Widow rejects hate after conviction
The widow of a church organist who was battered to death as he walked to a Christmas Eve service said she rejected "feelings of hate and unforgiveness" after a man was convicted of killing her husband.
Maureen Greaves sobbed in the public gallery at Sheffield Crown Court after unemployed father-of-two Ashley Foster, 22, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Alan Greaves, 68.
Devout Christian Mr Greaves suffered horrendous head injuries when he was attacked as he walked the short distance from his home in the High Green area of Sheffield to midnight mass at St Saviour's Church. He died in hospital three days later.
There were dramatic scenes in court after a jury foreman returned a not guilty verdict to the charge of murder Foster was facing. The defendant's family celebrated and Mrs Greaves looked confused and shocked as barristers and the judge prepared to move on to the next part of the proceedings.
But the atmosphere changed suddenly when the puzzled woman foreman, who had already sat down, shouted "but guilty to manslaughter" loudly over the noise from gallery. At this point Foster's girlfriend and mother of his two young children, Natalie Evers, burst into tears and ran from the court screaming.
Another man, Jonathan Bowling, also 22, had already admitted murdering Mr Greaves, a grandfather. Bowling, who was standing in the glass-fronted dock flanked by two security guards, put his head in his hands.
As the judge clarified the verdict with the jury, Mrs Greaves, 63, also collapsed in tears and was comforted by the many members of her family and church who have supported her through a trial lasting more than three weeks. Foster will be sentenced on Friday with Bowling.
Speaking outside court, Mrs Greaves said: "Alan was a man driven by love and compassion and he would not want any of us to hold on to feelings of hate and unforgiveness. So, in honour of Alan and in honour of the God we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn't end today. My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made him in his own image and that God's great mercy will inspire them to true repentance."
Canon Simon Bessant, from St Saviour's, supported Mrs Greaves in the public gallery. He said of the victim: "He had a great sense of humour, he loved people, he served his community, he didn't deserve this at all."
Later, Mrs Greaves told the BBC: "It does sound so easy, doesn't it - 'I've forgiven them'. Probably, it's been one of the hardest things in my life I've had to do. And yet, having done it and repeatedly seeking to do it, and to keep myself focused on it, I've found I've benefited from it. I've not gone to bed with them on my mind. I've not gone around with shocking feelings within myself over them. I've not gone over and over and over in my mind, the replay of what they did to Alan."