VIDEO: Sheffield churchgoer killers jailed 34 years

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Two men convicted of battering a Sheffield organist to death as he made his way to church in High Green on Christmas Eve have been jailed for a total of 34 years, writes Polly Rippon.

Jonathan Bowling, who delivered the fatal blows to 68-year-old Alan Greaves was jailed for life and told he must serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars.

Victim: Alan Greaves, 68.

Victim: Alan Greaves, 68.

His accomplice Jonathan Foster, who was found guilty of manslaughter after a three week trial, was jailed for nine years.

Sentencing them Mr Justice Nigel Teare said: “Why you chose to inflict violence to another human being on Christmas Eve is known only to you but you did.

“You chose a victim at random. Alan Greaves happened to be infront of you on his way to serve his community as he always had done and you decided to inflict violence on him.

“The pick axe handle was wielded with extensive force at the top of the scale.

“He suffered dreadful injuries of the type seen when a person falls from a great height is is involved in a car accident.

“The victim was particularly vulnerable. He was 68 and he was on his own.”

Earlier the court heard killer Jonathan Bowling had a history of violent offending dating back to when he was teenager.

Devout Christian Alan Greaves suffered severe head injuries when he was attacked as he walked the short distance from his home in the city’s High Green area to St Saviour’s Church on December 24.

He died in hospital three days later.

Ashley Foster, aged 22, of Wesley Road, High Green, was cleared of murdering the father-of-four yesterday but found guilty of his manslaughter amid emotional scenes at Sheffield Crown Court.

Another man, Jonathan Bowling, 22, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, pleaded guilty to murder at a previous hearing.

As the thugs appeared at Sheffield Crown Court today to be sentenced for their part in Mr Greaves’ death, it emerged that Bowling has a long criminal record.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC told the judge about a series of convictions Bowling has for violence.

The court was told Bowling attacked a jogger when he was just 15 - leaving him with serious facial injuries similar to those suffered by Mr Greaves.

They included a suspected broken cheek bone, cuts to his face and swollen eyes.

Bowling appeared handcuffed in the dock flanked by six prison officers, separated from Foster by three of the guards.

The judge, Mr Justice Teare, heard Bowling was also convicted in his teens for brandishing a hammer when a police officer stopped him, threatening a woman with a hammer, and headbutting a 48-year-old woman who complained because he was throwing snowballs at her windows.

Mr Smith said Mr Greaves was a particularly vulnerable victim.

He said: “At the age of 68 he was unlikely to be able to mount an effective defence. It was a crime without motive.

“He was killed for no reason other than that he had been identified as a suitable victim.”

Gordon Cole QC, defending Bowling, told the judge his client had written a letter to Mrs Greaves expressing his ‘genuine remorse’.

Mr Cole said the letter had been handed to prosecutors who will decide whether it is appropriate to pass it on.

He said Bowling, who suffers from a ‘disocial personality disorder’ had also written to the judge.

“He accepts his role in the commission of this murder,” Mr Cole said. “He is genuinely remorseful for that which he has done.”

He added Bowling had ‘always maintained it was a joint enterprise attack’.

But Foster’s barrister Adrian Waterman QC said: “Bowlings accounts are unreliable.”