Violent history of organist killer

Alan Greaves Photo:

A man who murdered a church organist by battering him to death as he walked to a Christmas Eve service in Sheffield has an extensive history of violent offending dating back to when he was teenager, a judge has been told.

Devout Christian Alan Greaves suffered horrendous head injuries when he was attacked as he walked the short distance from his home in the city's High Green area to midnight mass at St Saviour's Church on December 24. He died in hospital three days later.

Ashley Foster, 22, was cleared of murdering father-of-four Mr Greaves on Thursday but found guilty of his manslaughter amid emotional scenes at Sheffield Crown Court.

Another man, Jonathan Bowling, 22, pleaded guilty to murder at a previous hearing.

Foster and Bowling appeared in court for sentencing on Friday.

Bowling remained handcuffed in the dock flanked by six prison officers, separated from Foster by three of the guards.

Mr Greaves's widow Maureen watched her husband's killers from the public gallery above the court.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC told the judge about a series of convictions Bowling has for violence.

Mr Smith said these included an attack on a 36-year-old jogger when Bowling was 15.

He said Bowling left his victim with serious head injuries, including a suspected broken cheekbone.

The judge, Mr Justice Teare, heard how Bowling was also convicted in his teens for brandishing a hammer when a police officer stopped him, threatening a woman with a hammer, and headbutting a 48-year-old woman who complained because he was throwing snowballs at her windows.

Earlier on Friday Mrs Greaves spoke of her forgiveness for the two men.

Mr Smith said Mr Greaves was a particularly vulnerable victim.

He said: "At the age of 68 he was unlikely to be able to mount an effective defence. It was a crime without motive.

"He was killed for no reason other than that he had been identified as a suitable victim."

Gordon Cole QC, defending Bowling, told the judge his client had written a letter to Mrs Greaves expressing his genuine remorse.

Mr Cole said the letter had been handed to prosecutors who will decide whether it is appropriate to pass it on.

He said Bowling had also written to the judge.

"He accepts his role in the commission of this murder," Mr Cole said. "He is genuinely remorseful for that which he has done."