Axe murder: Brendon Willis jailed for life for Southsea killing
KILLER Brendon Willis has been jailed for life for the axe murder of his '˜best friend' Christopher Butler.
Willis struck Mr Butler 25 times with an axe as his victim lay in a bed at 75 Waverley Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, late on New Year’s Eve, after taking the then legal high Spice together at a gathering in the room.
Sentencing Willis to life with a minimum term of 18 years, Mr Justice Ian Dove said the killing was ‘inhumane’.
Winchester Crown Court heard how Willis, 33, had been suffering from an untreated mental disorder and had told transport police and a psychiatrist in May and June of last year he intended to harm 27-year-old Mr Butler and others.
Sentencing, the judge said: ‘You launched a sustained, brutal and inhumane attack on an entirely defenceless and vulnerable young man who had never done you any harm and who you knew was incapable of responding to your aggression.
‘You inflicted horrific injuries to his head for which there was no possibility that he could recover.
‘It’s beyond doubt that you intended to kill him.’
The judge added Willis had confessed to a man immediately after the killing and then spent some time outside Kwiki Mart in Albert Road in the hours after the murder.
‘You seemed to have some sort of perverted and twisted sense of pride in what you’d done,’ the judge added.
Homeless Mr Butler, who was just 5ft 5ins, suffered deep wounds to his head in the horrific killing.
William Mousley QC, prosecuting, said the murder was ‘vicious, sustained and repeated attack on a small defenceless man’.
He said: ‘Late at night on December 31 2015, Brendon Willis murdered Christopher Butler in his upstairs room of a shared house in 75 Waverley Road in Southsea.
‘He hit Christopher Butler, who was probably initially asleep, about 25 times to the head with a yellow and black handled axe which may have been already in the room.
‘There’s some evidence that he paused during the attack before dealing more and fatal blows to stop the noise that Christopher Butler was making.
‘He was alive when he received the injuries but died shortly afterwards.
‘There were no other witnesses to the killing.’
Mr Mousley told how Mr Butler had been in the room mostly asleep while Brendon Willis and others had been at a gathering in Willis’ room.
Willis had denied there was any premeditation to the murder but giving evidence this morning in court Faye Mitchell and Gerard Molloy told how he said they would be ‘famous’ in the morning when he saw them shortly before the killing.
Giving evidence in the Newton hearing today, Willis said he and Mr Butler were ‘best friends’ shortly before the killing.
The court heard how Willis had fled to Paulsgrove where he stayed with a friend until he was told to leave after the friend saw an appeal for Willis on Facebook.
Initially he denied knowing anything about the murder but admitted to prison officers he had killed Mr Butler.
Mr Mousley said Willis told a prison officer: ‘He said that they had been laughing at him and he had picked something up and hit Christopher Butler with it until he stopped.’
He had earlier claimed to police the ‘only thing I could do was just, you know what I mean, when you see an animal in the road, the most compassionate thing, you could do is, you know what I mean, I helped him’.
He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
Michael Shorrock QC, defending, said Willis, formerly of Waverley Road, Southsea. was genuinely remorseful and was suffering from an untreated mental disorder stemming from sexual abuse as a child.
He said there was no explanation for the murder.
Mr Shorrock added: ‘This was a mindless killing and to that extent was not really premeditated, it was an expression of his condition that caused him to kill and it could have happened at any time until something was done to treat the condition.’
Willis, who wept during the hearing, apologised as he was led from the high-security dock.
He said: ‘Can I say I’m sorry to Chris’s family? I’m sorry.’
Willis did not give police an explanation for the killing.
In a statement issued after the hearing Detective Superintendent Becky Riggs said: ‘This was an unprovoked, brutal murder, in which Brendon Willis used an axe to kill Christopher Butler.
‘Thankfully this type of crime is not common and it became clear in the very early stages of the investigation that it was most likely that the victim and the offender were known to each other.
‘On January 3 we put out a wanted appeal to locate Willis and as a direct result of our appeal, we arrested him later that day. He was subsequently charged with the murder of Butler on January 6.
‘This was a particularly challenging investigation because the number of people we needed to speak to and their reluctance to speak to the police; however I am pleased that our hard work paid off and resulted in Willis pleading guilty to murder.
‘I hope today’s sentence goes some way to giving Christopher’s family closure.
‘Lastly I would like to express my gratitude to members of the wider community who supported us in our investigation in sharing our appeal.
‘I would also like to recognise the efforts of our uniformed colleagues who attended and guarded the scene, as well as other partner agencies who worked with us to ensure the community continued to feel safe.’