Murdered for 'graveyard sex'
A TEENAGER has been jailed for life for murdering a man because he believed he was having sex in a graveyard where his grandfather was buried.
Drunken Matthew Ward used a metal bar to kill James Wood, 30, in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, South Normanton.
Ward, 19, of Church Street, South Normanton, had been to a pub with a friend who told him a couple were having sex in the churchyard in November last year.
Ward went back to his flat and returned with the bar to carry out the attack which left Mr Wood, of Duke Street, South Normanton, with massive head injuries. His body was found the following morning, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
His wife, a mother of three boys, was found sitting drunk on a pavement. She could not recall the attack but had probably witnessed it, said Mr Dean.
Recorder Michael Stokes ordered Ward should serve a minimum of 13 years. He described him as immature and said his family and the victims would never forget the event, which would also have a long-term effect on the village community.
Mr Wood and his wife, Michelle, 29, had been in the Devonshire pub in the early hours of November 11. Ward had been there separately with his own group of friends.
Ward had drunk the equivalent of eight to 10 pints of beer. After leaving the pub the Woods headed home. Ward and his friend Samuel Avison left together and walked in the same direction.
Prosecutor Nicholas Dean said: "James and Michelle took advantage of the relative privacy of the churchyard to have sex. As Ward and Avison passed the churchyard Avison glimpsed a couple engaged in sexual activity. He mentioned it to Ward."
Ward said: "Are you joking? Are you serious? My grandad is buried there and they are being disrespectful."
Ward went home and told his girlfriend there was someone being disrespectful in the graveyard. He picked up a metal bar he called "the kosh" and, returned to the graveyard and hit 30-year-old Mr Wood on the head three or four times.
Ward burnt his bloodstained jacket at a nearby recreation ground and dumped his clothes, the metal bar and his jeans at Codnor Reservoir.
Julian Goose, for Ward, said he was full of remorse and said he "ought to be executed" for what he had done.
After Ward grabbed the bar, his girlfriend Victoria Thorniley texted Mr Avison "Make sure he don't do owt stupid".
But the court was told that tool-setter Mr Wood was repeatedly struck about the head, which had 15 "areas of injury". He also had bruises on his arms where he probably tried to defend himself.
Ward admitted murdering Mr Wood, who was said to be "a valued employee" of a Pinxton firm.
Ward had written to the judge, telling of his sorrow for the victim's family. He wrote: "I am extremely sorry for the pain and grief I have caused them."
Mr Goose said Ward was "a popular young man, well-liked and with many friends" but he had financial problems and feared he was about to be made bankrupt.
He said: "He had growing pressures and in the stressful events of his life he reacted badly, particularly when in drink.
"He is an only child and in childhood was often looked after by his grandfather and was very close to him. His grandfather died in 2005, when he was 16."
He said Ward had given a frank account to his girlfriend when he described the couple's actions as "disrespectful".
Mr Goose said: "The defendant is utterly shocked by what happened and extremely upset by it."
Detective Chief Inspector Sandra Barker, who led the investigation, said: "This was a brutal attack on a law-abiding innocent family man. Ward used an extreme level of violence and his reaction in the circumstances was vastly over-the top. I think alcohol played its part but also that Ward has issues with his anger."