British media abnormally incurious about the role of cannabis in a gruesome act of uxoricide

On 14 May 2017, Akshar Ali, acting with his friend Yasmin Ahmed, murdered his wife and mother-of-four Sinead Wooding, stabbing her with a knife six times and bludgeoning her with a hammer before dumping her body in a woodland and setting it alight. On 17 January 2018, he and his accomplice were sentenced to 22 years in prison.

One might think the fact that the guilty pair smoked and grew cannabis together would be of interest to reporters, and worthy of at least a fleeting sentence or two, but I have found it mentioned in only two news reports, one in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the other in South African news site IOL.

Of far more interest to some British media, sadly, is the fact that Ali was an ostensible Muslim and Ms Wooding a Muslim convert who had, in the weeks before she was murdered, defied her husband by wearing western clothing and seeing a friend he did not approve of. Some media, including the BBC, the Guardian and, curiously, the Sun managed to avoid mentioning either the matter of Islam or the smoking of cannabis.

Is it, I wonder, an abnormal lack of curiosity that prevents reporters from mentioning the smoking of a powerful psychoactive drug that is a prime factor in countless thousands of similar cases? Or is it a deliberate omission?

An extraordinary murder in Ireland

The following story from Ireland, which occurred ten years ago, is extraordinary for two reasons. First, the 143 injuries the attacker inflicted is, as far as I’m aware, a record. As I have noted many times, a frenzy of violence involving multiple stab wounds is nearly always a sign of a mind unhinged by drugs. 143, though, points to a frightening level of madness, and, as such, the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is unsurprising.

But then there is this:

The jury had deliberated for under one hour and had returned during that hour to ask if the fact that Mr Connors had smoked cannabis before the killing was relevant to his culpability.

Mr Justice Birmingham told the jury that consultant psychiatrist, Dr Damien Mohan, had considered whether Mr Connors’ behaviour was attributable to drugs or mental illness and was of the “firm and clear” view that the accused’s mental disorder was the causative factor.

In other words, the fact that the defendant had smoked cannabis before the killing, which occurred around six o’clock in the morning, was not deemed relevant, and the link between the his mental disorder and his consumption of cannabis appears to have gone unexplored.

Man found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity

Irish Examiner
4 Feb 2009

A jury has found a Dublin man who killed a stranger with garden shears not guilty of murder by reason of insanity at the Central Criminal Court.

Thomas Connors (aged 25) thought Michael Hughes (aged 30), from Banagher in Offaly, was the embodiment of the devil when he found him sleeping in the stairwell of an apartment block.

Mr Justice George Birmingham told the jury that it had reached “absolutely the right verdict in accordance with the expert evidence”. He thanked it for its careful attention to the case and exempted its members from jury service for seven years.

Mr Connors, of Manor Court, Mount Argos, Harold’s Cross, killed Mr Hughes in a savage attack in the stairwell of an adjacent apartment block, Manor Villa, on the morning of December 15, 2007.

Mr Justice Birmingham said this was a case of “mind boggling sadness” and, were it not for the issue of insanity, would have been a perfectly clear and appalling case of murder.

He said: “Consequent on the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity I direct that Mr Connors be committed to a specially designated centre, the Central Mental Hospital, until further order.”

Prosecuting counsel, Paul O’Higgins SC, said Mr Hughes’ family were aware that victim impact evidence would not be heard because the case did not involve the imposition of a sentence.

Mr Justice Birmingham said to the family: “You truly have been through the most appalling experience. Words can’t and don’t describe it and all I can do is express my sympathy.”

The jury had deliberated for under one hour and had returned during that hour to ask if the fact that Mr Connors had smoked cannabis before the killing was relevant to his culpability.

Mr Justice Birmingham told the jury that consultant psychiatrist, Dr Damien Mohan, had considered whether Mr Connors’ behaviour was attributable to drugs or mental illness and was of the “firm and clear” view that the accused’s mental disorder was the causative factor.

Yesterday, the jury heard that Mr Hughes had gone out for a night in Dublin with his cousin and friends. He was to stay at his cousin’s flat in Harold’s Cross but the cousin had gone home early and Mr Hughes was unable to get into the flat when he returned after 4am.

Mr Hughes decided to sleep in the stairwell and sometime after 6am Mr Connors came crashing through the glass doors of the apartment block with garden shears and savagely attacked him, inflicting 143 injuries.

Residents heard screaming and rang gardaí who found Mr Connors walking away from the scene with the shears. He told gardaí that he had fought with the devil and the devil was gone now.

In the days leading up to the killing Mr Connors, a married man with one child, had gone to hospital three times seeking help. He was hearing voices and suffering delusions that his wife was the daughter of the devil. On the second visit he was given tablets. His wife was so frightened by his behaviour that she took their child to a women’s shelter.

On the third occasion, the day before the killing, doctors at Saint Vincent’s Hospital decided Mr Connors should be admitted to Saint James’ but he absconded during the four-hour wait for an ambulance.

In the hours before he killed Mr Hughes, Mr Connors thought the devil was in his apartment and had taken a duvet outside and stabbed it, believing the devil had been hiding in it.

Dr Mohan told the jury that Mr Connors suffered from schizophrenia, as did his father. He had been hospitalised with psychosis in 2004 and 2005 and believed that his father-in-law was the devil.

The victim’s father, Liam Hughes, made a statement outside the Four Courts on behalf of the Hughes family. He said that the family’s thoughts, as always but especially today, were on the 30 years of “love, kindness and generosity of spirit they enjoyed with the deceased”.

Mr Hughes said his son would be remembered by his friends as “a respectful and decent person”. He said a former teacher had contacted the family to pay tribute to Michael as “an honest, kind, sincere, popular and respected person who was a credit to his family and school”.

Mr Hughes said Michael had been a hard-working young man who commuted from Offaly to Dublin each day to work and had recently entered into further education. Mr Hughes said his son had coped admirably with the demands of full-time work and part-time study.

On October 27, 2007, he had become engaged to Deborah Lynch, who was with the family in court. Mr Hughes said his family had shared in their joy at setting up a home together and planning for their future.

He said: “Only seven short weeks later Deborah’s hopes and dreams were shattered.”

He said the Hughes family earnestly hoped that she would find happiness in the future.

Mr Hughes thanked UCD, which had honoured Michael recently on what would have been his conferring day, and his employer, Dublin Bus. He also thanked the team who investigated his son’s death, the Garda family liaison officer and the many friends who had offered comforting words.

He said it had been 13 months since the killing but the pain and horror of it had “scarcely lessened”. He said the natural “role reversal” in the cycle of life could not now happen as he had lost his son.

He said the family was disturbed and saddened by the evidence given in court, but there relieved that the process was over. He asked that the family’s privacy be respected at this time.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/man-found-not-guilty-of-murder-by-reason-of-insanity-397642.html

Jail for man who shot girlfriend 13 times with airgun – before trying to strangle and suffocate her

Leicester Mercury | 27 July 2017 |

Kristian Pole had been smoking cannabis when he ‘flipped out’ and attacked his partner at his home in Leicester

A man who failed to take a chance given by a judge, following an airgun attack on a girlfriend, has been jailed for two years.

Kristian Pole repeatedly fired pellets at close range into his then girlfriend’s face, limbs and body. Then he tried to strangle her and suffocate her with a pillow, Leicester Crown Court was told.

The frightened woman managed to run from Pole’s home in Leicester and alert the police, having suffered bruising and red marks from 13 plastic pellets and being gripped around her neck, in August last year.

Judge Robert Brown gave Pole a chance, in June, by imposing a two-year community order, with rehabilitation requirements, because he had already served several months on remand in custody.

Pole later failed to inform the probation service he had moved address – a condition of the order. He also refused to tell them where he was living with a new partner. This resulted in him being brought back to court, where Judge Brown re-sentenced him on Tuesday.

The judge told 24-year-old Pole, of no known address: “I’ve no choice but to revoke the order and impose custody. You’ve thrown away the chance of a community order by your own actions. When I sentenced you in June, for possessing a BB gun with intent to cause fear of violence and causing actual bodily harm, you’d already served eight or nine months in custody.”

He told Pole, who admitted the offences: “You’d done well on remand and changed your attitude. I was invited to take a chance on you and put you on a community order.

“You’ve failed to engage with the probation service and moved out of your mother’s address, without notifying those concerned about where you were living. This was a serious example of an assault.”

Lynsey Knott, prosecuting, said the assault with the BB gun happened when Pole’s then girlfriend visited his home, where he was smoking cannabis with a male friend.

When the cannabis ran out he erupted in violence, attacking her and shooting “at close range” her face and limbs.

James Varley, mitigating, said: “He’d smoked too much cannabis and flipped out.

“Your Honour will have told many defendants it’s not the harmless drug that many young people think it is.

“It has deleterious effects … what else could explain his conduct other than he was completely out of it when his cannabis supply was cut off.”

https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/jail-man-who-shot-girlfriend-243489

Couple killed friend, set him on fire and then had sex to celebrate, court told

ITV News | 16 Feb 2019 |

Cold-hearted killers who brutally murdered a vulnerable friend before setting him on fire and then having sex will spend at least 28 years in jail

Evil William Vaill and Deborah Andrews were handed life sentences for killing Skelmersdale dad Eamon Brady in a “brutal and sustained” attack.

Mr Brady was hit in the head with a hammer at least 17 times and repeatedly stabbed and slashed in the neck and body in the early hours of July 21.

Vaill, 37, and Andrews, 44, then wrapped his body in bedding and set it on fire before stealing a PlayStation 4, sound bar, DVD player and bank card belonging to their victim.

Andrews later described the couple as “the new Bonnie and Clyde”.

After the callous killing, the pair went to Beacon Country Park where they burned clothing and hid the weapons. They are also believed to have had sex in a nearby park hours after the attack, the court heard.

They also went on to attempt to sell his PlayStation 4 and use the stolen bank card in a local shop.

The evil couple, who had been friends with Mr Brady for several years, bumped into him by chance after Vaill had attended a funeral. They went back to his flat in Elmridge, Skelmersdale, where they drank and smoked cannabis.

By the time of the murder, Vaill, whose previous convictions include arson and criminal damage, had been drinking for 40 straight hours.

The pair left the flat at around around 4:50am and later told police that Mr Brady was alive and well when they left. But recordings in the police van heard that Andrews was ‘buzzing’ about the murder and describing the pair as the new Bonnie and Clyde.

Vaill, of Evington, Skelmersdale, pleaded guilty to murder and arson last month and was today given a life sentence with a minimum of 28-and-a-half years in prison.

Andrews, of Elmstead, Skelmersdale, was found guilty after a trial and given a life sentence with a minimum of 28 years in prison.

Both appeared emotionless throughout the sentencing at Preston Crown Court while Andrews sat with her hands in her pockets throughout.

Prosecuting, Francis McEntree said Mr Brady was a vulnerable man who was regularly taken advantage of by those around him. He had earlier told family that he wanted to move out of Skelmersdale to escape from people who were ‘leeching off him’.

He knew both of the victims well, having been friends for several years and they had all spent the together socially in a “happy, if noisy” manner.

Mr Brady had been friends with Vaill since their teenage years and an earlier incident in which Vaill stabbed him in the foot with a penknife was considered no more than horseplay after Mr Brady had laughed at him getting hurt when he kicked a lamppost.

An emotional victim statement read on behalf of Mr Brady’s daughter Amy Brady told of the devastating effects she has suffered since the murder of her best friend.

Her father’s death came 17 days short of the second anniversary of her brother Ryan’s death and that after seeing his battered and burnt body, Ms Brady now regularly suffers nightmare and is left “angry with the world”.

“There was a hole in my heart when my brother died that has been made bigger and will never be filled,” it stated.

“My dad was not only my dad, he was my entire being.”

Defending Vaill, Stuart Denney said he had begun cannabis and alcohol use since before he was a teenager and that Skelmersdale was “the worst place in the world for him”.

Michael Lavery, defending Andrews, said she had “limited capabilities and intelligence” and was previously of good character.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Mark Brown said: “Having killed him you set fire to his body to destroy evidence of what had happened and in doing so you committed arson with reckless disregard for the lives of the other residents in the building who were asleep at the time.

“It’s another matter of this case that having just murdered this a man in extremely violent and brutal circumstances that you had sex with each other soon after.”

https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2019-02-16/couple-killed-friend-set-him-on-fire-and-then-had-sex-to-celebrate-court-told/

Teenager found guilty of fatal stabbing of Luke Howard

Liverpool Echo | 22 Jan 2009 |

A LIVERPOOL teenager has been found guilty of killing a friend he stabbed 12 times in a drunk and drug-fuelled rage.

A jury at Liverpool Crown Court found Charlijo Calvert, 15, not guilty of the murder of 16-year-old Luke Howard but unanimously convicted him of manslaughter.

Calvert, of Ronald Street, Old Swan, stabbed Luke, from Dovecot, in the early hours of August 30 at the house of a friend in Ashcombe Road, Knotty Ash.

During the week-long trial, the court heard a group of teenage boys, including the victim and defendant, had gone to the house and drank alcohol, smoked cannabis and snorted cocaine.

Throughout the night, and into the early hours, witnesses said they saw Luke prodding Calvert with a screwdriver and the pair “winding each other up”. At one point, the court heard, they threatened to stab each other but the fatal attack at around 7am.

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/teenager-found-guilty-fatal-stabbing-3462600

Four ‘racist’ killings, two years apart, with one important commonality

  1. Skunk addicted schizophrenic fulfils sick fantasy by killing a black woman:  ‘Psychiatric reports stated that Maxwell was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and his abnormality was so great that it affected his judgment [sic].The reports also said his condition was exacerbated by the heavy use of skunk.’ (3 Apr 2007)
  2. Drive caught in gang’s ‘revenge’: ‘The 41-year-old minibus taxi driver was dragged screaming from his cab and beaten to death in July by several white teenagers in Huddersfield… Some of the teenagers had been drinking and smoking cannabis with some girls, who they then persuaded to call up and order the minibus – with fatal consequences.’ (26 Jan 2007)
  3. Racist thugs face 30 years in prison for axe murder: ‘The two men who murdered black teenager Anthony Walker were last night each facing up to 30 years in jail after the trial judge ruled the killing was racially motivated, effectively doubling the time they will serve… Anthony Walker wanted to be a lawyer, maybe a judge. He loved God, worked hard at his studies, practised his basketball skills whenever he could, though not on a Sunday if it clashed with church. Paul Taylor and Michael Barton revelled in the nicknames Chomper and Ozzy. One wanted to be a burglar, the other wanted to join the army, but was too stupid to pass the exams. They spent their time hanging around, smoking cannabis and, in the words of one, “going out robbing”.’ (1 Dec 2005)
  4. Asian gang kicked man to death: ‘Three Asian men who kicked a white computer expert to death and bragged: “That will teach an Englishman to interfere in Paki business” were found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey yesterday… The court heard that the three had been drinking all evening in the West End before returning to east London to drink vodka and smoke cannabis.’ (23 Nov 2005)

You know, of course, what the important commonality is, a much more important factor than apparent ‘racism’. I will note here only, as the article does not, that the ‘skunk addicted schizophrenic’ who deliberately targeted a black woman is himself black.

Jessica McCagh’s killer gets 21 years under tougher sentencing rule

Scotsman | 5 Jan 2010 |

A YOUTH who murdered his girlfriend by soaking her in petrol and then setting her alight was ordered yesterday to serve at least 21 years’ detention, in one of the first tests of Scotland’s new, tougher sentencing regime for killers…

Jessica and Blackburn had been in a relationship for some time, but, on the night of her death in April last year, she had told friends at a party she was leaving him.

On their way home to his flat in Arbroath, Blackburn – described as being “legless” through drink – pushed her into a hedge and punched her.

The row continued in the flat, and Blackburn claimed petrol had spilled on to Jessica and was ignited by a burning flake from a cannabis joint. The petrol had been in the flat because he had been repairing a motorbike and had drained the fuel tank, he claimed.

However, the jury at Blackburn’s trial last month rejected his version, which would have allowed him to be convicted of the lesser crime of culpable homicide and to have received a lighter sentence. He was convicted of murder, by deliberately dousing her and a bed with petrol and setting them alight.

Lord Bracadale told Blackburn that a sentence of detention for life was mandatory for murder. Also, the judge had to set the minimum term which Blackburn would have to serve before he could be considered for parole.

Lord Bracadale said Blackburn had threatened on an earlier occasion to use petrol to torch the home of Jessica’s parents while she was staying there. During the preparation of background sentencing reports, Blackburn also admitted that, aged 13, he threw a petrol bomb at a house because of a fall-out with the occupant.

He had a previous conviction for assault since becoming an adult, and a history of violence as a child.

“The evidence disclosed that there were three stages in the murder of Jessica McCagh,” said Lord Bracadale. “First, you threw petrol over her. Then you set fire to her. The expert evidence made it clear that that was a more difficult thing to do than many of us would have thought, and must have involved holding a naked flame at her or the bedclothes in order to set her alight.

“Once she was a alight, you did something of quite extraordinary cruelty – you held the door of the bedroom shut to prevent her escape. Jessica McCagh was your girlfriend, aged 17 years, and she died a terrible death at your hands.”

The judge said the crime’s level of wickedness had to mean a long minimum term, which he set at 21 years.

The jury had heard that Blackburn fled the flat, shouting: “Jessica’s dead.” He went to her parents’ home and repeated to them that she was dead. His neighbour, Mr Foreman, tried to save Jessica and threw water from a fishtank over her but the flames kept reigniting.

He got her out of the flat as her father arrived on the scene. She had suffered fourth-degree burns which affected more than 85 per cent of her body.

Jessica died in hospital later that day. More than 400 people attended her funeral.

An angry mob of about 200 gathered outside Arbroath Sheriff Court when Blackburn was due to make his first appearance on the murder charge. The hearing was moved to a police station. The prosecutor at Blackburn’s trial, Frank Mulholland, QC, the solicitor-general, said of the murder: “It is difficult to envisage more cruel or sadistic treatment of another human being.”

Blackburn was from Dundee and spent much of his childhood in foster care. He subsequently moved to a small flat in Arbroath and often smoked cannabis there with other teenagers.

He has previous convictions for housebreaking and assaulting Jessica’s father.

Jessica – the youngest of five daughters – had gone out with Blackburn since she was 15.

https://www.scotsman.com/news/jessica-mccagh-s-killer-gets-21-years-under-tougher-sentencing-rule-1-784959

 

‘Cannabis made my boy a killer’

THE mother of a violent schizophrenic who stabbed his best friend to death last night described how her son’s long-term cannabis habit turned him into a monster.

Julie Morgan, formerly from Cardiff, claimed her 20-year-old son Richard Harris’ ‘kind and gentle’ side disappeared not long after he started smoking cannabis from the age of 14.

“Cannabis took my son from me, I have no problem saying that,” said the 45-year-old.

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/cannabis-made-boy-killer-2229963

Carl Madigan knifed Sam Cook in heart two weeks after friend slashed man’s stomach open

Facebook accounts show Carl Madigan, 23, and Shaun Bethell, 19, hanging around together and smoking cannabis before the shocking offences which will now define their young lives.

In a dreadful two week period last October, Madigan killed tragic Sam Cook while Bethell, a teenager with a record to rival any career criminal’s, left a man’s bowel hanging out of his body.

Carl Madigan, 23, who was jailed for Sam Cook's murder, and Shaun Bethell, 19, who stabbed builder Tony Turpin
Carl Madigan, 23, who was jailed for Sam Cook’s murder, and Shaun Bethell, 19, who stabbed builder Tony Turpin (Image: Facebook)

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/carl-madigan-knifed-sam-cook-14790393

Man found guilty of murdering girlfriend’s toddler before claiming he slipped underwater in bath in 999 call

Smith was also found to have a high reading of cannabis in his bloodstream almost six hours after the 999 call – while a makeshift Ribena bottle ‘bong’ and the remains of six cannabis joints were found in a rear annex.

Despite Willett claiming she “always put the kids first,” text messages showed a woman desperate to buy cannabis, even on the night before Teddy’s death.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/man-found-guilty-murdering-girlfriends-11454999

Cork man, 26, who shattered skull of girlfriend’s infant daughter jailed for eight years

Brendan Kelly, defence barrister, said[…] that the accused appeared to be detached from what was going on and that the defendant had been a long-time cannabis user.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/cork-man-26-who-shattered-skull-of-girlfriends-infant-daughter-jailed-for-eight-years-906477.html

Dad shook baby daughter to death as he was agitated at running out of cannabis

Daily Mirror

A dad who shook his baby daughter to death because he was agitated at running out of cannabis was today jailed for six years.

William Stephens, aged 25, shook daughter Paris so violently she suffered catastrophic head injuries and was bleeding in the eyes.

The thug attacked 16-week-old Paris for crying after he was left to look after her while mum Danah Vince, 19, went to see a doctor.

The little girl died two days later in hospital and one shocked expert said he had never before seen such a severe case of bleeding in the eyes.

Stephens had a history of violence and social services were called in because of his volatile relationship with mum Vince,

A serious case review is being carried out into the way public bodies handled the case.

Stephens – who had serious learning difficulties – was convicted of manslaughter after a seven-week trial.

Vince was cleared of causing or allowing the baby’s death in January.

Passing sentence, the judge Mr Justice Teare told Stephens: “This is a case where a loss of temper and control has resulted in fatal violence to a defencless baby.

“You will have to live with the fact that you killed your daughter.”

Defence lawyer Ignatious Hughes QC, told the jury: “There is plenty of evidence that he and Danah Vince are likely to have been in a state of agitation due to lack of cannabis.”

Bristol crown court heard Stephens and Vince often fought and argued and social services stepped in to get the pair to sign agreements against domestic violence.

Stephens, from Southmead, Bristol, was given a restraining order to stay away from Vince but defied the ban and continued living with her and their daughter.

He appeared in juvenile court in 2006 for three assaults on a previous girlfriend and received a community order.

Five months later he appeared in front of magistrates for battery and was given the same punishment.

A year later he was given a caution for repeatedly punching a pregnant woman and in November 2008 got another caution for common assault.

In April 2010, he was hauled before magistrates for assaulting a police officer.

The local council is conducting a serious case review which will be published next year.

A spokesman said: “This is an extremely sad case where there has been the tragic loss of a young life.

“If nothing else I hope that today’s verdict offers some small measure of closure.

“An independent Serious Case Review by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board is being completed, carefully examining the role of public bodies involved in the case to see if there are any lessons to be learnt.

“The complexity of this case will become apparent once that review is published early next year following the conclusion of all relevant legal processes.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/william-stephens-shook-baby-paris-2923262

A year later, Danah Vince, the mother of the baby, committed suicide.

Teen faces one year for vicious attack on man outside takeaway

A 17-year-old boy has been warned he faces a one-year sentence for leading a vicious gang attack on a young man who was repeatedly punched and kicked outside a takeaway in Dublin.

The boy, who cannot be named because he is a minor, has pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children’s Court to assault causing harm and violent disorder in connection with the incident on the night of November 14, 2015.

Judge John O’Connor adjourned sentencing to see if the boy’s solicitor can organise a psychological assessment of the teenager whose behaviour, he said, has become more violent and aggressive.

The judge also noted the boy had tragic personal circumstances.

He said it was unacceptable that the boy had started smoking cannabis at the age of 12, and anyone who says it is not addictive “is not living in the real world”.

Garda Dave Jennings had told Judge O’Connor that the victim, a foreign national who is also aged in his late teens, had been at a Chinese takeaway at Kiltalown Way, Tallaght. A group of youths shouted in to him that they were going to rob him when he came out.

When he walked out one of them grabbed the handlebars of his bicycle and the youth then punched him in the side of his face.

The rest of the youths then joined in, grabbing the man, who was repeatedly punched and kicked before his bike was stolen.

The defendant struck the first blow but was not involved in the rest of the attack.

The victim fled back into the takeaway but was followed and had to run into the kitchen area for his safety. Garda Jennings agreed with Damian McKeone, defending, that the attack was not racially motivated.

CCTV footage was shown to Judge O’Connor, who described it as a “vicious assault”.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/teen-faces-one-year-for-vicious-attack-on-man-outside-takeaway-399847.html

Robbers who held knife to man’s neck before stealing his phone and laptop jailed

Two males who robbed a man at kinfepoint at his home in north Belfast have been jailed.

Bennet Donaghy and his accomplice, who at the time of the offence was 16, targeted their victim in the early hours of September 13, 2015.

He managed to escape and ran down the Shore Road in the middle of the night shouting for help.

Donaghy (20), a father-of-one from Cheston Close in Carrickfergus, was handed a 30-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court yesterday. His accomplice, who cannot be named, was given 15 months’ jail.

Both men were informed they would spend half their sentences in custody, with the remainder on licence.

The pair admitted a charge of assault with intent to rob, while the youth also admitted stealing the man’s laptop and mobile phone.

Prior to sentencing, Judge Gordon Kerr QC was informed that the victim was asleep on his sofa at around 4am when he heard persistent knocking at his front door.

He recognised the youth, who he knew from the area, with another young man.

The younger man asked the victim to lend him money, but when he handed them £5 the pair told him: “That’s not enough.”

Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said Donaghy then produced a knife and held it against the occupant’s neck.

The youth, who the man said looked like he was under the influence of drugs, punched the victim a number of times while Donaghy told him he was from the UDA and ordered him to hand over drugs and money.

The man’s home was ransacked, but he escaped and ran down the Shore Road barefoot and with a bruised face, only to be stopped by police.

Officers subsequently called at a house in the area, where they arrested Donaghy and the youth. Also located was a four-inch knife, along with the man’s laptop and mobile phone.

During police interviews, the youth admitted he knew the occupant, but claimed he was unable to remember what had happened because he had smoked a cannabis cigarette.

Like his accomplice, Donaghy claimed to have no recollection of the incident because he too had been smoking drugs.

Mr Steer told Belfast Crown Court there were a number of aggravating factors.

These included the use of violence and threats during the robbery, the presence of a weapon and the fact the victim was targeted in his home in the middle of the night.

Defence barrister JonPaul Shields, representing the youth, confirmed that his client was under the influence of drugs on the night in question.

He also added that he had since “recognised the seriousness of the offences.”

Telling the court his client knew his behaviour had been unacceptable, Mr Shields said: “At the time, he simply did not give any thought to what he was doing.”

The barrister also told how the young man, who has been working with the Youth Justice Agency, had expressed shame over the incident.

The lawyer said that at the time of the offence, his client had just lost a child, which led to him self-medicating.

Barrister Chris Holmes, acting on behalf of Donaghy, said that his client “apologises profusely to the victim”.

He added that on the night of the robbery, Donaghy was “very, very much under the influence” of drugs.

Mr Holmes also spoke of the defendant’s troubled background, telling the judge his client “didn’t have his sorrows to seek when he was being brought up”, which in turn contributed to poor mental health.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/robbers-who-held-knife-to-mans-neck-before-stealing-his-phone-and-laptop-jailed-35560290.html

Sally Hodkin murder: Killer ‘had miscarriage’ prior to fatal stabbing

A patient who murdered a grandmother believed she had suffered a miscarriage and was smoking cannabis in the lead up to the killing, an inquest has heard.

Nicola Edgington virtually decapitated Sally Hodkin with a stolen butcher’s knife in Bexleyheath, in 2011, six years after killing her own mother.

Edgington told hospital staff she needed to be sectioned and felt like killing someone.

A recent report found NHS and police failings led to Mrs Hodkin’s murder.

Edgington, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was discharged from the Bracton Centre mental health facility in 2009 despite an order she be detained indefinitely following the killing of her mother Marion in Forest Row, Sussex, in 2005.

Around two weeks before the killing on 10 October, 2011, Edgington made a number of emergency calls to police about “crackheads” stealing from her flat in early October. She had also been using skunk cannabis, the inquest heard.

On 29 September, she sent a message to her brother telling him about the miscarriage, saying she wanted to reconnect.

The message also mentioned their mother, with Edgington saying: “No-one’s taking care of me like she would.”

Her brother replied on the same day: “You stabbed her to death and left me to find the body. Good news about your miscarriage … do us a favour and slit your wrists.”

On the day of Mrs Hodkin’s murder, Edgington was taken to Oxleas House mental health unit, but was later allowed to walk out of the building.

She got a bus to Bexleyheath, bought a large knife from Asda and stole a steak knife from a butcher’s shop.

Edgington then stabbed Mrs Hodkin and another woman in the street.

Elizabeth Lloyd-Folkard, a forensic social worker who was looking after Edgington, told the inquest that around a week before the killing, she had “no cause of concern about her state of mind”.

Contact with family members, substance misuse, and any issues around pregnancy were noted in reports as high-risk factors that could affect Edgington’s mental health, the inquest heard.

Mrs Hodkin’s son Len Hodkin told the inquest: “All of those risk factors were present in the two to three weeks leading up to October 10.

“It’s not coming with the benefit of hindsight, this information was available to you and other members of the multi-disciplinary team at the time.”

The inquest continues.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46022330

Church-going cannabis user who strangled his grandmother and drowned his aunt is jailed for life

drug user who strangled his grandmother and drowned his aunt in a bath in a “savage and brutal” double-killing has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years.

Christopher Whelan, 21, armed himself with an axe and a pen knife during the killing of Julie Hill, 51, and 75-year-old Rose Hill after cannabis use “exacerbated” his violent thoughts linked to an obsessional disorder.

Nottingham Crown Court was told Whelan, who admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, heard the voice of “Satan” directing him as he killed the victims at his aunt’s home in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

Passing sentence on Whelan, of Crosspool, Sheffield, High Court judge Mrs Justice Carr said the last minutes of both victims’ lives must have been “terrifying, bewildering and agonising”.

The judge told Whelan: “This was very serious offending involving the brutal death of two innocent women.

“They died in the most horrific of circumstances at the hands of a grandson or a nephew. I have no hesitation in concluding that you pose a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm.

“Both consultant forensic psychiatrists (acting for the prosecution and the defence) confirm that you remain an unpredictable and dangerous person, continuing to suffer from violent urges.

“I am fully satisfied that the seriousness of these offences is such as to justify the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment for life.”

Whelan, a former Matalan worker, began using cannabis aged 16 and was said by a relative to have been in an “emotional and tearful” state on the night before the killings on February 25 this year.

The court heard on Friday how the younger victim’s 22-year-old son, Liam Parker, took his own life in April after finding his mother’s body.

The court was also told that a bloodstained axe was found near the body of Rose Hill, who lived in Sheffield but was visiting her daughter, having arrived in Shirebrook a couple of minutes after her grandson.

Post-mortem examinations found Rose had been strangled, while her daughter, who had wounds to her fingers and chin, had been punched in the face, knocking out one of her teeth, before she was drowned.

After the killings, Whelan was seen in Louth, Boston and King’s Lynn before catching a train to London – where he was arrested two days later after ringing the police from a decorating store.

The churchgoer, said to have had a “fundamentalist” Christian upbringing, informed a call-handler: “I have done something really bad, a murder. It’s my auntie and my nan. I have messed up, I need to serve the punishment.”

Whelan, who appeared in the dock wearing a dark blue suit, is believed to have started using cannabis aged 16, smoking around an ounce of the drug each week.

Jailing the double-killer, Mrs Justice Carr accepted evidence that he had taken £100 and a bank cards from his aunt’s purse after killing her, and had moved a dining room chair into the cellar before severing an artery in his grandmother’s wrist.

“I am sure that you inflicted significant physical suffering on both of them,” the judge told Whelan. “You also inflicted mental suffering, at least on Rose, with the use of an axe as a threat.

“These were savage and brutal attacks even before the killings.”

Addressing the defendant’s mental state, the judge added: “There is no suggestion that your ability to understand the nature of your own conduct was in any way impaired.

“You knew what you were doing and that it was wrong, even if your ability to form rational judgment or to resist you violent urges was mentally impaired.

“Your violent urges were exacerbated, as you knew, by your long-standing use of cannabis. Even if cannabis did not play any direct part in your offending at the time of the attacks, you smoking of cannabis was one of the triggers for the killings.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/21/church-going-cannabis-user-who-strangled-his-grandmother-and-dro/

Belfast schizophrenic jailed for killing friend in knife frenzy

A paranoid schizophrenic who killed his friend after breaking into his house and pursuing him with two knives will serve at least six years’ prison for the “truly horrific attack”.

Sentencing Ahmed Noor at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Madam Justice McBride said the fatal stabbing on the city’s Botanic Avenue last January was brutal, unprovoked and sustained.

After attacking his friend Mohsin Bhatti – a 29-year-old asylum seeker originally from Pakistan, Noor told police he had “killed the king” and also claimed to be “Allah’s assassin.

The defendant denied murder and possessing two offensive weapons, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Madam Justice McBride described Mr Bhatti as vulnerable and said he was a “quiet, gentle, hospitable and friendly man who got on well with others”.

Mr Bhatti called 999 from his mobile phone at 5am on January 29 last year and asked for police before screaming.

He was stabbed multiple times and suffered injuries including a wound to the chest that penetrated his heart, six knife wounds to his back and five to his neck – one of which went through his jugular vein.

The court heard that Noor had been smoking cannabis for several hours on the day of the attack, and that voices his head had told him to attack his friend.

The defendant then armed himself with two kitchen knives, before breaking into the victim’s house by smashing a window with a fire extinguisher.

Once inside, the two men struggled, before Mr Bhatti fled, chased by Noor, who is originally from Somalia but was living in Agincourt Avenue at the time.

After the fatal attack, he told police it was “the happiest day of his life” and said that he was going to rule the world.

Madam Justice McBridge said the frenzied attack had a massive impact on Mr Bhatti’s mother and father, who still live in Pakistan, and his sister, who lives in England.

She added that the killing had resulted in profound anguish and trauma for the victim’s relatives, speaking of the “far-reaching consequences for the family of this unprovoked and brutal killing of their vulnerable son and brother”.

Madam Justice McBride said that while she accepted that Noor was psychologically unwell at the time of the killing, he was also intoxicated through his cannabis use.

Telling the court that she deemed the defendant to pose a risk to the general public, the judge stressed that Noor’s prolific drug use had aggravated his underlying problems.

Madam Justice McBride also spoke of Noor’s lack of insight into the crime he had committed, his failure to comply with treatment programmes offered to him and his expressions of joy in the aftermath of the brutal killing of Mr Bhatti.

She additionally branded the killing a “truly horrific, unprovoked, violent and sustained attack.”

Noor was handed an indeterminate custodial sentence and was told that he would have to serve a minimum of six years’ detention before being considered eligible for release.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-schizophrenic-jailed-for-killing-friend-in-knife-frenzy-35052901.html

Woman played dead to survive horrifying three hour torture ordeal

A Coleraine man hanged himself last January after stabbing and beating his partner for three hours in what coroner John Lecky yesterday described as “most horrifying account” he had ever heard.

The inquest into the suicide of William Martin Hasson (41) heard that he attacked Ruth McGrath with two knives — slicing her liver and bowel — as their terrified seven-year-old daughter listened in the next room.

The clerk of Coleraine Coroner’s Court broke down in tears after delivering the harrowing depositions related to the case.

Mother-of-three Ms McGrath said she only escaped with her life because she pretended to be dead.

She told the court that her 10-year relationship with the deceased, who had broken her nose previously, had “deteriorated” and that he was only living in their home at Glenwood Avenue in the town for the sake of their daughter Kyla.

She described him as “possessive” and “depressive” and that she believed he had been abusive to other partners in the past but that she “defended herself”. Ms McGrath said she had gone to bed in the early hours of January 10 in 2009 as kitchen fitter Hasson drank cider and smoked cannabis. She woke to the bedroom door being opened and the light coming on.

Then came a horrifying three-hour ordeal in which she was stabbed with a kitchen knife and a decorative blade, punched, kicked, had a pillow placed over her face and had her head slammed off furniture.

In between it all, Hasson stopped to smoke cigarettes and went to talk to his daughter in the next room.

He also texted her friend, blaming her for the attack, and went through Ms McGrath’s text messages as she slipped in and out of consciousness and pleaded “let me die with dignity”.

She added: “He told me that none of us was getting out of the bedroom alive he told me he had been planning it. He said he wasn’t doing time for me.”

During one pause in the attack when Hasson lay on the bed and comforted her, Ms McGrath asked: “How can you say you love me when you are trying to take me away from Kyla?”

She described how, towards the end of the attack, she was bringing up blood and saw Hasson standing over her with a rope around his neck.

“He was going to kill me, then himself. I thought the only way I was going to survive was to pretend I was dying or dead. I could see him standing over me, I was afraid to move.

“When I opened my eyes, I saw Willie hanging.”

Ms McGrath said she then took a barricade off the door and went to sit on the sofa and rang police.

The brave mum was in the Causeway Hospital for four weeks before being transferred to the Mater in Belfast. Her bowel and liver were pierced and her gall bladder was removed.

Police witnesses described arriving at the house at 4.40am to find Ms McGrath wrapped in a stained duvet and Hasson hanging from a hatch in the bedroom, above a bed splattered with blood.

John Lecky told the court: “In all my time as coroner, this is the most horrifying account I have ever heard. It’s what you expect from a video nasty — this is real life.”

He praised the emergency services for their dealings with the case and said it “must be one of the worst incidences of domestic violence in Northern Ireland”.

He ruled that Hasson, described as “mildly intoxicated”, had died by his own act while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

He said that Hasson — who police say was not known to them on any domestic violence matters — had intended to kill his partner and then himself.

Mr Lecky also passed his best wishes on to Kyla and her mother for their continuing recovery, adding: “I can’t help but think that if (Ms McGrath) had not found her way downstairs, she may not be here today.”

‘I never thought he’d go this far; he was a coward’

Ruth McGrath, who played dead to escape her violent partner, has told how she is trying to rebuild her life.

She described William Martin Hasson as “a coward” but maintains that despite her injuries and trauma her life must go on.

She said she never thought the man she met at a Christmas party a decade ago would ever go so far as to try to kill her.

Ruth, who also has sons aged 21 and 23, said both her and her daughter have received extensive counselling following their ordeal.

“I did not know at the time but she heard everything, she was aware and he went in to her to tell her to lie there and be quiet,” she said.

“She misses him, she loves him, he was her daddy, it is very confusing for her. She goes through different stages.

“I wonder how the wee girl gets on with it, she is a normal eight-year-old girl.

“She sees his family and it is up to her. After what happened, I want her to have as normal a life as possible.”

Addressing women — or men — who may find themselves in a similar situation, she said: “I kept him in the house because it was Christmas, I was being nice. My attitude now would be — get him out.

“He had planned it, it was pre-meditated, it wasn’t spontaneous. I never thought he would go this far. He was a coward, that’s why he attacked me in the bed, I wasn’t scared of him. He didn’t attack me for years but he was violent with other women. He was only there for my child.

“There were a few occasions when I thought he was going to finish me off, he said “I’m not going to jail for you”.

She added: “I’ve as full a life as I can have and I will lead my life the way I want to. I have internal problems but I won’t let them stop me.

“I hope to get back to work, and be a good mum to my children.”

Aaron McGrath (21) who was living in the house at the time of the attack and was woken at a friend’s house by police responding to his mother’s distress call, said that seeing what Hasson had done to his mother was “pure hell” but added: “We just want to get back to normal.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/woman-played-dead-to-survive-horrifying-three-hour-torture-ordeal-28520271.html

Rapist jailed

A rapist who stalked a girl of 15 before dragging her into bushes was today behind bars.

David Irving, 27, whose partner was pregnant at the time of the rape, was jailed for 10 years and put on the sex offender register for life following the terrifying attack.

His victim, described as a model schoolgirl, had been with her boyfriend but was alone as she headed down Station Road, Wallsend, North Tyneside, a jury at Newcastle Crown Court was told.

She heard footsteps behind her as she passed the town’s Buddle Arts Centre.

And moments later Irving struck as she moved onto a footpath behind Wallsend Ex-Servicemen’s Social Club.

The court heard how Irving, who had been on a five-hour booze binge, stifled the terrified girl’s screams with his hand and told her he had a knife.

He forced her sobbing onto the muddy ground and repeatedly raped and molested her. She was also ordered to perform a sex act.

Staff at the club called police after the traumatised girl, covered in mud, ran in to beg for help.

Police arrested Irving at his home in Woodside Avenue, Walker, Newcastle, just hours later.

Investigating officer Det Con Chris Forster today welcomed the sentence and said: “I’m pleased with the sentence. It’s totally justified by the nature of this attack.

“It was a prolonged attack of about 15 to 20 minutes.

“This girl is a model schoolgirl and she and her family have been absolutely traumatised.

“She has shown great courage, going on to sit her GCSEs.

“But she and her family are still having counselling. This incident has shocked the community.”

Irving had been rowing with his girlfriend, who was three months pregnant at the time.

He had been out drinking and smoking cannabis since about 1pm on the day of the attack.

Irving, who denied rape but was convicted by a majority jury vote, claimed he had bumped into the girl and that she had asked him for cannabis.

He had downed up to eight points of lager and said his victim agreed to go with him into bushes and had been a willing partner for sex.

But the evidence of a passing taxi driver nailed his lies.

The driver told the court how Irving ignored him when he tooted to offer him a lift and seemed to be in a world of his own.

Det Con Forster said: “It was mainly through the taxi driver that we were able to arrest Irving just two or three hours after the offence.

“It helped the case that so many people came forward and came forward quickly. That led to us tracking Irving down.”

Jailing him, Judge John Milford said the 10-year sentence was based on the facts that the girl had been just 15, that Irving had threatened violence and that he abducted her and had sex with her three times.

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/rapist-jailed-1686818

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].”

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/karen-leonard-murder-michael-heighton-6687966