Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Alan Greaves murder: Sheffield organist 'killed with axe handle'

Alan Greaves
Image caption Alan Greaves died three days after he was attacked on his way to Midnight Mass

A church organist was "savagely beaten" to death on Christmas Eve with a pick-axe handle by two men who were later seen laughing, a court heard.

Alan Greaves, 68, was set upon with the tool and a second weapon as he made his way to St Saviour's Church, in High Green, Sheffield, on 24 December.

Mr Greaves, who was also a lay preacher, died three days later.

Ashley Foster, 22, denies murder. Jonathan Bowling, also 22, has admitted killing Mr Greaves.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC said Mr Greaves was attacked by Bowling and Mr Foster as he walked to Midnight Mass to play the organ - something he had done for 40 years.

'Unsurvivable injuries'

The two men were spotted shortly afterwards, laughing in a park, said the barrister.

He said a pick-axe handle was used along with another unidentified weapon.

The jury of six men and six women at Sheffield Crown Court were told: "He (Mr Greaves) left his home shortly after 11 o'clock that night carrying his briefcase and leaving his wife and children and friends there.

Image caption Jonathon Bowling and Ashley Foster were captured together on CCTV on the evening

"He never returned home.

"In the course of his journey he was set upon and savagely beaten to the head with such force he suffered unsurvivable head injuries."

Mr Smith said nothing was taken from Mr Greaves and robbery did not appear to have been the motive for the attack.

'Bones splintered'

Bowling and Mr Foster were said to have been drinking lager and spirits at a house in High Green earlier that night.

A post-mortem examination showed Mr Greaves had been hit at least three times.

Mr Smith said part of the victim's head was hit so hard the bones splintered into a number of pieces.

The court heard a pick-axe was found at Bowling's sister's home and a fragment of wood embedded in Mr Greaves' body has been matched to the weapon.

He said scientific analysis of the pensioner's damaged hat showed a second weapon must have been used in the assault.

Image caption Alan Greaves' wife Maureen was in court to hear the prosecution open the case against Ashley Foster

'Denied responsibility'

The court heard Bowling and Mr Foster were identified by a number of people after police released CCTV footage, which was played to the jury earlier.

Mr Foster handed himself in the day after the footage was publicised but told officers Bowling was responsible for the attack and he "played no part in it", said the prosecutor.

The prosecutor said Mr Foster denied responsibility, telling friends Bowling had attacked Mr Greaves but that he had been too scared of him to say anything.

He also told one friend that Bowling had sworn at the pensioner and then ran over and "smashed him" over the head, jurors heard.

When Mr Greaves tried to get up, Bowling hit him again.

Mr Smith said Mr Foster claimed Bowling told him: "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."

The prosecution countered the version of events, saying CCTV footage showed the two men together and evidence of two weapons being used also pointed to them both being responsible.

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."

Mr Greaves's widow, Maureen, watched the beginning of the trial from the public gallery, along with other members of her family.

Mr Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green, Sheffield, denies one count of murder.

The jury was told that Bowling, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, has already admitted murdering Mr Greaves.

The trial, expected to last about three weeks, continues.

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