Duo jailed for revenge attack in Sowerby Bridge

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A would-be vigilante has been jailed for six years after his revenge attack went disastrously wrong.

Distraught father Paul Prentice had been looking for the man responsible for his beloved daughter ending up in hospital, but he went to the wrong house in Sowerby Bridge and ended up being badly injured himself.

Bradford Crown Court heard how the 50-year-old and his accomplice Christian Keene were both wearing balaclava masks as they tried to force their way into the home of innocent householder Keith Whittaker.

During the late-night confrontation last November Mr Whittaker, 73, hit Prentice over the head with a hammer as he tried to stop the pair getting in through the front door of his home.

Prosecutor Philip Standfast said the duo managed to get in, but as the defendants tried to push him over Mr Whittaker put his fingers into the eye-holes of Prentice’s mask and dug them in.

As the struggle continued the householder was able to remove the balaclavas from both intruders before they eventually fled the house.

“Eventually the men gave up trying to overpower Mr Whittaker and the left the scene,” said Mr Standfast.

“Obviously this was a very disturbing experience for Mr Whittaker being attacked in this way in his home at 11 o’clock at night.”

Although he was taken to hospital for a check-up Mr Whittaker had only suffered pains to various parts of his body and a blackened eye.

Prentice, who had previous convictions for wounding on his record, left blood at the scene and on the balaclava he had been wearing and Keene’s DNA was also found on his mask.

Mr Standfast submitted that the defendants had been lying in wait for Mr Whittaker to return home that night and the offence had involved a significant degree of planning with Keene carrying a crow-bar although it was never used.

In a letter submitted on his behalf Prentice, of Oxford Street, Sowerby Bridge, conceded that Mr Whittaker should be ‘’applauded’’ for his actions and his barrister Stephen Wood confirmed that his client had been left badly injured and bleeding heavily that night.

Mr Wood said the motivation for the offence was a traumatic set of circumstances which had caused a father to behave understandably, but grossly unlawfully.

“He accepts entirely that Mr Whittaker was entitled to do what he did to defend his home and casts no aspersions on his character at all,” stressed Mr Wood.

Mr Wood said Prentice had seen his daughter wired up to machines in hospital not knowing if she would live or die, but the court heard that thankfully she had recovered.

Prentice, and 34-year-old Keene, of Hanover Street, Sowerby Bridge, were both sentenced to six years behind bars after they pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary.

Keene’s lawyer Rachim Singh submitted that he had played a secondary role as ‘’back-up’’ and he had no previous convictions for violence on his record.

But Judge Colin Burn said the two defendants had committed the offence together and they were both liable for the consequences.

“I am absolutely satisfied that the only reason that Mr Whittaker was not badly injured, or worse given his age, was the fight that he put up and the serious injury that he dealt to you Mr Prentice with a hammer,” said Judge Burn.

‘’Both of you eventually fled leaving him no doubt traumatised but mercifully with no serious injuries.’’

Judge Burn said it had been a pre-planned revenge attack intended to cause serious injury to the man had cause the hospitalisation of Prentice’s daughter.

“The horrible and potentially tragic mistake that you made was that it was the wrong house and the wrong man,” said the judge.

“It was in fact Mr Whittaker who was a 73-year-old completely blameless man.”

On the sentence handed down Detective Inspector Gary Stephenson, of Calderdale CID said: “This was a cowardly act on a gentleman in his own home which has been reflected in the sentence passed down by the court.

“Hopefully the victim can now move on with his life while the two convicted men will have a long time to reflect on their actions.”