By Harry Mottram: It was a murder that shocked the city last May when 18-year-old Ben Moncrieff from Bath was stabbed to death outside McDonalds late one Saturday night. Now jurors in Bristol Crown Court have found a 16-year-old boy guilty of the murder following a trial and the boy who cannot be named for legal reasons must await sentencing on December 6 and will remain in custody.
The BBC’s Harriet Robinson and Dan Ayers have reported on the trial. In their report they said: “Ben Moncrieff, from Bath, was stabbed by the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on Southgate Street, on 6 May. The boy had denied murder, claiming he had acted in self-defence after an altercation with Mr Moncrieff. But jurors at Bristol Crown Court found him guilty of one count of murder and he will be sentenced on 6 December. Mr Moncrieff’s mum, Sharon Hendry, said her son’s death had caused ‘total devastation’.”
Sharon Hendry who is Ben’s mother explained how she had struggled to attend the trial but felt she had to find the strength to see justice for her son. The BBC quoted her as saying: “The trial has been hard but I eventually found the strength to sit in the same room as the person who did this. I’m proud that I did go as I’m Ben’s eyes and ears now. Ben has justice but it’s not going to bring him back. To the individual that did this, I hope that one day he’ll realise the devastation he’s caused and the lovely life that he took. Please don’t ever go out with a knife, that’s my message.”
The BBC reported that during the trial, the defendant, from South London, who was 15 years old at the time of the fatal stabbing, told the court: “I didn’t drive [the knife] into his chest… he came towards me and it just connected.”
The court heard the boy and his friends had been refused entry to McDonald’s because they were using laughing gas reported Harriet Robinson and Dan Ayers.
Avon and Somerset Police reported: “Ben had been with friends in Bath on a night out in the hours leading up to the fatal incident. Having left a club, they walked towards McDonald’s in Southgate Street and encountered a group of males, including the defendant, who were in possession of balloons and suspected nitrous oxide gas cannisters. That group had arrived in a car shortly beforehand.
“CCTV showed a verbal confrontation between the defendant and one of Ben’s friends. Jurors were told that Ben stepped in at that point to protect his friend, and a witness heard the defendant tell Ben to ‘come around the corner’.
“The defendant, who is from south London, is seen in footage to take a step back and drop a gas cannister as Ben approaches him, before pulling out the weapon and stabbing the 18-year-old to death. He fled the scene and dumped the knife in a bin nearby, which was recovered by officers. He was arrested a short time later and made no comment during police interviews.
“A murder investigation was launched and hours of footage were trawled through by detectives. One CCTV camera showed the defendant lift up his top before the stabbing and reveal to people he had a bladed weapon tucked into his waistband.
“During his evidence in court, the teenager stated he had taken the knife off of a boy of a similar age early in the day to protect them. However, the prosecution presented the jury with social media videos of the defendant playing with a matching knife that had been recorded earlier that same week. The teenager told the court it was a different knife that happened to look identical.
“The defendant, who is now 16 but cannot be publicly named as he is a juvenile as per the law, was found guilty of murder by a jury at Bristol Crown Court after a six-day trial. He had previously pleaded guilty to possession of a bladed article in a public place.”
Senior Investigating Officer Detective Inspector Mark Newbury said: “Our thoughts are with Ben’s loved ones who we continue to support as they grieve for a much-loved son and friend. At 18 years old Ben had his whole life ahead of him, but it was snatched away. The outpouring of support Ben’s family have received from his friends is a testament to how popular a young man he was.
“Tragically, Ben happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t know the defendant and was entirely blameless. He was bravely standing up for a friend when the defendant made a conscious decision to pull out a knife and attack Ben knowing it would gravely injure him at the very least. We believe the defendant sought to attempt to glorify knife crime by posing in social media videos in the days leading up to Ben’s death and also showing off he was carrying one in the minutes before he killed Ben.”
DI Newbury continued: “We want to reassure people a lot of work continues to go into tackling knife crime in Bath, ranging from high-visibility patrols to educating people of the risks attached to carry a bladed weapon.
“Every person who decides to carry a knife puts themselves and others at a much greater risk, as tragedies such as this make sadly all too clear.
“If you know someone who may be carrying a knife, please contact the police or depending on the situation a suitable professional, such as a teacher or youth worker, so we can work with partners to tackle this devastating crime. Preventing any other family going through what Ben’s has had to endure, and continues to endure, is a priority for us.”
Prevention: Avon and Somerset Police
The police said they take knife crime extremely seriously and are working with education and intervention organisations across the Avon and Somerset area to highlight the impact it has on communities. Working alongside young people, they launched ‘Knife crime: A new way forward’ campaign to help educate people to stay away from knife crime.
For more information visit https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/crime-prevention-advice/protect-yourself-and-others-from-knife-crime/
Prevention: Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)
The Bath & North East Somerset Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) is a multi-agency group that aims to prevent and reduce violence in the area.
The council state on their website: “We work to understand and address the root causes of violence, so we can prevent further violent crimes from occurring in the future. We also provide resources and support the work of professionals and community groups who help children who have been affected by serious violence. Select a topic below to find out more about the work we do, our purpose and our aims for the future.”
For more information visit https://bcssp.bathnes.gov.uk/about-violence-reduction-unit-vru#:~:text=The%20Bath%20%26%20North%20East%20Somerset,from%20occurring%20in%20the%20future.
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