Four men have been jailed for the murder of Bill Henham at a squat in Brighton by a High Court judge at Hove Crown Court today (Friday 20 May).
Two of them – Gregory Hawley and Dushane Meikle – lacked “the moral courage” to appear before Sir John Cavanagh, known as Mr Justice Cavanagh, he said, as he passed sentence.
Before the judge sentenced the four men, he heard Mr Henham’s grieving parents, Ian and Debbie, speak movingly about their loss and their grief. Read their statement in full here.
A jury unanimously convicted Hawley, Meikle, Lamech Gordon-Carew and Alize Spence of murder in February after a three-month trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
Hawley, 29, the ringleader, formerly of Poynings Drive, Hove, and North Road, Brighton, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years.
Meikle, 28, of Amberley Drive, Hove, and formerly of Belvedere Terrace, Brighton, also played a leading role in the murder. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years.
Gordon-Carew, who turns 21 tomorrow, of Cheeseman Close, Hampton, Richmond upon Thames, who was 18 at the time of the murder, was sentenced to custody for life, for a minimum of 18 years.
Spence, 19, of Makepeace Road, Northolt, London, was just 16 at the time of the murder. He was sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure. He is expected to serve at least 18 years.
Sussex Police said: “Bill was beaten unconscious and dropped into a recessed courtyard, within a disused building in North Street on Wednesday 1 January 2020.
“The 24-year-old, from Henfield, suffered extensive injuries, having been savagely beaten, kicked, stamped on and struck with a wooden bannister spindle.
“Police were called to the disused four-storey building, a former office block with bar and restaurant, after receiving information on Thursday 2 January that a man had been beaten and dropped off a balcony during a party at the location, which was being used as a squat.
“Officers attended and discovered Bill Henham’s body in a recessed courtyard, accessed from a flat roof terrace at the rear of the building.
“A post-mortem examination revealed Bill had been beaten unconscious and suffered multiple injuries, including brain haemorrhage, 11 rib fractures, extensive cuts and bruising to the scalp, face, and neck. All were consistent with being punched, kicked and stamped on.
“A murder investigation was launched by the Sussex and Surrey Major Crime Team.
“Detectives began the extensive process of securing the building, trawling through hours of CCTV, identifying witnesses and those who had attended the New Year’s Eve party at the building.
“The premises, which has been used as a squat, was spread over several floors and comprised many separate rooms.
“There was also the enormous task of seizing hundreds of exhibits and conducting meticulous forensic examinations.
“Detectives established that Bill, who studied at Ravensbourne, University in London, had spent Christmas with his family in Henfield but wanted to see in the new year in a ‘lively’ atmosphere in Brighton.
“Bill’s father gave him a lift into Brighton, dropping him off close to the city centre on the evening of Tuesday 31 December.
“Trawls of CCTV revealed Bill leaving a night club on the seafront before the final sighting of him at 4.30am on New Year’s Day in a convenience store in North Street, near the squat where the New Year’s Eve party was held.
“Tragically, it appears that Bill was killed within a few hours of going to the party. He was subjected to ‘a sustained and significant’ assault that left him with over 60 injuries including multiple broken ribs and a brain injury.
“Forensic evidence showed the attack had started on the second floor of the building before Bill had been dragged or pulled to a small room measuring no more than four metres by two metres on the first floor for the beating to continue.
“Bill was then dropped over railings at the edge of a flat roof terrace into a recessed courtyard some 11ft below.
“Bill had been stripped of his clothing and it was apparent that disinfectant had been used to wash his body.
“And other areas of diluted bloodstaining in the building indicated attempts had been made to clear up after the brutal assault.
“Police quickly arrested four men and a 16-year-old boy in connection with Bill’s death, acting on information received from witnesses at the party.
“One of those arrested, Gregory Hawley, described as ‘in charge of the squat’, was said to have laughed and joked about the attack and allegedly confessed to stripping Bill’s body and dousing him in bleach before throwing him out of a window.
“Hawley was also seen a few hours later with a bleach bottle and cloth just a few feet from the same room where Bill was assaulted – and others involved were alleged to continue boasting about it once they had moved to a second squat near by.
“Another of the arrested men, Dushane Meikle, was later found to have two deleted photos of Bill’s body – one partially clothed and one naked – on his mobile phone.
“A witness also picked out three of the suspects – Hawley, Lamech Gordon-Carew and Meikle – in police identity procedures.
“The suspects were all were released under investigation in order for detectives to continue their complex and far-reaching investigation.
“Following 16 months of painstaking investigative and forensic work, in May and June 2021 three of the four arrested men, and the arrested boy (now aged 18), were charged with Bill’s murder.
“The remaining arrested man was released without further action.
“The four defendants, who had all denied the charge, were found guilty of the murder of Bill Henham by a jury following a 10-week trial at Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday 24 February.”
James Mulholland, prosecuting, had told the court that the motive for Mr Henham’s murder remained unclear.
All four men had either taken part in the physical attack on Mr Henham or deliberately helped or encouraged one or more of the others to do so in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2020.
Mr Mulholland said that each of them had intended to cause Mr Henham at least really serious injury and they were all guilty of murder.
Mr Justice Cavanagh commended Sussex Police for a professional investigation and praised the family for their “immense dignity and restraint throughout the two-and-a-half year ordeal”.
Detective Superintendent Alex Geldart said: “Bill was a kind and gentle young man, out enjoying the new year celebrations when his life was brutally brought to an end. We never gave up hope that we would finally hold to account those responsible for Bill’s murder.
“We conducted a lengthy and complex investigation involving a huge number of inquiries and forensic work to bring this case to court.
“Today’s sentencing of the four men convicted of Bill’s murder is a reflection of the senseless and tragic loss of life.
“They will now face many years in prison and we hope Bill’s family will be able to find some closure, knowing that his killers are finally behind bars.”
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