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Musician jailed for killing best friend in 'drug-crazed frenzy'

Published 13/11/2015

Sam Donley was on trial at Leeds Crown Court
Sam Donley was on trial at Leeds Crown Court

A 20-year-old man who killed his "adored" best friend in a "drug-crazed frenzy" has been jailed for more than six years.

Musician Sam Donley, from York, stabbed fellow band member Liam Miller 32 times after they experimented with a "potent and dangerous" hallucinogenic drug known as N-bomb in July this year.

Donley, who also attacked an innocent passer-by, told police he felt like he was in a dream and had to stab Liam - who he thought was a skull - in order to return to the real world.

The defendant, 19 at the time of the attack, was jailed for six years and eight months at Leeds Crown Court today after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

He was given a concurrent sentence of 32 months for wounding Theophilos Theophilou.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, said: "You bear the responsibility for the death of your close friend Liam Miller and also for the injuries caused to Mr Theophilou, an innocent passer-by."

Judge Collier continued: "It all resulted from a deliberate decision made by you when you were sober and when you were rational. It was a decision to take a hallucinogenic drug.

"You may have hoped for a good high but you knew there was the possibility of, not only a bad trip, but a very bad trip. Nevertheless you went ahead and took that drug."

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, told the court the case was about "the catastrophic effects of Sam Donley's voluntary decision to ingest a large amount of the class A drug commonly known as N-bomb".

Mr Wright said the two men had been close friends since they were 16 and there was no animosity between them.

He said they decided to experiment with LSD on July 27 while Donley's parents were away and obtained the similar class A drug 25i-NBOMe - which was made illegal in June 2014.

Shortly before Donley attacked 20-year-old Mr Miller with a kitchen knife inside his home, the victim sent a message to a friend on Facebook which said: "My mate is bad, what do I do?"

Mr Miller, from Terrington, near Malton, North Yorkshire, was found lying by the gates to the house by Mr Theophilou, who tried to help as Donley crouched over his friend and stabbed him again several times.

Donley then chased Mr Theophilou and attacked him until a neighbour intervened and kept the defendant inside his house, where he began to stab himself in the throat.

The defendant later told police - who had to Taser him twice - that he had become convinced Mr Miller had locked him in the house so he punched him but could not remember further details.

Describing the attack outside the house, Mr Wright said: "He believed he was stabbing a skull. He felt like he was in a dream and he needed to do that - to stab the skull - in order to get back into the real world."

He continued: "The circumstances of this case plainly demonstrates just how potent and dangerous the consumption of this and other hallucinogenic drugs can be."

Mr Wright said the prosecution had accepted Donley's guilty plea to manslaughter because the psychotic episode he was suffering at the time of the attack meant he could not form the necessary intent to commit murder.

Mr Theophilou told the court in a message: "I'm sure he feels great remorse for causing this terrible tragedy. For my part, I forgive him for attacking me in his drug-crazed frenzy."

Nicholas Lumley QC, mitigating, described the case as a "tragedy" and read a letter written to the judge by Donley.

Donley wrote in the letter: "No outcome could possibly be worse than knowing my best friend, who I adored, has gone and I will regret that for the rest of my life."

He continued: "I loved Liam and I will never again have such a close friend who meant as much to me as he did.

"I only hope I can take what has happened to Liam and use it to teach people about the dangers of drugs in future to stop this from happening ever again."

Mr Miller's family said in a statement: "It is impossible to find the words to describe how we feel about Liam's death.

"He is the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing we think about at night.

"It was such a waste of life and he didn't deserve what happened."

Detective Inspector Mark Pearson, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "This case is one of absolute tragedy brought about through the use of illegal drugs.

"What started out as two best friends enjoying a night together has ended in catastrophic circumstances."

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