A man continues to stand trial today accused of murdering his stepfather.
Wayne Thornton, 52, has changed his plea to guilty to the charge of murder after having already admitted the manslaughter of John Uttley at his home on Royds Avenue, Paddock , on June 28 this year.
He pleaded guilty to manslaughter when he appeared previously at Leeds Crown Court . Mr Thornton is facing a five-day trial on the murder charge and has now admitted the charge after being re-arraigned in court today (Friday).
The body of 79-year-old Mr Uttley was discovered after Mr Thornton went to Huddersfield police station
Thornton told the court this week that he had been sexually abused by Mr Uttley as a child - an allegation denied by the family.
Here is our latest report on this case. Follow the latest updates from the trial here.
Police say "justice has been done"
Senior Investigating Officer, DCI Jim Griffiths, said:
“We are pleased for the victim’s family that the court process has been ended earlier than it could have been today by Thornton’s guilty plea and welcome that, through his sentencing, justice has now been done.
“This has clearly been a tragic incident for the wider family and the thoughts of our officers remain with them at what must be a very difficult time for them.”
Judge dismisses mental health issues as main cause of Thornton's behaviour
Mr Justice Males told Thornton he places little weight on his mental health issues, and that his abuse of drugs is the main causing factor for his previous crimes. He said:
“I take into account also that you suffer from a mental disorder. That is of relatively little weight in itself as its impact on your behaviour is largely caused by your abuse of drugs, but I accept that it may be that you have a genuine belief in the correctness of the allegations which you have made against your stepfather. Be that as it may, it is unnecessary for me to make any finding about these allegations, which in any event, even if they were true, could not excuse what you have done.”
"The pain you have caused your family is very clear" - judge
This is what the judge told the defendant as the sentence was passed:
Wayne Thornton, you have pleaded guilty to the murder of your stepfather John Uttley, who was aged 79 and had mobility problems after suffering a stroke some years ago. Now aged 52, you are a long-term drug abuser and killed him when under the influence of illegal drugs as he lay asleep in his bed.
The evidence established that when under the influence of these drugs, you were prone to sudden mood changes, violent thoughts, delusional beliefs and bizarre behaviour. On this occasion you put these thoughts into action by taking a hammer from the kitchen drawer downstairs in the house where you lived with your mother and stepfather and attacking him with a series of blows to the head.
You have from the beginning admitted the deliberate killing of your stepfather and you pleaded guilty to his manslaughter before the trial, but you have only now, towards the close of the prosecution case, pleaded guilty to his murder.
The pain which you have caused your family was very clear from the statement read to the court by your brother Richard Thornton, which I have taken into account.
The judge added:
You have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, exacerbated by your heavy use of amphetamines, and have spent periods of your life in a psychiatric unit. You have numerous convictions for acquisitive offences, but I leave out of account a conviction for rape in your absence in Turkey, as that is not accepted by you and the circumstances are obscure.
You have also a conviction for arson resulting from an incident which appears to have been a suicide attempt. That led to you being made subject to a hospital order with restrictions under sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act. When you responded well to treatment, you were released into the community, but since then your life has followed a pattern of deterioration as a result of continuing drug abuse resulting in recall to hospital, whereupon the process would begin again.
Despite the mental disorder from which you suffer and the delusions which it causes, you knew the nature of what you were doing when you decided to kill your stepfather.
Thornton gets life
Wayne Thornton has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years.
Sentencing to take place
The judge has now returned to court.
Judge retires ahead of sentencing
The judge has taken a short break to consider legal arguments before deciding and delivering an appropriate sentence.
"Just give me 50 f***ing years"
During the prosecutor’s legal arguments, the defendant shouted out: “Just give me 50 f**king years and have done with it.”
During the defence’s legal arguments about the sexual allegation made against the victim, he shouted out again: “God will be my witness.”
Defendant interrupts victim impact statement as it's read out in court
Brother Richard Thornton has just read a victim impact statement to the court - which Wayne Thornton interrupted.
The 51-year-old said:
“The phone call to say that Wayne had murdered our father will be with me forever.I was floored, shocked. I know that my family feel the same. A husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather who did not deserve to die. The last 7 months have been hell for us, we are living a nightmare that we cannot step out of.”
He added that Louise Uttley has had to give up her home of 40 years and is now lonely, but the family are proud of her strength, which has kept them together. He said:
“My sister Khadine has told me she cannot come to terms with what Wayne has done to our dad. The most upsetting thing for her - and for us - is the sexual allegation against our dad.”
At this point, his older brother shouted something unintelligible from the dock. Describing people believing the allegation as ‘heartbreaking’, Richard Thornton continued:
“His memory has been tainted forever. We have, for the last week, seen it [the sexual allegation] reported in the media for everyone to read.”
Describing the whole thing as ‘surreal’, he concluded:
“I want to say I was proud to stand up in court and defend his integrity. Dad was taken from us when he was not supposed to be, he will be in our thoughts and our hearts forever.”
The brothers were seen to stare each other out as Richard Thornton returned to the public gallery from the witness stand.
First picture of Wayne Thornton
Police have released Wayne Thornton’s custody picture.
A summary of what we've heard in court
Sentencing of Thornton is scheduled to take place when court re-sits at 2pm.
Until then, here is an overview of what has been heard in court over the past few days.
- John Uttley was asleep in his bed at Royds Avenue in Paddock when he was murdered by his stepson Wayne Thornton on June 28 this year. Thornton lived with Uttley, his stepfather, and his mother Louise Uttley. He was hit over the head multiple times.
- Thornton has a past history of mental health difficulties, including paranoid schizophrenia. He had also been under the care of mental health services.
- He also has a string of previous serious convictions, including for rape, arson and possession of a firearm. He had also been taking drugs the day before the murder.
- Thornton told the court during his evidence that he had been sexually abused by Mr Uttley when he was a child, and allegation that has been denied by the family.
- Thornton’s brother Richard Thornton told the court the two had enjoyed a good relationship as children, but that there were difficulties later on in life. On one occasion six months before the murder, the defendant had threatened to kill his brother.
- Court was adjourned on Wednesday and upon resitting today, Thornton asked to have the charge put to him again whereupon he changed his plea to guilty.
We understand Thornton will be sentenced later this afternoon.
Jury also finds him guilty
The jury have also found Thornton guilty.
The panel delivered the verdict based on his change of plea.
Thornton pleads guilty
Defendant Wayne Thornton has been re-arraigned in court and has pleaded guilty to the charge of murder.
Mr Alastair McDonald QC said: “It is our application please that the indictment be put to Mr Thornton.”
The charge was put to the defendant again and he pleaded guilty.
Court to sit shortly
Court hasn’t sat yet due to issues moving courtrooms, but we’ll provide you with updates as soon as it gets going.
Today is day three of the trial - the jury was not sitting yesterday but we will be continuing our updates from the hearing today.
Stay with us for the latest.
Court adjourns for the day
Court has come back but the judge has decided to adjourn for the day.
It will reconvene tomorrow morning.
What we know so far
Here’s a summary of what the court has heard so far this morning:
- Wayne Thornton had had a “poor” relationship with his stepfather growing up
- The prosecution say social services had deemed the family home as unfit to live in while Thornton and his brother were growing up
- The defendant has a string of previous convictions, including for rape and arson
- His brother Richard Thornton has told the court the two enjoyed a close relationship growing up but that his mother had told him 15-20 years ago that the defendant had alleged Mr Uttley had sexually abused him. Richard Thornton has told the court this allegation is “not true”
- He also told the court the defendant on one occasion “threatened to kill” him after flying into a fit of rage over a letter regarding his benefits
Court has adjourned for lunch and will re-commence at 2pm.
Brother claims defendant "threatened to kill" him
Richard Thornton has told the jury about an alleged incident in which his brother “threatened to kill” him too.
Discussing Wayne Thornton moving back in with his parents this summer, Richard Thornton said he ‘contested it very strongly’ and raised his concerns with the community psychiatric nurse, who the court will hear from this afternoon.
He asked if he could tell the jury about an incident that took place six months prior to their dad’s death. He said that his brother asked for his help to read a letter about his benefits and when he didn’t like what it said, he took his anger out on him.
He ran into the kitchen and grabbed two kitchen knives of around nine inches long - in front of my poorly mum and dad.
He said that he wanted to kill me, at which point he then stormed out. I tried to get him out to get him out of the way of my parents.
Then Richard Thornton stared directly towards the defendant in the dock, who appeared to have his eyes closed.
Defendant's brother in tears amidst accusations of sex abuse
Richard Thornton broke down into tears while discussing his brother’s sexual abuse allegation against his stepfather, who he calls ‘dad’.
Wayne Thornton had accused Mr Uttley of sexually abusing him when he was seven-years-old.
With his voice breaking, Richard Thornton said: “It wasn’t his nature.
“He wasn’t that sort of person - he was quite the opposite, he abhorred anything like that.”
Prosecutor Kama Melly asked: “Were you present when your father sexually abused Wayne?”
Richard Thornton replied: “My father never sexually abused Wayne.”
KM: “When was the first time you heard that this allegation was being made about your dad - not so much the date, but the circumstances?”
RT: “I recall my mum telling me some 15-20 years ago. She told me because she couldn’t tell anybody else.”
KM: “Was there anybody else present when your mum had this conversation with you and what was it that your mum said?”
RT: “She said that Wayne had said that my dad had sexually abused him. . .”
KM: “And how did you respond?”
RT: “Incredibly shocked at first. And then incredibly angry.”
He said that he never discussed it with his dad, his brother or his sister. When asked why he didn’t discuss it with his sister, he replied: “Because it wasn’t true and I didn’t want to put that thought into my sister’s mind.”
Richard Thornton said that around the time the allegation was made, he had signed for a letter which stated that Wayne Thornton had been sentenced in his absence to 2.5 years’ imprisonment for a rape in Turkey.
Defendant's brother gives evidence
The defendant’s brother Richard Thornton is in court giving evidence now.
As heard in court yesterday, the defendant claimed their stepdad rarely worked when they were young, but his 51-year-old brother remembers it differently.
He admits that there would be fights at home but apart from that his parents were ‘happy’.
Discussing his relationship with his brother, he said: “Me and Wayne were pretty much inseparable when we were growing up, we did everything together.”
And discussing their relationship with their stepdad, he said:
He used to take us fishing, teach us how to look after the animals.
He could be a very strict man and on a couple of occasions it was physical punishment but it wasn’t something that occurred on a daily basis or a weekly basis. It was something that occurred occasionally.
It would generally be in response to me and Wayne getting in trouble and the stress we were causing both our parents.
Defendant has a rape conviction
Thornton has a previous conviction for rape, it’s been revealed in court.
Prosecutor Miss Melly has told the jury about the defendant’s several past convictions. These include:
- Handling stolen goods;
- Possession of controlled drugs and a firearm;
Family home growing up had been deemed "unfit to live in"
Kama Melly QC, prosecuting, is reading school and social workers’ reports from Wayne Thornton’s childhood.
Several reports have indicated a poor relationship between a young Mr Thornton and his stepdad John Uttley.
One report said that Mr Thornton’s childhood affected his social and scholastic development.
The family’s former home in Longwood was deemed unfit to live in with reports of rats, damp and Mr and Mrs Uttley sleeping on a sofa in the living room.
Day two of Wayne Thornton trial
We’ll be continuing to provide live updates of day two of the trial of Wayne Thornton.
Here is the full story of what was heard in court yesterday.
The trial has been adjourned until tomorrow when the jury will hear evidence from Mr Thornton’s brother and a community psychiatric nurse.
She told the court that her half-brother’s delusions include believing he causes natural disasters and can speak to - and is - Jesus.
Relationship between the victim and accused
Kama Melly QC, prosecuting, asked her how Mr Uttley and Mr Thornton’s relationship was in the past few years and she replied: “Absolutely fine. Wayne would help look after dad.”
“If he went to the shops, he would buy things that dad liked. He would say ‘dad I have bought you this and that’.”
He would put dad’s eye drops in.
“If dad wanted a cup of tea, Wayne was the first to say ‘of course I will [make it].’When asked if she became aware of her half-brother’s sexual allegations against her dad before or after his death, she replied: “After”.
Half-sister evidence being heard
Mr and Mrs Uttley’s daughter Khadine is in court giving evidence.
The 44-year-old recalls some of Mr Thornton’s fond feelings towards her dad.
Speaking of her parents’ separation in the 1980s, she said: “My mum always said it was Wayne that had pleaded with her to get back together with dad.”
She also said that her half-brother took it badly when her dad suffered a stroke, saying: “I remember Wayne phoning me pleading with me saying ‘please let dad be okay’.”
Violent past of victim
Mrs Uttley was asked in the police interview about Mr Uttley’s violent past - including when he served time in prison for threatening her with a penknife.
She said that the incident, which their children witnessed, took place in the 1981 when they were separated due to his drinking problems.
When Mr Uttley was released from prison, she said he approached her and offered to make her tea.
She explained: “Wayne said, ‘mum I feel sorry for him’.
“Because Wayne tried to please him all the time.”
She said that Mr Uttley could be a bully and would call her son ‘the instigator’ and ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’, adding: “The more Wayne tried to please him the worse John was towards Wayne.”
The couple got back together about three or four weeks after his release from prison and they never split up again.
Victim's wife heard her son "hammering" on night of attack
The court is now watching a video of John Uttley’s wife Louise’s evidence.
She said that leading up to the killing, Thornton told her Mr Uttley was trying to poison him with rat poison.
Mrs Uttley, who sleeps downstairs in her home, described how on the night of the killing her son was talking to “people under the floorboards” and to himself at the back door about the IRA before going upstairs with something silver in his hand.
She heard some hammering for a few minutes, which sounded like someone was “putting a carpet down”, and furniture being moved around.
She added that she heard John say: “No Wayne, I haven’t touched him” - but she wasn’t sure what it was in reference to.
She said Thornton came back downstairs and declared: “I’ve killed the b**tard. I’ve killed him. I’ve killed John.”
She said Thornton usually always called him dad, but this time he called him by his forename.