Sheffield murder:‘Brutal and senseless’, says judge

Victim: Alan Greaves with his wife, Maureen.
Victim: Alan Greaves with his wife, Maureen.
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Evil Jonathan Bowling smirked as he was jailed for life for the ‘brutal’ murder of Sheffield organist Alan Greaves.

Bowling, aged 22, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, was sentenced to serve a minimum of 25 years yesterday afternoon, before a packed room at Sheffield Crown Court.

His co-accused Ashley Foster, also 22, who was found guilty of manslaughter after a three week trial was handed a nine-year jail term.

Jailing 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.”

After the hearing, Maureen Greaves, aged 64, Mr Greaves’ widow, said: “I am wonderfully pleased with the result.

“It has been a good day.”

Mr Greaves, a married father of four, was on his way to play the organ at St Saviour’s Church, High Green, when he was set upon by Bowling who struck him at least twice over the head with a pickaxe handle, stolen from High Green Methodist Church shed.

He leapt in the air and struck the lay preacher with such force he suffered extensive brain damage and facial and skull fractures.

Mr Justice Teare told Bowling: “On what is usually one of the happiest days of the year, Christmas Eve, Alan Greaves, a 68-year-old man on his way to play the organ at his church, was brutally and senselessly murdered by you.

“He was struck on the head with a pickaxe handle at least twice with extreme force.

“As a result, his skull was fractured and his brain severely injured.

“Despite the best efforts of surgeons and medical staff over the Christmas holiday, his life could not be saved.”

Mr Greaves, a lay preacher and retired social worker died in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital three days later.

The judge continued: “You chose a victim at random.

“Alan Greaves happened to be in front of you on his way to serve his community as he always had done and you decided to inflict violence on him. The pickaxe handle was wielded with extreme force at the top of the scale.

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

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

Addressing Foster, Mr Justice Teare said he accepted he had not used a weapon, but was involved in an attack which was ‘not merely reprehensible, but horrific’.

He told Foster: “You took part in the attack on Alan Greaves, but without the intention to cause him really serious bodily harm.

He said Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green, must have been party to the attack ‘either by deliberately encouraging Bowling, whether by his presence or by taking part himself’.

Mr Justice Teare told the pair: “Neither of you knew Alan Greaves.

“He had done nothing to provoke the attack on him.

“He was merely walking to church to help his local community celebrate Christmas.

“His wife, his family and his community have suffered a tragic and horrendous loss.”

The judge also paid tribute to ‘courage, humanity and dignity’ of Mr Greaves’ family, who sat through every day of the three-week trial.

Speaking outside court after yesterday’s sentencing, Mrs Greaves said she would not read a letter that Bowling had written her.

She said: “To put it into my hands the day he was going to get sentenced, I didn’t think was very appropriate.

“If he was going to write me a letter, he should have written it a long time ago.”