A 21-year-old man has been jailed for life after a jury found him guilty of murder following an attempted knife-point robbery in Sowerby Bridge.
A judge said desperate Nicholas Gill, who grew up in Bradford, had been “prowling” the streets of the Calderdale town armed with a kitchen knife when he spotted 58-year-old Paul Bell coming out of an off-licence with a bottle of wine after a night out in Hebden Bridge with a friend.
The Recorder Of Bradford Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said Mr Bell, who was described as not having a bad bone in his body, had been intending to finish off a nice evening with a bottle of wine in front of the television.
But Gill, who had no money and hadn’t eaten, was captured on CCTV following Mr Bell as he made his way to his nearby home and he threatened him with the knife in the Old Cawsey area of the town.
The judge said the resourceful Mr Bell may have done something to Gill during the attempted robbery, but instead of running away the then 20-year-old, who was said to have anger management issues, launched a “ferocious and frenzied” attack on his victim.
Bradford Crown Court heard that Gill punched Mr Bell hard in the face causing him to fall backwards hitting his head on the ground with catastrophic results.
“You then, I am satisfied, proceeded with considerable force to kick him to the right side of his prone body and that gentleman we find had 11 fresh rib fractures,” said the judge.
The judge said Gill had then nonchalantly walked back to the off-licence, possibly after scooping up some loose change, and bought himself a can of beer.
The injured Mr Bell was helped back to his nearby flat by two passing members of the public, but following complications as a result of a fractured skull and a brain injury he died in hospital 54 days later.
Gill, of Hollins Lane, Sowerby Bridge, was arrested the day after the attempted robbery with the knife in his bag, but during a series of police interviews he denied being involved in the attack on the night of September 30 last year.
It was only after Mr Bell’s death that he told detectives he had approached his victim that night, but claimed the deceased was drunk and swung the wine bottle him after he asked him for the time.
Gill said the man lost his balance after he pushed him “a little bit”, but he helped him up and sat him on a wall before leaving him.
Judge Durham Hall said Gill’s account had been put forward out of a sense of self-preservation and he had shown no concern from start to finish for the enormity of his actions.
Following a trial lasting more than five days the jury took about two hours to return their unanimous guilty verdicts on charges of murder, attempted robbery and two charges of possessing an offensive weapon.
The judge imposed a minimum term of 21 years in jail which Gill must serve before being considered for release by the parole board.
“You were a young man prepared routinely to carry a knife intending if necessary to use it to cause harm,” the judge told Gill.
“There are a number of alarm bells that must be ringing in your case.”