Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Alan Greaves killing: Ashley Foster guilty of manslaughter

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Media captionMaureen Greaves: ''Alan... would not want any of us to hold on to feelings of hate and unforgiveness''

A 22-year-old man has been found guilty of the manslaughter of organist Alan Greaves on Christmas Eve in Sheffield.

Mr Greaves, 68, was attacked with a pick-axe handle as he made his way to St Saviour's Church in High Green.

Ashley Foster, of Wesley Road, High Green was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter at Sheffield Crown Court.

Jonathan Bowling, 22, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, admitted murder. Both will be sentenced on Friday.

Confusion in court

There was confusion in court after the clerk only asked the jury foreman whether Foster was guilty of murder.

When the foreman said "not guilty" there were celebrations from Foster's family.

Image caption Alan Greaves was walking to church on Christmas Eve when he was attacked

But as Mr Greaves' widow Maureen looked shocked and confused, the jury foreman, who had already been asked to sit, shouted "but guilty of manslaughter".

The jury of six men and six women returned its verdicts by a majority of 11-1 after 13 hours of deliberations.

After the verdict was clarified, Mrs Greaves sobbed in the public gallery and was comforted by members of her family.

Speaking afterwards, she said: "Society needs protecting from people who do such evil acts and I am satisfied and relieved by the result of the court today, however no sentence will bring Alan back.

"Alan was a wonderful man who is so dearly missed. Our lives will never be the same again."

'Victim of darkness'

The Reverend Canon Simon Bessant, the vicar at St Saviour's, said: "We condemn absolutely the evil attack upon Alan as he walked to church to play the organ on Christmas Eve night.

"Alan was intending to celebrate the coming of light at Christmas, yet he himself was the victim of darkness just a few minutes away from the doors of the church."

Det Supt Matt Fenwick, who led the investigation, said: "Alan Greaves suffered an appalling, extremely violent and totally unprovoked attack as he walked to church.

"In a matter of minutes, Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster had left an innocent man for dead."

Image caption Ashley Foster and Jonathan Bowling are to be sentenced on Friday

The three-and-half week trial heard how retired social worker Mr Greaves suffered horrendous head injuries during the attack and died in hospital three days later with his family around him.

The court heard how Foster and Bowling had left a family gathering on Christmas Eve.

Prosecutors said they were stalking the streets of High Green looking for someone to attack. If they had not killed the pensioner it would have been someone else, the jury was told.

Giving evidence during the trial, father-of-two Foster claimed he shouted to try to stop Bowling attacking Mr Greaves and was a distance away at the time.

He said he did not tell police what happened because he was terrified of Bowling and his family.

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