Saturday 17 March 2018

Man left hammer embedded in victim's head during vicious attack

Lincolnshire Police handout photo of Kris Bradley, 23, who was found guilty of attempted murder of Matthew Probert.
Lincolnshire Police handout photo of Kris Bradley, 23, who was found guilty of attempted murder of Matthew Probert.

Richard Vernalls

A man who attacked a rising rugby star with a claw hammer leaving the weapon embedded in his victim's head has been jailed for 15 years.

Kris Bradley, 23, who was found guilty of attempted murder by a jury earlier this month was told by the judge his attack was one of "horrific violence".

Judge Melbourne Inman QC, today sentencing Bradley at Birmingham Crown Court to an extended sentence of 15 years immediate custody with three further years on licence, told him: "Your intention was terrible.

"In my experience, it was a singular attack without warning, in which you hit him so hard the claws of the hammer penetrated to their full depth through the front of the skull and embedded in his brain," the judge added.

His victim Matthew Probert, a prop with Scunthorpe Rugby Union Club, was a rising star on the brink of playing professionally before the attack in Lincoln city centre in the early hours of September 1, last year.

However, despite what the judge acknowledged to be "a remarkable recovery" the effect of that assault had now robbed Mr Probert of any immediate career in the sport, prosecutor Tim Bowden had earlier told the court.

In addition, Bradley was given a six month jail term to run concurrently for punching and knocking unconscious a man during a separate street attack outside a kebab shop in Great Yarmouth on February 27, last year.

Also sentenced today was 22-year-old Alex Taylor of Eastbourne Street, Lincoln, who had admitted encouraging or assisting Bradley, of Kent Street also in Lincoln, in the commission of the attack on Mr Probert of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He was given a 16-month sentence, "keeping watch" for Mr Probert as the judge said, as he and Bradley shadowed him through the city's streets.

A third man, and Bradley's co-defendant at trial 23-year-old Daniel Burrell, of St Nicholas Street, Lincoln, was found guilty by the jury of encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence of grievous bodily harm with intent.

Today, he was handed a four-and-a-half year jail sentence after driving into the city in response to a phone message from Bradley asking for help that night.

Burrell had the hammer in the car which is where it was normally kept, prosecutors said, but he then allowed what the judge called "the fearsome weapon" to be taken from his vehicle after meeting up with Bradley knowing it would be used in the subsequent attack.

The judge said that doormen from nearby nightclubs and later paramedics "sensibly" did not attempt to remove the hammer from the stricken Mr Probert's head in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and the tool was later successfully removed by neuro-surgeons.

Mr Inman QC said: "His life was saved. It is quite clear from the evidence of the neuro-surgeon that had the hammer penetrated an inch higher or lower it would have had, at the very least, a catastrophic effect on Mr Probert's ability to lead a full life.

"It is remarkable that Mr Probert did not die, and further that he has made such a recovery that has allowed him to recover a good part of his life prior to the attack."

Trouble initially flared that night following an altercation between Bradley, out drinking with Taylor, and Mr Probert in Lincoln's Walkabout bar in the early hours of September 1, last year.

All three men - including Mr Probert who had been celebrating a friend's birthday - were ejected by door staff following a fracas, in which the rugby player had slapped Bradley.

Outside, Bradley, who was drunk and still angry from what the judge called "a perceived slight" called his friend Burrell who a short time later arrived in a car, inside of which was the hammer used in the attack.

Bradley, now armed with the claw hammer, then followed and attacked Mr Probert with the assistance of Taylor.

After leaving their victim seriously wounded, the two men then got back into Burrell's waiting car and drove away.

peaking after the hearing, Mr Probert's father Mark Probert said the family were "extremely satisfied as a family" with all the sentences.

He described the assault as a "truly horrific and unjust act of violence against my son Matthew."

Thanking the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, he also paid tribute to the medical attention offered to his son throughout the ordeal, including the work of the neuro-surgeons at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital who removed the hammer.

He said: "It goes without question, if it was not for the immediate and prompt assistance and first aid given to Matthew by the door supervisors and emergency services at the scene, the outcome could have been a far lot worse and therefore a sincere and heartfelt thanks must go to all personnel who were involved."

Mr Probert added: "Finally a big thank you must go to all close family friends and well-wishers, many of whom we don't know, who expressed their kind words of support to both Matthew and the family.

"Matthew continues to make small steps daily to a remarkable recovery and as such he has very much learnt to take every day as it comes.

"Let's not forget the seriousness of the injuries he sustained and as such we are all very attentive to the length and time the healing process will take for him to make to a full and healthy recovery."

His son, who was present for the sentencing, spoke briefly to the press and said he was "happy" with the today's outcome.

Detective Constable Martin Ryder of Lincolnshire Police, welcoming the jail sentences, said: "Matthew was on the brink of beginning a professional career in the sport of rugby - which he loves, but now he faces the challenges of rebuilding his future, his confidence and his fitness.

"Long after the media and police have left his life this will be Matthew's real challenge but I am hopeful through his positive attitude and continued support from his family and friends that he will have a bright and successful future."

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