Judge reflects on 'tragic case' as she sentences retail park murderers Gerard Childs and Stephen Price

St Helens Star: Gerard Childs and Stephen Price Gerard Childs and Stephen Price

TWO men who battered another young man to death in a busy retail park were both put behind bars today as a judge delivered sentences in what she described "as a tragic case" for all involved.

Mrs Justice Cox told Gerard Childs and Stephen Price that she accepted that they had not sought a confrontation with the 22-year-old victim Jonathan Fitchett and he had started the incident by approaching Childs.

Price joined in the attack to help his best friend.

Sentencing today, the judge said: "This is a tragic case. It involves the death of one young man whose loss has devastated his family and friends, and the conviction for murder of two other young men who must now live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives and who know only too well the grave consequences for themselves and their own families."

She ordered that Childs, of King Edward Road, Rainhill, serve ten years before he can apply for parole and Price, of Hayes Avenue, Prescot, must serve a minimum of 11 years.

Sentencing the men, both aged 28, who were unanimously convicted yesterday of murder.

 The judge, said it took place in July "in a busy retail park in Prescot in the presence of shoppers and families going about their ordinary business".

She added: "The jury were sure on the evidence that you both jointly participated in a violent attack upon Mr Fitchett punching and kicking him until he collapsed to the ground as a result of a blow to his head which I find on the evidence was a punch.

"That blow caused a rare and fatal injury, a tear to one of the vascular arteries which led to a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. He died the following day."

Liverpool Crown Court heard during the trial that Mr Fitchett had gone to the retail park to buy a football as he and his girlfriend were taking her nephew out that afternoon.

There was bad blood between him and Childs but the attack was not premeditated and they had both separately gone to the Cables retail park to go shopping on the fatal day July 11.

Mrs Justice Cox said that there had been no intent to kill and the intent to cause serious harm had been formed very swiftly and there had been an element of provocation.

She said that because of previous threats of violence towards Childs he had been in fear of Mr Fitchett and he had been waiting in Price's car for Price to return when Mr Fitchett approached him.

"You did not seek a confrontation with him. On the contrary he sought you out and I accept before you got out of the car and the attack began Mr Fitchett had been verbally abusive and threatening."

The judge added that both defendants were genuinely remorseful.

Reports showed that Childs, who cares for a man with mental health problems, has learning difficulties and a low IQ and has problems coping with stressful situations.

She added: "I accept your degree of culpability is lower and you may have over-reacted in the circumstances which confronted you."

The court heard that Price ran over and joined in after the incident began and Childs threw the first punch.

The judge told him: "I accept your involvement in the violence arose from your wish to help your closest friend."

She pointed out that Price has a previous conviction involving knocking a man over with his car and attacking him as he lay on the ground.

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