South West Wales

Ben Bellamy killer Joshua Thomas' early parole chance

Ben Bellamy Image copyright Family picture

A killer who left a school pupil to drown on a Swansea beach has won an early chance of parole after a judge praised his "exceptional" progress.

Joshua Declan Thomas, then aged 15, was one of three youths who killed 17-year-old Ben Bellamy in September 2004.

He was convicted of murder at Swansea Crown Court in 2006 and was ordered to serve at least 18 years behind bars.

The 12-month sentence cut means Thomas could apply for parole in September 2022.

But Mrs Justice Lang praised Thomas, now 26, at the High Court for his "exemplary" efforts to reform himself in prison.

She said he had expressed "genuine remorse" and had "come a long way" since the killing - though he still claimed Ben was alive when the youths left him.

Ben, from Sketty Park, was walking home from a night out at Cinderella's nightclub when he bumped into his killers.

He was later dragged onto a beach, attacked by two of the youths, stripped naked and left to drown in about a metre of water.

'Determined, cold and violent'

The judge said Ben was "a slight young man who put up little resistance" but was beaten until "he was unable to walk or stand".

She added: "The personal statements from members of his family describe the loss of a kind, thoughtful, young man with a bright future".

The judge who jailed Thomas, who has attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), described it as "determined, cold and violent killing".

His killers hoped that his body would be taken out to sea and, if ever found, people would believe he had drowned accidentally.

Mrs Justice Lang said Thomas had attained qualifications in maths, IT, English, gym, first aid and customer service and had taken part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme in prison.

He was an active fundraiser for a range of charities and had done voluntary work "in order to give something back to society" and had helped other prisoners with their literacy skills.

'Lack of insight'

But Thomas still claimed Ben was still alive when they left him and "he could not say how he ended up face down in the sea".

The judge said: "He appears to be unwilling or unable to acknowledge the full facts of the index offence and his responsibility for it.

"This suggests a lack of insight, and consequent risks, which may require further work".

He will then be freed in 2022 if the Parole Board accepts that the risk he poses to the public has passed.