A decorator has been given a community order after using his son's ‘Super Soaker’ water gun to spray paint on a homeless man who died days later.
Michael Cash, 32, was found dead days after being sprayed by Aaron Jones outside a Tesco store on Normanby High Street, Middlesbrough.
A court heard how the 33-year-old Jones, of Balmor Road, Middlesbrough, had taken a picture of the homeless man around a week prior to the attack, uploading it to Facebook with the caption: ‘About time this spice head got removed from the back of Tesco. Smile for the camera.’
On the day of the attack, Jones returned to the store and instructed a security guard to record him ‘having a laugh’ with Mr Cash, claiming that he planned to spray him with a water pistol.
The guard was then shocked to see the defendant retrieve a ‘Super Soaker’ water gun, and refused to do any filming when he saw paint dripping from the toy.
Prosecutors said that Mr Cash and the defendant remained silent throughout the attack, which, according to prosecutors, lasted ‘10 to 30 seconds’.
Upon being told by the security guard that his actions were ‘completely out of order’, Jones is said to have responded: ‘Well, he won't be coming here now.’
The footage was later uploaded to social media and viewed by Mr Cash's sister shortly after his body was found in Eston Cemetery, Middlesbrough, on September 12.
Cleveland Police have previously stressed that Mr Cash's death is not being treated as suspicious, and that there is no connection between the paint attack and his passing.
Appearing at Teesside Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, Jones admitted charges of assault and criminal damage.
He was handed an 18-month community order, and was told to pay costs totalling £270.
Jones did not comment as he left court wearing a green Frankenstein's monster-style mask.
Delivering the sentence, Chair of the Magistrates' Stephen Walker said that the offence was aggravated by the fact that it appeared to have been a ‘targeted attack’ which was uploaded to social media shortly afterwards.
The court heard how the footage was captioned: ‘This is how we deal with beggars on the street.’
In her opening speech, prosecutor Rachael Dodsworth said that Mr Cash had been comforted by staff at the store in the aftermath of the incident, but added that he had initially been reluctant to report it to police, saying: ‘I'm not doing that to Aaron, I'm not a grass.’
But police said that they received a report about the incident on September 9, three days before the homeless man was found dead.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Cash's sister, Sarah Carman, told how her brother had been homeless for around six or seven years after struggling to cope with the death of his mother.
Her statement said: ‘I still can't believe someone could do what they did to Michael.
‘He was not hurting anyone, and he did not deserve what has happened to him.’
She also described her brother as a ‘polite, pleasant, happy-go-lucky person’.
Neil Douglas, defending, said that Jones had shown ‘great remorse’, adding: ‘I am not here to defend the indefensible, and neither does Mr Jones attempt to do that.’