Hammer attack son fractured mum and stepdad’s skulls in ferocious attack

editorial image
Have your say

A MAN who launched a savage attack on his mother and stepfather with a claw hammer for no apparent reason has been jailed for 14 years.

Former student Mark Dunning, aged 23, flipped after returning home from a party and launched his vicious assault, leaving his victims, who are both prison officers, with fractured skulls.

Neither a top psychiatrist or probation officers were able to discover the reason behind the ferocious assault.

The only possible clue, the court heard, was that Dunning had financial and gambling problems - although his barrister Guy Wyatt said it was no excuse for his behaviour.

Dunning, of St Mary’s Drive, Dunsville, Doncaster, was initially charged with two counts of attempted murder but the charges were later reduced.

He admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent to his mother Rachel Shaw and wounding his stepfather Stephen Shaw with intent on December 18 last year.

Prosecutor Corinne Wilson told Sheffield Crown Court Dunning, a former Sheffield Hallam University student, used a 16oz claw hammer from a toolbox kept in the house.

She said Dunning appeared perfectly normal in the evening when he left for a friend’s surprise party and the partygoers described him as his usual self. He left ‘merry’ but not drunk sometime after 1am.

The court heard that when Dunning arrived home he woke his mother and stepfather and asked for some stomach tablets. His mother got up and went to the spare room and his stepfather then heard a ‘terrible’ scream.

Dunning struck her at least twice before she slumped to the floor. As Mr Shaw came to help, Dunning rained several blows down his head and began strangling him.

Miss Wilson said Dunning then stopped suddenly and said to his stepfather: “Steve, I’m really sorry.”

When police attended they found Dunning standing behind Mr Shaw and his mother crying and upset. She told officers her son needed help.

Both victims had a depressed fracture of the skull and cuts and bruises to their bodies. Doctors found there was no long-term neurological damage.

Miss Wilson said Dunning, who had no previous convictions, had possibly planned the unprovoked attack before he went to the party and wore gloves to carry it out.

Dunning’s mother and stepfather were in the court building but not in court to see him jailed.

Mr Wyatt, defending, said they were respectable and sensible parents who were fully supportive of him and believed he needed help. “They want what is best for him,” he said.

My Wyatt added it was difficult to say what motivated the attack. He said: “There is no psychiatric or substance-abuse problem. The problem is exclusively within the family home.”

He launched the assault for reasons which were ‘unknown and inexplicable’ and was now ‘shocked, ashamed and appalled’ at what he had done.

Mr Justice Davis decided Dunning was a danger to the public but was not suffering from any personality disorder. He gave Dunning an extended sentence of 14 years based on 10 years custody and an additional four-year extended licence period.

The judge told Dunning he had led a previously decent life and said: “What happened is a tragedy for your family and yourself. This is one of the worst cases of its kind and there are two victims here.

“I think you present a considerable risk of serious harm to the public.”

Mr Justice Davis also praised Dunning’s parents for standing by him: “You can consider yourself very fortunate.”