Killer teenager’s bid for shorter jail term is denied

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A BOY who brutally murdered a father-of-one has been told he must serve every day of his sentence after a failed appeal.

Alex Farrelly, now 21, was 15 when he and drinking pal Benjamin Vine savagely attacked Bill Wickham, 44, in a churchyard in Gosport in February 2008.

Bill Wickham who was found dead in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Gosport.

Bill Wickham who was found dead in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Gosport.

Now Farrelly’s bid to have his sentence reduced a second time has been rejected at the Royal Courts of Justice.

As reported in The News, dyslexic 6ft 5in thug Farrelly had been drinking with Vine, then 16, before they stamped and kicked Mr Wickham to death.

Community leaders in Gosport have today backed the court’s decision.

At the time Gosport borough councillor Peter Edgar said the attacks ‘shocked’ the people of Gosport.

He said: ‘I was horrified by the case. I think the court is quite right.

‘It weakens the power of the law if you let people out before they’ve served their sentence.

‘It’s dangerous to shorten that sentence, whatever circumstances there are in prison. This was a particularly tragic case. It upset a whole community.’

Christie Coulston, 68, was a church officer at the time of the murder.

He said: ‘He should serve his sentence. They gave him that sentence.

‘I remember coming over [to the church] the next morning and finding the whole place sealed off.

‘There was utter shock. Everybody was quite quiet.

‘He was mentioned in our services, a few prayers were said. No-one deserves to be beaten to death.’

The Rev Andy Davis had just come to lead the church at Holy Trinity when Farrelly and Vine murdered Mr Wickham, and he carried out the trawlerman’s funeral.

He said: ‘It was just shocking to have that in church grounds, which should be a place of peace and tranquillity.’

Mr Wickham’s family maintain a memorial to him in the grounds.

In court Farrelly’s lawyers argued he has made ‘exceptional progress’ and wanted his sentence further reduced.

They said his efforts to turn his life around, including achieving a B grade in a maths GCSE, justified a cut in jail time. But Mr Justice Sweeney disagreed.

He said while his behaviour in custody was good, it was not ‘exceptional’.

‘There can be no doubt that the applicant has made progress whilst in custody,’ he said.

‘As compared to the 15-year-old who murdered Mr Wickham, he has matured significantly, his disciplinary record is exemplary and he has completed courses and obtained vocational and educational qualifications.

‘He also has a strong support network via his family and family friends.

‘However, the tariff assessment reports do not suggest that his progress has been exceptional.

‘It is in my view self-evident that the progress that he has made, although clearly commendable, has not been exceptional. Whilst Farrelly is to be congratulated for the progress that he has made, I do not recommend that his tariff should be reduced.’

Farrelly and Vine were sentenced to 12 years in September 2008 for the murder but Farrelly’s term was reduced to 10 years on appeal in 2009.

Farrelly can be freed when he has served his minimum term, but only if the Parole Board is convinced he is no longer a danger to the public.

Farrelly and Vine were a deadly pair when together

KILLER Alex Farrelly was blighted in early life with learning difficulties and extreme dyslexia.

The thug had an extremely low IQ and did not fit in at school, often getting into trouble.

He was abusive towards staff and fellow pupils and together with Benjamin Vine he picked on younger pupils.

In January 2007 the pair assaulted a 14-year-old school pupil outside the gates and threatened staff.

The pair later attacked another pupil and were convicted of battery. Then in August 2007, months before the murder of Bill Wickham, they attacked a man on the street.

Farrelly admitted the murder of Mr Wickham at Winchester Crown Court in 2008. When asked why he had attacked Mr Wickham, Farrelly said: ‘Just drunk, dunno.’

Attackers left prints of shoes on victim

ASKING two teenagers for a cigarette, Bill Wickham could never have known they were about to kill him.

The 44-year-old trawlerman spoke to the Alex Farrelly and Benjamin Vine as they had been drinking in Holy Trinity Church, in Gosport, at 10.15pm on February 25 in 2008.

The pair smashed a bottle over his head before kicking and stamping on him with such force they left imprints of the soles of their shoes on his head and neck.

Their trainers and clothes were left covered in his blood as a result of the brutal beating. The two yobs rifled through his pockets for cash and fled the scene leaving a trail of bloodied footprints.

They left him in a pool of blood fighting for his life.

Mr Wickham, of South Street, Gosport, suffered horrific head and neck injuries during the attack and by the time emergency services arrived at the scene he had died from his wounds.

Just minutes after the attack the youths called 999 and told police they were witnesses.

Police treated the teenagers as witnesses but soon realised they were dealing with Mr Wickham’s attackers.

Forensic tests on their clothes and shoes showed they were covered in Mr Wickham’s blood. Shoe prints found on Mr Wickham’s body matched the soles of their shoes, and bloodied shoe prints close to the murder scene also matched their trainers.

Police said the attack was ‘vicious and sustained’.