Man who fatally stabbed good Samaritan woman with broken bottle jailed for life
A man who fatally stabbed a good Samaritan mother-of-two in the neck with a broken bottle has been jailed for life.
Alison Wilson, 36, was concerned for the safety of a baby whose mother was arguing with Stephen Duggan, 28, in the street in Widnes, Cheshire.
Witnessing the argument from a taxi with her boyfriend she thought it would be "less intimidating" if she stepped in first as peacemaker.
Duggan in a drunken temper then turned on the couple and used a bottle of Echo Falls red wine as a "fearsome weapon" on the evening of March 7 this year.
First, without warning, he struck the victim's partner, Anthony Tomlinson, 43, with the bottle before he stabbed or slashed the lower left side of his face with its broken end.
He then attacked Ms Wilson, which resulted in a gouge to her neck which cut through her jugular vein with catastrophic blood loss.
She died in hospital six days later.
Sentencing the defendant at Liverpool Crown Court to a minimum of 22 years years in prison, Mr Justice Holroyde told him: "In a matter of minutes or even seconds you killed a thoroughly decent, public spirited young woman, herself the loving mother of young children."
He added Ms Wilson's only motivation was a wish to save the baby from harm.
Duggan, who was earlier found guilty today by a jury of murder, smiled as he was led from the dock to begin his custodial sentence.
Duggan, formerly of Runcorn, had been drinking wine and bottles of Desperado beer on the day of the murder when celebrating the prospect of a new job at the firm his father worked for.
Later he became "argumentative and aggressive" as he stormed out "in a mood" from his father's home in Bellhouse Road, Widnes, taking the bottle of wine.
A heated argument in nearby Frank Street followed at about 11.20pm with the mother carrying her young child who had both earlier been at the celebration.
By this time Ms Wilson and Mr Tomlinson had stopped off in a taxi to get a takeaway and saw the ensuing tug-of-war over the child's car seat.
This "crass and dangerous act" prompted Duggan's victims to "intervene out of well-intentioned concern for the safety of the baby", said the judge.
Mr Justice Holroyde continued: "Alison Wilson said that it would be better if she went. That was a sensible decision, reflecting their wish to avoid any confrontation."
He said he had "no doubt" that as Mr Tomlinson approached the defendant took the wine bottle from his inside pocket and struck him on the forehead.
He continued: "Every crime of murder ends one life but also affects the lives of many others. The court has read, and heard, moving statements from Anthony Tomlinson and from members of Alison Wilson's family, all of whom paint a very clear picture of the anguish and loss which you have brought to them, and in particular to her two young girls who have been orphaned of their mother.
"They will grow up struggling to understand why their mother was taken from them when she was only trying to help.
"Anthony Tomlinson is left to suffer not only the loss of his partner but also his permanent facial scarring and a loss of sensation in that area of his face which still continues and may also be permanent.
Duggan had entered a guilty plea to the manslaughter of Ms Wilson but the Crown did not accept the plea and brought the case on the basis that he intended to cause serious harm.
Duggan was sentenced to 12 years in jail after the jury also convicted him of wounding Mr Tomlinson with intent, while he was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment after earlier admitting punching the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Both terms will run concurrently with the sentence for murder.
The defendant was cleared of assault occasioning actual bodily harm to the baby who suffered minor injuries when falling out of the car seat.
Duggan had previous convictions for wounding, affray, criminal damage, theft from a shop and driving with excess alcohol, the court heard.
Prosecutor Gordon Cole QC read out victim impact statements from Ms Wilson's sister, Sharon Jones, and Mr Tomlinson.
Ms Jones said: "Alison was a loving mother, daughter, sister, aunty and partner.
"True to Alison's beliefs she stopped to help a mother and baby when she saw them in trouble.
"Alison's girls (aged eight and 12), find this is the hardest thing to understand as she was only trying to help.
"The two girls have to deal with the pointless and brutal death of their mother.
"We will never be the same happy, content family we were.
"Alison has left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled. Our lives are broken."
Mr Tomlinson, who had been in a relationship with Ms Wilson for six years, said: "The murder has had a massive emotional effect on my life and her two children.
"Alison was a very caring and considerate person. She just had a lovely manner about her and liked making people happy.
"Alison had a smile that would light up the room and will be missed by many."
He said he missed "cosy nights in" with his partner and her children, and was struggling to cope with feelings of emptiness, loneliness, guilt and the "what if?".
He added that the scars on his face were "a constant reminder" of the ordeal.
In a statement issued after sentencing, Ms Wilson's family said: "The day Alison died changed our lives forever. We have struggled as a family to come to terms with what happened and the fact that she was taken from us in such a cruel and violent way.
"Alison was being a good Samaritan and trying to help other people - that is the kind of person she was and how we want her to be remembered.
"Today's guilty verdict brings the investigation to a conclusion and will see her attacker behind bars. Whilst no amount of justice will bring Alison back, we hope that it will allow us some closure as we try to move forward with our lives.
"We would like to thank Cheshire Police for its support throughout the investigation and to all those who tried to help Alison at the scene."
Detective Inspector Helena Banusic said: "What happened that night is truly shocking.
"The injuries she sustained were horrific, with one paramedic stating that it was the worst scene they had ever come across.
"I would like to thank all those who have been a part of the investigation - and especially to those who helped Alison on that night and tried so desperately to save her.
"Duggan was in the process of turning his life around with a new job in the pipeline - his actions that night were extreme and have changed everything.
"He has shown little or no regard for Alison, her family and all those caught up in this terrible incident. I only hope that the conclusion of this case today will bring about some degree of closure for everyone.
"I would like to express my sincere condolences to Alison's family and hope that they can now in some way start to rebuild their lives after going through so much pain and grief. They have shown a lot of courage and dignity throughout the investigation and the trial and this has been a very difficult experience for them."
Richard Riley, Senior Crown Prosecutor with Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: "This is a very sad case of a caring couple who tried to go to the defence of a woman and her baby with tragic results.
"Ms Wilson had made it clear to Duggan that she didn't mean to harm him when she intervened - she just wanted to protect the baby and the woman.
"For that act of kindness she lost her life and her partner, Mr Tomlinson, suffered serious injuries.
"Duggan may well have been shocked by his own actions but that is of little comfort to the victims in this awful episode. His violent temper, no doubt fuelled by drink, has resulted in the death of a woman who simply tried to help and her family have to live with that knowledge."