but insists: ‘I was defending myself’

Murder accused Daniel Smith has admitted killing his “best mate” but claimed he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed the man he described as “like a brother” in the chest.

Prosecutors claim the 21-year-old murdered Jonathan Carr at his flat in Gateshead during an evening socialising together.

Giving evidence to jurors at Newcastle Crown Court for the first time, Smith said trouble flared after he accidentally smashed a glass bong belonging to Jonathan.

He claimed Jonathan, also 21, attacked him and he picked up the knife and pushed out with it, fearing for his life.

Asked by his barrister, Jason Pitter QC, if he accepted stabbing and killing Jonathan, he replied: “Yes”.

Mr Pitter asked why he did it and Smith replied: “I was defending myself”.

Smith said alcohol and drugs had affected his memory but that “bits and pieces have been coming back”.

Asked about his relationship with Jonathan, who he knew as Ali, he said: “It was good, he was like a brother. We were like best mates.”

Smith said on July 31, he and his cousin, Steven Morrison, had decided to go to Jonathan’s flat in Deckham, Gateshead.

They drank tequila, rum, Brown Ale and Stella Artois and also smoked cannabis and took some codeine tablets. Smith said at one point they went to meet someone to buy cocaine and then went to a fish and chip shop, where he admitted his behaviour was “disgraceful”.


In December 2018, Smith was found guilty of murdering Jonathan Carr, and sentenced to life in prison.

Our Malcolm can finally rest in peace

“Malcolm died after being arrested for behaviour which was totally out of character – but we never thought the police were responsible for his death.”

Divorced dad Mr Flockton, of Garth 22, Killingworth, collapsed and died after being arrested outside the home of his partner Sandra Stringer’s ex-husband.

She told the jury he had eaten a homemade cannabis biscuit, then gone to her ex’s home to talk to her nine-year-old son, who was staying there. Mr Flockton was naked apart from a fleece jacket and he began shouting and throwing stones at the house. When police were called he was said to have been calm at first.

But he then began to struggle violently with police officers for a period of 30 minutes before being taken to Wallsend Police Station. There he collapsed within minutes of arrival.


Violent North Shields thug jailed for attacks on pal

A VULNERABLE man was killed after being repeatedly attacked by his violent bully friend.

Amendeep Singh Rai befriended then regularly beat victim Kenneth Oakes in the lead up to his death.

The 52-year-old, who suffered from learning difficulties, a severe speech impediment and bad eye sight, was found dead at Rai’s flat on Stanley Street, North Shields.

During the three weeks leading-up to his death, defenceless Mr Oakes, known as Kenny, was subject to at least four brutal attacks at the hands of Rai, 21, which left him with a staggering 43 rib fractures, a broken breast bone, bruises and cuts.

In the final deadly assault, two segments of Mr Oakes’s ribs completely broke off, making it impossible for him to breath.

He collapsed and died on the floor of Rai’s apartment, just a couple of hours after the pair had shared a take-away.

Cannabis addict Rai was yesterday jailed for six years, with three years extended licence, at Newcastle Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.


Dale Cregan

Since I began working on this site in October of last year, I have several times thought that I had discovered every major instance in the last 20 years or so of a cannabis smoker committing violence, only to come upon yet another terrible case.

For example, many weeks after I’d published a hard copy of ‘Attacker Smoked Cannabis’ and posted it to a number of politicians, journalists and activists, somebody pointed me towards the case of Jodi Jones in Scotland, murdered in 2003 by her 15-year-old boyfriend, who, by his own admission, smoked more cannabis in a day than many heavy smokers would consume in a week.

Not long after reading about this case, I read about the murder of Rhys Jones, inadvertently gunned down by a local thug who spent much of his young life smoking cannabis.

Today, during what might be called a routine online search of various local papers, I came upon one Dale Cregan, one of the most notorious murderers of recent times.

As with many such cases, I discovered his appalling criminal record by chance, after reading of the recent conviction of his brother, Dean Moores, who uses a different surname to his biological sibling. Last month, Moores was jailed for five years for stabbing his sister’s ex-boyfriend, and, surprise, surprise, for cultivating cannabis. Needless to say, cannabis also features prominently in Cregan’s litany of psychopathic violence.

A drug and arms dealer from his teens, Cregan is currently serving a whole life prison order for four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, all of which occurred in one five-month period of 2012. First, in May, Cregan shot dead the son of a rival drug dealer, and attempted to murder three other men in the same incident. Three months later, he killed the drug dealer himself, by shooting him nine times and throwing a grenade at him, blowing him to pieces.

A month later, he made a bogus 999 call, claiming there had been an incident at his house. Two police officers, Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, attended the call. Cregan lured them into a trap, shot them each at least eight times, and threw a grenade at them. He then drove to a local police station and confessed his crime. In June the following year, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Many news reports have noted that Cregan dealt cannabis. In addition, two years after his conviction, Cregan was placed in solitary confinement for smuggling a mobile phone and cannabis into his prison cell, and a subsequent drugs test reportedly found traces of cannabis in his urine. Despite all this, however, his consumption of cannabis, though seemingly obvious and relevant, has only been noted by one site, rather inappropriately named ‘The Famous People’.



Drunk thug dad who stunk of weed bit cop during arrest – before telling him he had AIDS

A police officer had to undergo tests for hepatitis and HIV after a thug dad bit him before telling him he had AIDS.

Sean Fiddaman, 31, has been jailed for 12 months after he was convicted following a trial.

Manchester Crown Court heard Fiddaman didn’t reveal he had lied for 16 hours, meaning the officer had to go to hospital for tests.

Fiddaman was in a car which crashed into a wall in Hulme, at the junction of Greenheys Lane and Bold Street in the early hours.

He and another man left, but they were tracked down after residents called 999.