Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

'Men laughed after organist attack'

Alan Greaves, 68, was attacked as he headed home from Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve

Two men were heard laughing after they battered a church organist to death with a pick-axe handle on Christmas Eve, prosecutors have told a jury.

Lay preacher Alan Greaves, 68, was attacked as he walked to St Saviour's Church in High Green, Sheffield, for Midnight Mass on December 24. He died from "grave and catastrophic" head injuries in hospital three days later.

Prosecutors told a jury at Sheffield Crown Court that Mr Greaves was attacked by Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster as he went to play the organ at the service - something he had done for 40 years. Bowling, 22, has admitted killing the pensioner but Foster, also 22, denies the murder and is standing trial.

Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, told the court the pair went out together looking for someone to attack. Mr Smith told the jury: "In short, the prosecution say that these two men were walking the streets looking for a suitable victim. If it hadn't been Mr Greaves, it would have been someone else."

He told the court how 17-year-old William Parr spotted two men running in a nearby park shortly after the attack happened. Giving evidence later, Mr Parr said the men were "speed walking" and they were "walking, talking, laughing." Mr Smith said it was the prosecution case that the two men Mr Parr saw in park were Bowling and Foster.

The prosecutor described how Mr Greaves suffered head injuries similar to those seen in a car crash or a fall from a height. A post-mortem examination showed he had been hit at least three times. Mr Smith said part of the pensioners' head was hit so hard that the bones splintered into a number of pieces. One of these bone pieces was found at the scene of the attack.

Mr Smith told the jury it was the prosecution case that Mr Greaves was hit with a pick-axe handle that was found later. He said fragments of wood found in the pensioner's head matched this weapon. But he said damage to Mr Greaves's hat showed a second weapon was also used, possibly a hammer.

The jury was told that Bowling and Foster had been at a house in High Green earlier in the day, drinking lager and Bacardi-and-Cokes. They were arrested in January after police released CCTV footage of men they wanted to talk to.

Foster handed himself in to police but claimed it was Bowling who attacked Mr Greaves and he had nothing to do with it, the jury of six men and six woman was told. The defendant told a friend that Bowling said to him after the attack: "That's me being normal, so imagine me when I'm on one. If you tell anybody, I'm going to set your kids on fire and torture you."

Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green, denies one count of murder. The jury was told that Bowling, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, has already admitted murdering Mr Greaves. The trial will continue on Thursday

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