‘Trophy’ killing & turf wars in 2020 murder case revelations

Judges at Liverpool Crown Court have already locked up several murderers in 2020 for their horrifying crimes.

The coronavirus outbreak means any new jury trials are postponed, with some of the city's most serious cases temporarily put on hold.

But in the first few months of the year, our courts were already rocked by shocking revelations from murder trials that came before judges.

Some of the murderers put behind bars for their crimes have have included a Grindr killer who lured a teenage boy to his death and a teenager who knifed a rival drug dealer in a turf war.

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With jury trials postponed for the foreseeable future in line with public health advice, the ECHO looks back at three of the most shocking murder trials to have come before the courts so far this year.

Grindr killer who lured teenage boy to his death

Brian Healless murdered an innocent teen in a "savage" knife attack after targeting him on dating website Grindr.

A judge branded the 18-year-old "extremely dangerous" after he lured Alex Davies, from Skelmersdale, to a brutal death.

The evil killer stabbed his victim more than 100 times, battered and choked him, then buried his body under branches.

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Brian Healless, 18, who murdered 18-year-old Alex Davies, from Skelmersdale, in woods at Parbold Hill, near Ormskirk

Healless even kept 18-year-old Alex's wallet, found in a tin hidden in his bedroom, as a "trophy" to mark his vicious attack.

And a court heard he may well have gone on to become a serial killer, after contacting four other gay men to arrange dates.

Defence lawyers argued the murderer's paranoid schizophrenia meant he had diminished responsibility for his attack on Alex.

But a jury heard he arranged to meet Alex, guided him to woods at Parbold Hill, near Ormskirk, then knifed him at least 128 times.

A black handled kitchen knife used by murderer Brian Healless

And jurors took less than an hour to find Healless guilty of murder, following a harrowing five-day trial.

Judge Mark Brown said: "You were messaging him on Grindr and Instagram for the purpose of meeting him at a remote location.

"You were undoubtedly setting him up to kill and you are a manipulative, calculating and devious person."

He added: "In my judgement, you are a cold blooded killer and this was a most brutal murder.

"Alex was a kind-hearted, gentle and hard-working young man who would never have harmed anyone.

"You lulled him to his death and executed the killing in a savage way."

Murder victim Alex Davies, 18, from Skelmersdale

David McLachlan, QC, prosecuting, said Healless had researched how to delete the memory from the Home Bargain worker's mobile phone.

He stole the victim's two devices – along with his watch, headphones, wallet and rucksack – before wiping them when he returned home.

Judge Brown said: "You stole Alex's property, which included a leather wallet, and perhaps the wallet and the phone were intended as trophies."

After killing Alex on April 29, 2019, the coldblooded teenager contacted four other men on Grindr and attempted to arrange meetings with them.

Judge Brown said: "There can be no doubt you were setting up the next victim to kill and it is extremely fortuitous you were arrested before anybody else suffered the same fate.”

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"In my judgement you are an extremely dangerous person and although you have paranoid schizophrenia, the illness did not reduce your culpability in any significant way."

Healless, of Rylands Road, Chorley, was jailed for life with a minimum of 24 years.

Killer who stabbed pub landlord 11 times after cocaine and cider bender

Lee Abbott stabbed Christian Thornton 11 times after his victim barred him from the Hammers & Pincers pub in Widnes.

Appalling CCTV footage showed the drunken kickboxer pull out a kitchen knife and plunge it into the landlord's heart.

Abbott, 35, of Rose Street, Widnes, left Mr Thornton to die in front of his distraught wife and horrified 13-year-old son.

Lee Abbott, 35, of Rose Street, Widnes, convicted of the murder of pub landlord Christian Thornton

When arrested by armed police, the ex-cocaine addict confessed on camera : "You don’t need any evidence, I stabbed him to f***."

But he only admitted manslaughter and forced his victim's family to endure a nine-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The dad-of-two told jurors he was a paranoid "madman" who "lost the plot" after being sexually abused by a "gangster" as a teenager.

Lee Abbott being arrested after he murdered pub landlord Christian Thornton

The ex-cocaine addict said he used to think he was Jesus and the attack was "a cry for help" and the culmination of "20 years of hell".

However, even his own psychiatric expert agreed he was not psychotic at the time and had no defence of "diminished responsibility".

Christian Thornton, 49, who was stabbed to death outside the Hammer & Pincers pub in Widnes by barred drinker Lee Abbott

He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life with a minimum of 28 years behind bars by Judge Brian Cummings, QC, on February 21.

A jury was today shown CCTV footage of Mr Thornton being stabbed to death and told: "If that’s not murder, whatever is?"

Teen killer who ambushed rival drug dealer in Kirkby turf war

Michael Wilkinson stabbed a rival drug dealer to death in a turf war for control of the Southdene area of Kirkby.

The 19-year-old lay in wait for James Halewood, 21, before plunging a blade 11cm deep into his left armpit.

James fled to a nearby store – telling a shop worker he had been attacked by "Mikey" – but died around 90 minutes later .

Michael Wilkinson stabbed James Halewood to death outside a block of flats

Wilkinson, 19, was seen by a witness calmly leaving in a Renault Megane after the afternoon attack, on July 7 last year.

He then ditched his iPhone and the car, shaved his distinctive "ketwig" hair, and went into hiding in the Tower Hill area.

The drug dealer, of Mosslawn Road, claimed he did this because he heard there was a "bounty" on his head.

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He denied any involvement in the attack, despite admitting he was driving in the area in a Megane at the time of the stabbing.

Wilkinson, who did not have any previous convictions, was found guilty of murder by a majority of 10-2, following a two-week trial.

Judge David Aubrey, QC, said: "You were a member of a group who were seeking to dominate and take control of the Southdene area of Kirkby."

James Halewood

He added: "The deceased also supplied drugs and thus there was rivalry if not a feud between two opposing groups."

The judge said he was "streetwise" and wanted to get "vengeance" because James hadn't heeded prior threats and warnings.

He jailed Wilkinson for life, with a minimum of 20 years behind bars.

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His victim, James Halewood, received an apparent warning message minutes after the attack that took his life.

Jurors who convicted teen drug dealer Michael Wilkinson of carrying out the attack were told a friend may have tried to alert James he was in danger.

At 12.44pm, James’ mobile phone received a text message from his friend Paul Smith.

The message simply read: “Lad he at the flat”.