A CHURCH organist beaten to death on his way to a Christmas Eve service suffered brain injuries comparable to falling down a flight of stairs or being hit by a speeding car, a jury has heard.
The rapid swelling of Alan Greaves’s brain after the attack in Sheffield last year indicated a “catastrophic injury” with little chance of survival, a senior neurosurgeon told Sheffield Crown Court.
Mr Greaves, 68, was set upon as he walked to St Saviour’s Church in High Green, where he was expected to play the organ for the Midnight Mass service as he had done for the past 40 years.
Prosecutors say Mr Greaves was targeted by Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster. Bowling, 22, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, has admitted killing the pensioner but Foster, also 22, of Wesley Road, High Green, denies the murder.
Speaking during Foster’s trial yesterday, Thomas Carroll, a consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, said Mr Greaves’s injuries could not be explained by him falling in the street and were similar to those from “a fall down a long flight of stairs or a fall from a significant height, or a pedestrian sustaining a high-velocity traffic impact”.
“The skull is designed to protect the brain, to act as a bicycle helmet, to crack and fracture when energy is directed at the head,” he told the jury. “The skull did that but amount of trauma energy directed at Mr Greaves’s head was so significant that caused widespread injury.”
Mr Carroll said Mr Greaves’s brain had “mushroomed”, or swelled rapidly, after he was admitted to the Northern General Hospital on Christmas Day and he was transferred to the Royal Hallamshire.
Medics created a hole in his skull in a bid to prevent further damage, but his brain continued to expand to such an extent that a surgeon was forced to remove some of the brain tissue.
He was pronounced dead on December 27 after suffering multiple organ failure as a result of the chemicals his damaged brain had released into his body.
Prosecutors say the father-of-four was hit with a pick-axe handle and another weapon, possibly a hammer, by Foster and Bowling who “were walking the streets looking for a suitable victim”.
Foster’s partner Natalie Evers told the jury yesterday that both of them were scared of Bowling, who they called “Jonno”, and couldn’t say no when he asked to stay with them.
Miss Evers had already told the court that the two men left the home in High Green she shared with Foster and their two children before returning just before midnight on Christmas Eve.
She added that Foster was quiet and hugged her and their two children in bed that night but that Bowling was laughing and joking. She said Bowling had cut hands that were “covered in blood”.
Continuing her evidence, Miss Evers agreed when asked whether Foster “struggled with reading and writing” and said she had heard the words “learning difficulties” used in relation to him.
Before Foster and Bowling left the house to go out on Christmas Eve, a row broke out when Bowling was accused of “flirting and acting sexually” towards Miss Evers.
Miss Evers said that when Bowling was asked about his apparent behaviour he replied ‘I am not having this’ before going outside. Neither Bowling nor Foster were seen again until they returned “some time later”.
The trial was adjourned and will restart on Tuesday.