Monday 19 March 2018

'A murder of the utmost cruelty and sadness' - Homeless man who killed woman and son who took him in jailed

Aaron Barley was jailed for life
Aaron Barley was jailed for life

Lizzie Dearden

A homeless man who murdered a woman and her son after turning on the family that took him in has been jailed for life.

Aaron Barley was given a minimum prison term of 30 years at Birmingham Crown Court.

The 24-year-old told Tracey Wilkinson she was “the mother that I never had” months before stabbing her 17 times in her bed with a kitchen knife on 30 March.

Barley then killed her 13-year-old son, Pierce, in his room and attacked her husband as he returned to their home in Stourbridge after walking the family’s dog.

Peter Wilkinson told the court Barley repeatedly shouted “die you bastard” as he stabbed him, leaving him for dead.

Mrs Justice Carr told Barley he had carried out “a vicious and unprovoked attack” in the home where he had once been welcomed.

The judge said he “lay in wait” in the garden overnight before creeping inside the unlocked home, going upstairs and launching a “violent and sustained assault, involving severe force”.

Sitting in the dock at Birmingham Crown Court, Barley did not react when told he “may never be released”, after admitting two counts of murder and another of attempted murder.

Pierce Wilkinson was just 13 when he was murdered
Pierce Wilkinson was just 13 when he was murdered

“You abused your knowledge of the family home, which you had only gained through the Wilkinsons’ extraordinary kindness and generosity to you,” Justice Carr told him.

“Mrs Wikinson and Pierce, only 13, were in bed at home, where they were entitled to feel and should have been safe.

“You have shown no remorse – indeed only regret that Mr Wilkinson survived his injuries and at times satisfaction in what you did achieve.

“You knew that you were destroying the family. It is what you intended.

“Your conduct involved a very significant degree of planning and premeditation, at least so far as the attack on Mr Wilkinson was concerned.

“You broke into the grounds of the house in the very early hours. You emerged from the garden in black disguise, even covering your coloured trainers with black socks.”

The court heard the Wilkinsons took Barley in after Mrs Wilkinson met him outside the local branch of Tesco.

She went on to help him get a place at a hostel and give him breakfast and dinner, with her husband later employing him at his building firm in Newport, South Wales.

Tracey Wilkinson was murdered at her family home
Tracey Wilkinson was murdered at her family home

Mr Wilkinson said he lost his job after starting taking drugs in September but returned to the family, even spending Christmas Day with them.

In October last year, Mr Wilkinson returned home from work to find Barley sleeping on his driveway, after which the family briefly allowed him to stay with them before the council found alternative accommodation.

Barley had not seen the family for weeks before he crawled through the garden and entered their home to start his killing spree, dressed all in black.

Prosecutors said he had been “drinking all evening” ahead of the double murder. He first attempted to break into the Wilkinsons’ home through a window before hiding in the shed until Mr Wilkinson left to walk the dog in the morning, taking the opportunity to enter through the unlocked back door.

The court heard that the father had asked his son to join him but the teenager decided to stay put at around 7am.

Mrs Wilkinson was pronounced dead at the scene and Pierce was taken to hospital but later died. 

Mr Wilkinson was stabbed six times but managed to call emergency services, who caught Barley after he stole the family’s Land Rover and crashed while attempting to flee.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil QC told Birmingham Crown Court Barley was a “compulsive liar and manipulator”, who launched his attack after the Wilkinsons cancelled a phone contract they had bought for him.

Barley, whose parents died when he was a child, was brought up by a foster carer, who had reported concerns about his behaviour to the police before the killings.

In a tribute to his wife, Mr Wilkinson described her as “a beautiful woman inside and out”, adding: “She was also very compassionate which led to her caring for others.

“When she found Aaron sleeping rough outside a supermarket she wanted to help.

“We gave Aaron help, we invited him into our home for meals, found him accommodation and a job and he saw Tracey as a mother figure. Until this happened, I never considered him dangerous and any threat.

“He shared Christmas Day with us and sent Tracey a card ‘to the mother I never had’.”

Mr and Mrs Wilkinson’s daughter, Lydia, had moved away to university at the time of the attack.

“This has left a massive void in my life,” she said. “Originally I thought I’d lost my whole family, I’m so grateful to still have my dad.”

Detective Chief Inspector Edward Foster, from West Midlands Police’s homicide unit, called the attack “truly shocking and merciless”.

“This was a murder of the utmost cruelty and sadness,” he added.

“The Wilkinsons had opened their home to Barley and tried to help him, but he repaid them in such an incomprehensible way.”

Ian Crooks, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Aaron Barley carried out a brutal attack on his victims who had shown nothing other than the utmost kindness and consideration to him over a number of years. 

“In return for their support and kindness, Barley waited for the opportunity to gain access to the family home before fatally stabbing Tracey and Pierce and then also stabbing Peter Wilkinson several times.

“Our thoughts are with the Wilkinson family and their friends.”

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