Benjamin Edwards spends first night in jail for manslaughter of Chris Henchliffe

Benjamin Edwards. Picture issued by Derbyshire Constabulary.
Benjamin Edwards. Picture issued by Derbyshire Constabulary.

Benjamin Edwards has spent his first night in jail for the manslaughter of former soldier Chris Henchliffe.

Edwards, 22, of Fieldview Place, Chesterfield, was taken to prison yesterday after a jury found him guilty of unlawfully killing Mr Henchliffe. He was just 26.

Yvonne and Chris Henchliffe. Picture submitted by family.

Yvonne and Chris Henchliffe. Picture submitted by family.

Judge Stuart Rafferty QC sentenced Edwards to five-and-a-half years behind bars.

Much-loved Mr Henchliffe, who lived on Maynard Road, Chesterfield, served in Afghanistan with the Yorkshire Regiment.

But the dad-of-one was not to lose his life in that conflict-ridden country.

His time was tragically cut short following a row over a spilt drink on a night out in Chesterfield town centre.

Mr Henchliffe died in hospital nine days after an altercation outside the Pomegranate Theatre in Corporation Street during the early hours of July 3 last year. His death shocked the town.

During a six-day trial at Nottingham Crown Court, the prosecution said Edwards punched Mr Henchliffe outside the theatre in an 'act of aggression'.

Mr Henchliffe fell 'heavily' to the floor and suffered a catastrophic head injury, the court heard.

Edwards denied manslaughter and argued he 'threw a punch' at Mr Henchliffe as he feared he was going to harm his friend.

Last night, Mr Henchliffe's mother, Yvonne Henchliffe, issued a short, poignant statement which said: "Rest well, my beautiful son. Justice is yours. Forever young, my darling. Xxx."

She previously described him as a 'wonderful son' and a 'marvellous daddy' who 'always kept any atmosphere alive with his cheeky grin and the mischievous twinkle in his eyes'.

He loved his family, music, dancing, the gym and playing the Xbox.

It is understood Ms Henchliffe will speak to the Derbyshire Times over the coming days.

Meanwhile, a number of Edwards' friends have changed their Facebook profile pictures to include him in an apparent show of solidarity.

Edwards, a former customer services worker at Currys PC World, left school with a number of GCSEs, the court heard.

He told the jury it was a 'spontaneous decision to go into town' that night.

Edwards' mother, father, brother and sister - all completely innocent in this case - now face the prospect of visiting their son and sibling in a prison.

Residents have taken to social media to comment following the conclusion of the case.

Victoria Claire Fletcher said: "Five-and-a-half years for taking a life?"

Verity Pegg said: "RIP Chris."

Emily Barrie added: "I hope the accused has learnt his lesson and I hope the family are left to grieve and can, in time, forgive and move forward.

"This has ruined lives on both sides of the courtroom."

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